A Different Perspective

Posted: February 8, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

So, I’ve been thinking about seating arrangementt this year. I’ve written about my ideas and my new IKEA tables and how well I think the new plan is going.

Then, I had to rearrange, briefly, for ERB testing. I hated it. The desks were in rows; the students were all facing me when we were trying to have a discussion. A student up front was replying to what someone behind her had said, but was then forced to decide to look at me or her peer. Uggh.

However, when I mentioned this to the students, they said they liked being in rows. They thought it made the room seem bigger and they had more room around them. I was stunned. This had never occurred to me. But then I thought about it a little more and realized there was something to some of what they were saying:

  • When we were in a circle, everyone was next to someone, right next to them.
  • Binders and books were spilling onto neighbors.
  • It was sometimes hard to get from the outside ring of desks to the inside table.
  • It was hard to move around parts of  the room.

I still wanted:

  • Students to be facing each other
  • A lot of the space open for other work options
  • No one to be “way at the back”
  • Options

So, I found a reasonable new layout that I thought suited everyone. It’s kind-of a square with parts missing: 4X4 but with gaps every 2 desks. Here’s why I think it is a good arrangement:

  • Students are facing each other.
  • Everyone has some space on 1 side of his or her desk.
  • It is easier to move in and out of the square.
  • No one is right up next to the wall or bookshelves.
  • We still have the front open and available for sitting near the board when necessary.
  • We still have room to move around our tables.
  • It’s easier to maintain.

But, then I went and asked the students what they thought. I just couldn’t help myself. I was expecting all this positive response. Instead I got all sorts of ways we could face the board!? I kept having to say, “that is no my goal.” Since I did not predict that the conversation would head in this direction, I did not have the time to have a complete discussion.

So, we are in the modified square for now.

But, I think it’s time to have a real group discussion, that does not have a time limit, about what we want our seating arrangement to foster. I believe that my students and I can have this conversation. I know that it will be messy. I recognize that I am giving up a lot of control because this is not going to be a “pretend” exercise.

So here’s my plan:

  • We will all read a few articles about seating in advance and come to this with some background knowledge.
  • We make a list of things we would like our space to be able to do.
  • We prioritize the list.
  • We suggest designs and evaluate them against our priorities.
  • We pick a design for our space and live with it for a while.
  • Repeat, if necessary.

I have to say I’m a little nervous about it and totally excited. I’ll keep you posted.

  1. Yoon says:

    I think a learning space matters a lot. You seem to have found a great solution (a classroom Feng shui?)!

    Post a pic!

  2. @Jessica_Dubois says:

    I’ve had the same response in the past from my students and it completely surprised me too. The students I teach come from a culture where everything is shared and personal space is very limited. I think this may explain why they like their desks in single file, row by row. Your plan sounds great and a discussion that would be interesting to sit in on. Would love to hear how it goes!

    • mseiteljorg says:

      Jessica, that is really interesting. My students are not, for the most part, dealing with limited space at home.

      There was a lot of interest in having the desks in 4’s facing each other. I think that arrangement is easy for the room, but I think it is limiting in that is good for working in those groups of 4 but little else.

      It will be interesting to see if we can come to an agreement.

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