How many of you are reading this while sitting with perfect posture, hands in your lap, and not distracted at all? I bet if we were to take a snapshot of all the readers right now, we would have a different sitting/standing/reading style for each person. Why do we think kids are any different? If you have started to wonder why classrooms look almost the same now as they did a century ago, you’re not alone. Lately, I have had more teachers than ever come to me asking about flexible seating or the idea that teachers should ditch the rows and columns in favor of a more student/human-friendly setup. Teachers are not always sold on this idea. Through some careful questioning, I have been able to find some of the more common myths and assumptions teachers are making. In the hope of raising awareness and giving you all the facts, here are 5 Myths About Flexible Seating.
Myth #1 – Flexible Seating is about “stuff”.
This is probably the most common myth I get to clarify. With all the “clear the list” posts and Donors Choose projects, I can see where the assumptions are coming from. Flexible seating is not about stuff. I’ll say it again for the people in the back: Flexible seating is not about stuff! Flexible seating IS about giving students choice and the bodily autonomy to discover how they learn best. If all you have is a floor, four walls, and a ceiling, you can make this work. Everything else is just the icing on the cake!
Myth #2 – Flexible Seating is a Classroom Management Nightmare
I can totally see where teachers are coming from here. We all have had that kid. The one who will push boundaries until those same boundaries are so far away you can’t even remember what they looked like, much less see them. Now I’m telling you to let that kid choose where to sit, who to sit by, and what to sit on? How can this possibly work?
It can. Classroom management is still possible! For students who need more structure, they may have fewer options to choose from. Perhaps they choose from the 4 seats around the teacher’s desk instead of anywhere in the room. Being comfortable should not be a privilege that has to be earned, but being comfortable anywhere you want in the room is. Classroom management may need to look a bit different, but I bet you will love the changes you make!
Myth #3 – Flexible Seating Means No More Whole-Group Instruction
Have you ever taken your class outside, to the playground, or anywhere besides your classroom? Did whole-group instruction stop? I bet not. Flexible seating is about learning MORE because students are now able to focus on the lesson instead of feeling uncomfortable. Whole-group instruction might just have to look a bit different! (Notice a theme here?) I regularly ask students to “Get to a place you can see me.” As I’m waiting to make sure everyone is able to see, I take a brief scan of the room to make sure everyone is somewhere they can do their best work with limited distractions. If I need to move someone, I do, but I let them bring their preferred seat with them if at all possible. Once I know everyone is in a good spot, I am able to start instruction. You would be amazed at how much more smoothly my lessons go! When students are given the ability to feel comfortable, so many of those other little worries just float away.
Myth #4 – Flexible Seating Only Works in Elementary Schools
Don’t let the bright colors and low tables fool you. The ideas and intent behind flexible seating would work in any classroom. I have seen high school teachers turn their English classrooms into the Gryffindor common room from Harry Potter. Older students deserve to be comfortable just like younger students do, and once they are, they will be able to better focus on learning.
Myth #5 – Flexible Seating Just Isn’t Safe
This myth actually comes up quite a lot. It seems there are a few fire marshals, principals and other authorities out there who don’t feel that a room set up with comfort in mind is safe. This does not mean flexible seating isn’t an option for you! Talk to these folks, ask questions, and get ideas. If they have a problem with students spreading out to get work done, ask them what alternative they could help you come up with. Invite them into your room to observe the students, and then ask for feedback. Unless you have a student building a fort blocking the only exit because she wants a realistic western fort in the background of her presentation, chances are you’re fine. (And you may want to look into a green screen.)
Flexible seating really doesn’t take much, just a willingness to try something new. If you need help getting started, check out these 7 steps to implement flexible seating. With that knowledge and your own enthusiasm, you may just become your school’s “Flexible Seating Expert.”
Which of these 5 Myths About Flexible Seating do you think you might get asked about first? Let me know below! From my comfy couch to yours, Good Luck!