I’m not getting biblical – I swear. I just thought that was a great title for today’s post. Be not afraid of what, you ask? Of anything, but MOSTLY of change. Of taking a risk. Of failing BIG. Of looking silly. Of making a colossal mistake.
I eagerly and optimistically began my year in fifth grade fully embracing flexible seating. Trolling Craigslist in search of bargains, I had purchased a variety of dorm-style chairs for my classroom. There were round ones, butterfly style, and bungee chairs…even one that spun around. I had a few hard plastic video game chairs as well. My students were thrilled to see this colorful collection on back-to-school night.
Things started out great. I explained my philosophy for our unusual seating style – that students learn best when they’re comfortable. We discussed rules and guidelines, including how to use each chair. When a student uses a chair improperly, I explained, it shows me that the chair is not a good choice for the student. We were off to the races.
Since we departmentalize, I had two separate seating charts – one for my own class, and one for my teaching partner’s class. No problem. Then my colleague broke the news: for the sake of his sanity (and student achievement), we had to have leveled math. This meant that twice a day, I would have a mixed group of half of each class. My seating charts were moot during these periods.
So I problem solved. During these times, I would simply pull sticks and let students choose. The added transitions of leveled math, however, were another hiccup in my day. More coming and going. More lining up. During those transitions, I was now catching students who weren’t switching classes bopping around from chair to chair. I could feel my blood pressure rising. This was not good.
Pulling sticks and making choices led to students sitting next to peers to whom they would talk. Our writing time was turning into a coffee klatch. Alas, I would have to make changes. This wasn’t going to work, despite my best efforts. I was disappointed, but my mission is to educate students. I had to keep that at the forefront.
So I kept six ‘fancy’ chairs and transitioned the rest of the seats to traditional tables. Each student gets a comfy chair for a full week. The spinny chair is now my reading chair. The remaining chairs were disseminated throughout the building to other grateful teachers.
How was this change received? Well, I do teach fifth grade….and I have some female students. There was a combination of righteous indignation, sorrow and mature acceptance. And we soldiered on. Two days later, it’s not even discussed. That’s my point – children are resilient.
Don’t be afraid to make a change in your classroom that benefits students. Ask yourself, what’s the worst that can happen? Chances are the consequence will be minimal. Keep student safety number one, but beyond that, INNOVATE! Implement new strategies and techniques! Be open minded and embrace change – your example will help your students to embrace it too.
Our Brave, Bright, and Bold Person of the Week last week, Stephen Hawking, famously said, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” I want my students to embrace change, and be adaptable to the world around them. I hope to inspire by example.