Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Change of Seats: Displacement in the Classroom

Ah, the infamous struggle for a teacher to rearrange her seating chart. 

For some reason, students get very attached to their seats.  Every teacher faces the battle of unseating a child who is causing a mild to severe disruption in class. Every teacher has tried moving those distracted from distractors who may be too stubborn or defiant to move when told.  On a level day, it is not worth providing the platform for a potential standoff between child and teacher. On days when you just don't care you've had enough, you allow yourself to go there-- because a good teacher is always aware of emotions --and do your best to will the student to move. You wait, pausing instruction, stern-faced, hand on hip, as you bide time expecting the student to gather his belongings... and move. You may even help the student along by moving his notebook and pencil from his old seat to his newly awaiting chair. You may even threaten visits to the dean and phone calls home while alternating between speaking firmly, practically yelling and maybe even down to an eerie whisper.  

But really, who wants to be the teacher who calls the dean, or home, because a student was defiant by not moving his seat?  In order to make most day level days, a teacher must think smart, calculate moves and know the outcome before acting.

I once sat in girl's seat before she came in. She was always causing trouble and would never move when told.  There's nothing worse than a student who comes in late and disrupts the learning of others. She came in that day, and there I was in her seat. She didn't know what to do. She looked around for a while and eventually sat quietly across the room. She was effectively displaced. I did that for two days and she got the point. 

Today my co-teacher and I enforced new seats with a usually really good but very talkative class. We warned them yesterday that it would happen-- so they couldn't complain today-- and wrote their names at the top of their work, filtered them into the room with the instruction greeting: good morning, find your seat, get started. It worked like a charm. Thoughtful, purposeful seating is key!

A particularly troubled, hold-over was placed facing one other student and the sink area, and surrounded by students who are extremely focused and not going to pay him any mind. A particularly talkative, can't-tell-her-nothing student was placed facing one student and the teachers' desk.

The students were effectively displaced. From time to time, a teacher must throw off her students simply using the power of a seating chart.  It was nice to learn yet another lesson of transference, from self-contained classroom management to general education. After years of navigating seating wars, I've come to accept that seats give some students power.  Teacher lesson reinforced: change seats, shift energy, maintain order in the classroom. 

Miss M


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