My initial reflections on these more modern classroom environments was they are awesome to help promote student choice. I felt they gave students options to move about the room, stand more often or just have a different view and proximity to resources and the teacher. I also loved the feel of most of these classes, as they appeared to promote collaboration; a skill that I believe to be of great value to all our students in our world today and for the future.
Now all of these feelings I have about flexible seating still remain, however I had an opportunity the other day to join an elementary classroom to observe a math lesson. I was invited to sit in a student seat so I found the only empty seat next to a boy. I couldn't tell who was more uncomfortable, this boy having a six foot stranger sitting next to him (just introduced as a math coach by his teacher), or me trying to adjust to this tiny blue chair and small desk that barely fit the two of us. I did my best to make small talk with this child but I could tell he was still unsure of the situation. I decided it was best to shift my focus on the math lesson so I would be able to engage and reflect with this teacher at a later time. After an awesome demonstration of a warm-up and transition into a math lesson my mind began to shift back to the seating arrangement. I began to put myself in the shoes of this boy I was sitting next to. He appeared to be struggling with the lesson for that day and sitting so close to an adult, especially one with my label as math coach, I imagine he was not feeling secure about his abilities. I began to wonder what the impact would be on a young child if they were to struggle in the class and sat next to another child that did very well. Now I recognize that this happens in every class at all grade levels and in my 18 years in the classroom I never reflected on this to a point that I took any significant action to make adjustments. It was at this moment, sitting at this desk, I started to add a new reflection to the potential power of flexible seating. In the simplest form of flexible seating we would allow and even encourage students to move around the class and work with other students at different times. I can see how valuable this is for all students, especially our youngest students to experience the strengths of all their peers. At an age in which students are developing self-esteem and are very impressionable, it is so valuable for them to know that they can find different environments that help them create new perspectives and insights into their self-awareness. These opportunities to make choices and work with others (maybe in different subjects or when doing different types of tasks) might allow a child to feel more at ease with their growth and development.
I never considered this aspect to flexible seating and like all my thoughts (and I often have many) I am excited that this one will help me when I interact with the students I currently teach at our lab school. I am also left to believe that regardless of the furniture arrangement or desks in the classroom it is worth the consideration of what impact movement, some choice and flexibility might have on our students social and emotional development. I will continue to reflect on my own practices and will seek out feedback from my students. Ultimately this is why I teach; to provide students the best possible experience for them to be their best self.
Note to self: Never stop reflecting, learning, collaborating and sharing.