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”
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.