Truly Flexible Seating

Yesterday and today I dragged my daughters in to our classroom to begin moving furniture around. We’ve only been out of school two weeks, but our summer seems to involve far more travel than normal and I am in a new classroom this year. Between those two things I wanted to get in there and make sure I had a sense of where things will go so that I don’t stress over it as we’re off gallivanting around.

The office chair in this picture is one we used to have at home. When we decided to get rid of it I took it to school so that interns or other teachers working in my classroom could have a better option than student chairs (as we’re a tad taller). However, anything that comes into our room gets used by kids and this is no different.

As I pushed this chair into place this morning my youngest (heading into 6th grade) asked me, “How do you decide who sits in that chair?”

“I don’t. Whoever wants to sit there, sits there.”

“But that doesn’t seem fair. What about the kids who aren’t the quickest or who need more time to be sure they understood the directions? They won’t ever get to sit there.”

I was surprised by this conversation. My students don’t have assigned seats (I haven’t done that in a decade) and it hasn’t been a problem. This has been true for us as I’ve taught kindergartners, first graders, and third graders. Kids sit where they want to sit. Sometimes the spot they want is taken at that time, but they have lots of other options, both in seating and in times to sit in that exact spot.

My own daughters have spent lots of time in my classroom on teacher workdays and in the summer helping me pack up and unpack. They sit on our couch all the time. I assumed they had a sense of how this works in our room.

Those boxes are all piled between the couch and a bookcase. When they are unpacked there will be a rug on the floor there.

My daughter’s questions made me realize how unusual our classroom still is. She has had flexible seating in at least one grade but kids had to choose their spot each day and that was their spot for the day. My students move around all the time. Occasionally I’ll suggest someone move if they don’t seem to be able to do their best where they are sitting. Even more rarely I’ll tell someone to move when their spot seems to be a problem for them or classmates.

I’m both saddened and reassured by my daughter’s questions. Saddened because I’d like to think students have this flexibility, responsibility, and freedom far more often than they do. Reassured because it made me stop and think about the choices I’m making as a teacher and I got to feel good about them.

I want students to do for themselves anything and everything they can. Choosing their seating seems like an easy one. They don’t need me to control them. And I’ve got better things to do with my time!

2 replies on “Truly Flexible Seating”

  1. Your daughter is wise beyond her years, no surprise, but she just changed my behavior, and for that I am thankful.

    • jenorr says:

      Doyle, she would be thrilled to know this (and I may share it with her, we’ll see…). I learn so much from both my daughters. It is quite an astounding blessing.

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