It happened in fifth grade. The chalkboard read “please sit and pay attention to speaker”. Well, no teacher was there. No other guest. So, as a class, we decided that we were supposed to sit, and stare at the intercom. We waited and waited…and nothing happened. Finally, our teacher walked in and explained. We were not supposed to be listening for a secret message to start a grand adventure to come from the square box on the wall, but rather sit nicely and listen carefully to whomever was going to be standing in front of the room. Ah, well that explained it better than blue aliens telling us where to find the buried treasure.
This thought came to me again the last few days as our classrooms begin to take form with the new courses that are housed within them. Last semester, a seminar teacher had us all work in smaller then continually bigger groups to decided how to arrange the classroom and what the best way was for a classroom to operate for the best learning outcome. For me, this is much like high school, where some (depending on the sort of class) rooms have to front, middle, and back. You are simple…in the room. For some projects you may by in groups at tables, others you are up writing on the board the whole day. Some you may be working on the floor, desks or even outside. So, it was no surprise to me when an English teacher this semester said that she wanted us in a circle so we could all talk.
Now, this is where it seems fitting to say that yes, I do believe that sometimes Kindergartners are better able to make a circle, as they see if so simply. Hold hands, back up, drop hands, and then stand or sit. Us college kids attempt to move the tables we are sitting at, and there is as much commotion as a construction site with not enough staff. In the end though we manage to wedge enough seats together so we can all someone see everyone in the class. This removes that “front of the class” and “back of the class” stereotype and operating system.
So, in thinking about all of this, the idea of leaving a note on the first day of class to my group of students (if I were to be a teacher or work in a classroom for a day) would be this:
Please sit as close to the front of the classroom as possible.
Just that. Nothing else. And unlike a history course I am in where the front is “scary” and last to be taken, perhaps the students would attempt to all sit in the front. Or maybe the “middle” and let everyone else sit in the front. In any case, once they walk in, everything would be disarranged. The group would be used to this classroom, so even though the desks would all be facing different directions, they all make it so they’d face the “front” – so I presume. In any case, I’d just love to walk in just as everyone is getting settled, and ask them why they sat that way. Well, it’s the “front”, yes. But why? What about the windows, wouldn’t you like to look out? Or the dry erase boards on the other two walls of the room? What about those.
I think you get my point now. Why do we all have to get stuck? Why aren’t there more people telling us it’s okay to sit in a different seat every day, or work in different groups and not the same old same old, even though its more comfortable and we know mixing it up would be better. Let’s not be afraid to “take someone’s seat” anymore.