Friday, November 7, 2014

Took Your Chair- An Experiment in Seating

I needed a change.

My kids needed a change.

Those who follow me on twitter (@TheWeirdTeacher) know that I've been having more trouble than normal this year. Yes, this is the time for the Mid Year Slump (aka The October Blues, aka ISN'T IT CHRISTMAS YET/IT'S ALREADY NOVEMBER HOLY CRAP) so mayhap that's all I'm feeling.
But it really isn't. This is a hard year. I've got the lowest class I've ever had and I have the data (test and anecdotal) to prove it. We are struggling academically and sometimes that means my bag o' tricks doesn't work as well because many of them depend on the kids having better listening/direction following/comprehension/responsibility/responsibility skills. Yes, I can adjust the fun and games. Yes, I'm teaching them all of those things. But still, certain adjustments mean there has been head-into-the-tree moments. We are ok sometimes but we're also having waaaaay too many Let's Correct This Group Behavior conversations. Much more than I normally have to do. All the student factors, the chemical mix of the classroom, is challenging my relationship building like never before. I welcome challenge, I can handle it, but I could really do with maybe just a smidgen less? A touch?

On top of that there have been...frustrations with my district and my school. Very few of us work in a district we are 100% happy with and what kind of a moron would I be to take to the internet with specific complaints about the way things are run? So let's leave it at I like my principal very much and I feel bad that she has so much on her plate and so little help from those directly above and directly below her. But administration problems become teacher problems and so big rock frustrations up above crash down on my little sand castle all the time.

I react to problems with aggression and change. I'm not good at passive. I must affect my environment. I have to find ways, even small ways, to take control. If I had more money there would be a new tattoo from this school year. This is why my hair is blue. It's one of the reasons why I don't live in Hawaii any more. It's why Courson teaches so much and my tiny dragon Spark teaches the mandated section of the day I dislike the most. I find ways to make problems my own.

Seating has been an issue. I have a very talkative bunch. They made me make good on a threat to put them in rows a few weeks ago. In rows! I hate hate hate rows. They are antithetical to everything I do in my room. But the kids needed to know Mr. Robertson meant even this promise. We got our groups back but still we have constant off task and talking.

Last night I was a peripheral part of a twitter conversation where Shawna (@nolagirlfromtx and part-time #WeirdEdE moderator) was talking about the inventive ways she has her kids seated. I don't remember if she brought this specific thing up or if she was talking about using balance balls and it got me thinking of things I could do, but in the end I decided I was done with chairs in my class. At least for a while.

Today I went in and I gave my kids three choices, which they were allowed to chose individually. No peer pressure, I don't need the whole class to be exactly the same.

Choice A- No change. They stay in their desks exactly as the desk is now.

Choice B- Standing desk. I raise the desk up as high as it will go and the majority of the student's day will be spent standing and working. If I were able to adjust the teacher desk I have (no, I'm not getting rid of it, I need it) this is what I'd do to it. I will allow the students who chose this to have a chair for rests. I'm not a monster. That's Courson.

Choice C- On the floor. I take the legs completely off the desk and the student sits on the floor sans chair. I will allow the student to bring in a small pillow to sit on because otherwise their bottoms will come off.

I had a sample of the standing and floor choices and every student cycled past them as a test run, having a few minutes to see how working that way felt. Then I went around the room and took note of who wanted what type of desk. How it turned out was only surprising in one respect-
They all went low. Except one. One girl chose a standing desk. After I got everyone's choice I went back to her and said, "I'm fine with you being the only one standing. I want you to be comfortable. But I will let you know that you are the only one. So if that's going to make you feel uncomfortable you can change your mind." To her credit she stuck to her choice. She didn't even hesitate. Will she change her mind after a day? We'll see. But she did not allow passive peer pressure to sway her. I love that.

I adjusted all the desks after school today (Friday). Monday is a no student teacher work day.
Tuesday is a no student holiday for Veteran's Day. Which means I need to wait four days to even begin the actual experiment. I'm very excited. The students are very excited. I have no idea how this will work at all. It might fail completely. I told the kids that some of them might be ending up with their legs back on Thursday afternoon. But probably not. I'll give it at least three days before I do anything drastic. I'll give it more. Because I want it to work. I want this to mix things up and wake them up and get their attention. I want it to mess up my routine and get me thinking in new ways.

I'm seriously concerned about teaching to them like this. In seats I'm teaching down, but not too much. Now I'll be teaching way down at them. I don't know if I'll like that. I don't know how that will change my instruction delivery. 
view from the floor
But at least it's something new. It's different. As I was taking apart the desks four teachers came in to talk about teaching stuff or ask Drive questions and all of them a) thought I was preparing to teach a unit on Japan and b) thought it was an interesting idea. In my perfect world this isn't my solution, balance balls are. But I don't have those funds. So I'll try this first.

In a week or two I'll write another blog checking in with progress, student reactions, and my own feeling about this new set up. But for now I'm excited.

Change is good.
Follow-up Number 1
Donors Choose Follow-Up


  1. I love it. I hope the kids do too. I will follow your blog closely over the next few weeks and see where it takes you. Good luck with it.

  2. Right now I have the "Thanksgiving table" set-up and I think switching from this to "sushi joint" would be refreshing. Thanks for the idea.

  3. Why don't you try DonorsChoose for the balance balls?
    I used one when I broke my tailbone, it was awesome. I still use it!