Find Your Seats

I'm a big believer in letting students make their own decisions as much as they can. In high school, they're dictated to. A lot. I figure picking somewhere to sit is one way to give a little bit of agency and ownership to the classroom space.

I'm back in the classroom for the first time in nearly two years. I'm the fourth teacher this particular class has had - starting in January. This is a near perfect-storm of tough starts. I wanted to set my standards high and gave the privilege of allowing students to sit where they wanted - I was hoping my act of good faith would let them see that I wanted to treat them like adults.


Turns out that no, making a seating chart doesn't make me a bad teacher. I'd forgotten that structure and routine are what allow us to get to a point where students work independently reliably. I have to build the ethic into them, and part of that is restricting extraneous factors which can cause distraction.

I've realized that I worry about the wrong things sometimes. I've focused so much over the last fee years on being 'student-centered' that I'd forgotten the fundamentals. I'd forgotten that setting boundaries allows students to focus on what's most important - learning. Many of our students don't know what the learning process looks and feels like, so we have to emulate the basics. Once habits begin forming, then we can begin to ease some of those procedural guidelines.

And that's the big difference for me - I'm setting these restrictions because I know what the endgame is. It isn't a powertrip or "classroom management resource." I'm setting up an environment which will - eventually - be one in which my students can learn openly and independently.

5 thoughts on “Find Your Seats

  1. KenB says:

    I too have found that my students (undergraduates) need boundaries as well. This is especially true for me coming from a Canadian background into a Mexican culture that has so many differences about simple concepts like what “on time” means. Last January when I went all crazy with a “no deadlines” during the semester for assignments was a great experiment which I am still tweaking but

    I got some feedback from students asking for some deadlines because they needed them saying “I am not responsible enough to handle that”. #wow

  2. Shai McGowan says:

    I am now starting to see that one thing I have to do to get unstuck in my flipped mastery class is to set guidelines as to when a student needs to start moving forward on certain topics. Possibly tell that they need to try to master 2 concepts a week, or whatever I feel is doable for that student. Every student may have different parameters but every student should have some parameter to work towards.

  3. Cheryl Morris says:

    I made a new seating chart yesterday, and it sometimes frustrates me how much it helps. I want students to have that freedom as well – but you’re right. Starting with structure and then gradually releasing responsibility is the only way.

    Our boot camp model has the same idea, actually. We spent six weeks teaching students the basics of what is required in our classroom and there is a LOT more structure than either Andrew or I want. It’s stifling at times. But it works. And when we don’t do it, everyone suffers.

  4. […] I came across two other blog posts about seating plans. ¬†One post was from Brian Bennett and the other from John Spencer. ¬†Apparently I am not the only one thinking about seating students […]

  5. […] pretty open about where students sit. A year ago (nearly to the day…wow…) I wrote about seating charts and they're influence on the environment. I've resisted making new charts this semester because I'm […]

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