It’s important to have existential crises sometimes. When authors come and use a sledgehammer on society’s institutions, it makes me wonder: What is the foundation for my work? What can be stripped from it and still be recognizable?
In The Trial, Franz Kafka presents us with a simple premise: What if someone got arrested without committing a crime? It goes further, picturing a bureaucracy of courts, officials and lawyers, busy droning away at their jobs. Doing what exactly? No one knows which law they are working to defend their client against. In addition, they, “were not moved simply by humanitarianism” and “lack contact with the common people” (117). Furthermore, their minds are “far from wishing to introduce or carry out any sort of improvement in the court system” (119).
So to recap, these lawyers work without an accusation, evidence, personality, humanitarianism or advocacy to make the system better. Kafka shows us that in this world, the only thing that keeps the lawyers useful are the personal contacts they have with the high officials, which they can bribe to let their clients breathe easier.
These literary thought experiments are useful because they make us question the essential components of our own professions. Stripped down from any context, my job might just sound like me giving out directions, awarding reward tokens, and deescalating triggering situations. With this information, I might realize I could infuse more purpose in my day to day with more instruction and life lessons. Or, I might see this as a blessing. Because my job isn’t always rigorous, it gives my brain extra time to think.
That’s obviously good for the future of this blog and for my work life, as it’s still in the construction phase.
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 assigned student would want 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.
If you are reading this, I first want to say thank you for giving me a chance 🙂 For now, this blog will be anonymous and so my job in this post is to make myself sound as credible as possible without giving too much of myself away.
I am currently an Instructional Aide at a high-performing charter school. This is after I’ve had a hectic two years post-graduation working in four different districts besides this current one. I wanted to become a teacher. And I tried. I really tried and I know my graduate school really tried too, as they moved me from school to school finding the right spot for me. But at the end of the day, teaching, at least in the format of having a dedicated classroom of 30-130 students each day, wasn’t for me.
I’m still completely submerged in the education system, working at an elementary school and occasionally at a high school as a college counselor. I debated when was the right time to share my thoughts on what’s going right and wrong with the education system. I thought about waiting until I was out of the system so that I can be free to share my opinions. However, I feel now is the right time as my memories can still be fresh and I can react in real time to any evolving trends as they happen.
My ultimate goal in life is to be an advocate for students, so that they can have a better education system. Currently, I am trying to study the Law, so that one day I can pass new laws and repeal unnecessary ones.
Join me as I take you through my experiences working in the best and worst school environments (Hint: It’s pretty good right now). I will show you how what they are doing connects with current trends regarding education policy as a whole. We might also have more general education, technology or politics posts, so look out for those too!