It’s sometimes too easy to criticize the state of education and so I want to mix things up with a positive educational trend: flexible seating. I’m writing on the subject in the hope that it becomes the norm rather than a novelty. The benefits I see to flexible seating come from my experience as a summer school teacher and my current job as an instructional assistant.
- They give the student responsibility over their actions.
When you send a student off to work on an assignment in flexible seating, it often becomes more challenging to circulate the classroom and check up on every student’s notebook to see if they are really writing. They will oftentimes pick to work in a cranny of the room where no matter how you stretch your neck, you can’t see their page. Therefore, flexible seating is always a social contract. In return for students sitting wherever they want, teachers trust that they will do their work. If teachers notice there is no writing completed at the end of the session, the contract is broken and students have to sit at an assigned spot.
2. Groupings can form spontaneously based on needs.
Does a group of students want to debate in “hard mode”, tilting the scales 4 vs. 1? With flexible seating, they can do so easily by arranging their modular lounge seats in the desired configurations. Flexible seating also means that for an instructional assistant like myself, it is easy for me to pull multiple types of small groups even while the teacher pulls her own small group on the kidney table. And often times the arrangements are so outright cute! (See picture above.)
And most importantly,
3. They allow students with special needs to be more included in the classroom.
Last year I was in a classroom without flexible seating and my with my assigned student wanting to work on the carpet or under the table. When I talked to OT about this, she said that while its age-inappropriate, as long as she isn’t hurting anybody I should let her. Although my student was allowed to work out of her desk, she was also self-conscious about sticking out and being the “different” child. She would ask me, “Are they looking at me? Cause I’m pretty sure they are all looking at me.” Now that this year’s classroom has flexible seating, she now blends in with all the other kids, who all sit in different configurations. She can feel more comfortable in her work and her anxiety, already heightened because of her disability, has one less reason to flare up.