Did You Include Your Students in Your Classroom Design?

Are you creating a classroom environment that is fitting solely for you?  Or, do you keep your students in mind as you make decisions on decor and furniture arrangements?

Okay…. First things first!  I have missed connecting with everyone.  I have been buriedin teaching and school responsibilities, creating products for Teachers Pay Teachers, juggling Social Media so that I have opportunities to connect with other educators, and of course, being a mom.  Oh, boy!!  Did I list being a mom last?  LOL  Sadly, some days I have felt that way.  Fortunately, I have children that truly know what it means to have a mom for a teacher.  My girls are “mean laminators” and they know just how mom likes things cut just precisely.  Ha Ha.
Back to the topic at hand.  Think about it.  Look around your classroom.  Is it a comfortable place for ALL of your students to “live”?  We know that our students spend more time in school with us than they do at home.  Is it a wonderful, comfortable, and inviting classroom for your kids?  Did your students have any input on how the classroom would flow?
I was prompted to write this blog post after I had a rather unpleasant encounter with flexible seating.  YES!  I know…. I said that publicly.  I know that it is the new movement in education, but is it really suitable for your students?  Why are you interested (if you are) in shifting to this type of seating?  Do your students actually want to use flexible seating?  The most important question of all, have you actually tried any of this new seating yourself?
This is a photograph that I found online via Google.  This is just one example of a flexible seating arrangement.  

Woa hoa!!   I have tried it.  Truthfully, I hated it.  I was agitated and aggravated.  I was uncomfortable and kept having to re-adjust my position to try to gain some comfort.  Not only was I uncomfortable, but my students were, too.  The majority of the tables were very low to the ground.  The type of set up where your legs have to go under the table.  Some tables were mid-height.  Most likely these were kneeling tables.
Back Story:
This was STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art & Math) Week.  As I mentioned in a previous post, the Enrichment and Technology Specialists plan the activities and then the teachers provide support as facilitators.  We met in the Enrichment teacher’s classroom.  The minute that we walked through his door, I saw IT.  Chairs and tables at different heights greeted me.  I was actually excited.  This was the “it” thing that so many teachers have been talking about on line.  I was going to get to experience it firsthand. Yes, bring it on!
     So, my students get into their groups and go to the table that they are directed to.  It didn’t take long for the squirming to begin.  Some students were sitting on the floor, others were leaning against the tables as they tried to figure out exactly what to do with the situation.  Some students were trying to figure out how to provide support for their backs.  Others were trying to figure out where their specific “space” was.

     Many of them were moving around.  They were agitated and becoming more despondent the longer they were expected to be in these various positions.  Needless to say, the lesson was loooong!  The Enrichment teacher was flustered and I could tell that they were just trying to make it through the entire lesson.  I was slightly mortified, but I could not be upset with my students because it was not their fault that they were uncomfortable.  

Here is another snapshot of a flexible seating arrangement.  (Photo via Google)

     When we returned to class, we had a class discussion.  I asked them what they thought of the seating style that they had just experienced.  One student after another shared that they did not like it and expressed how uncomfortable it was.  They also mentioned that they did not know exactly how to sit.  Granted, this was their first experience and they had not been forewarned, but it had not been a situation that had gained their interest.  

Sidebar:  There were some pillows and stability balls in the classroom, but we were not allowed to access them. I also do realize that there are a variety of ways to structure flexible seating.  This was just my classes’ (and my) first experience with flexible seating.   

This led me to writing this blog post.  I have to say, I mean no offense to those of you that believe that flexible seating is the best solution or addition to your classroom.  If it is working for you and improving student engagement, then I think that it is wonderful.  I just sometimes wonder “why” teachers choose to implement new trends in their classrooms; particularly when it is done suddenly.  As well, do we take the time to consider how our students will respond to it?  Or, is it more of what we are interested in and then we mold our students, and expect them, to follow through?  

What do you think?  Are you using flexible seating with your students?  Did you seek your students’ input prior to beginning the transition?  If you have already implemented flexible seating, have you had any kickback from any students?  Do those students have the option of returning to more traditional seating?  I would love to hear about your planning and experiences with flexible seating!

0 Responses

  1. Interesting post! I have always allowed my students to have opportunities to be "comfortable" being on the floor, couch, pillows, or chair but I don't necessarily think that the sitting balls are a good idea. I'm no longer in the class, but another teacher at my school in the past had the sitting balls and water bottles and kick strings, I'm just not one to go with the trends. If it's not broken don't try to fix it. I can say that the last three years of teaching I removed my desk and the students' desks and requested tables! I hate how they would move all around, I had to zip tie them to stay together, I also used tape to show kids where their desk group should go. I'm a little ocd about the class setup and like you I would be annoyed with balls out of place. I've never tried it and I don't think I will.

  2. Hi, Jamilla!

    So wonderful that you shared your experience. I think that it is really important for students to have cozy places to read, too. I have pillows and rugs in those spaces. I have tables in my classroom and a few desks for students that need that personal space. Students need to feel at home in their classrooms. They spend a great deal of time there and should feel comfortable, too.

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Hi, I'm Tania!

I help creative and time-conscious teachers plan student-centered lessons that interest and motivate student learning so that lesson planning takes less time and is actually enjoyable! 

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