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.

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