Over the summer, while my husband and I were back home in Canada, we attended an #IBpyp Inquiry workshop in Vancouver. It gave me an opportunity to reflect on how my teaching practice has continued to evolve. It also gave me time to do some goal setting.
I had been toying with the idea about flexible seating for a while now. Learning and hearing from other teachers and their experiences with it got me excited to give it a try. But where to start? Thankfully I’m surrounded by amazing colleagues, friends and a husband who likes to get things done. He walked away from the workshop with the same idea and as soon as we got back to Singapore he created flexible seating in his grade 5 classroom. This motivation helped me start setting it up in my own class. In the beginning, a colleague and I played around with the idea of throwing the classroom in disarray on the first day of school. However, knowing my own limitations, my comfort level, and the expectations of our parent community I settled on doing it myself with the hopes that I would eventually get to a point (for example: two weeks into school) where the children create their own space.
Long story short, after reading a list of helpful articles, perusing a variety of teacher blogs and connecting with my colleagues I created a classroom that had spaces for group work, pairs, independent work, comfortable spaces, standing spaces, and everything in between.
The classroom on the first day of school:
What I didn’t account for was the fact that even with all that planning, once I gave up that “power” my classroom ended up nothing like the way I first envisioned it to be. The reason being, halfway into my second week of school I decided to actually throw the classroom into disarray and see what my students would do.
The classroom as a ‘pretend’ disaster:
Our first Unit of Inquiry lent itself rather perfectly to the sort of organizing that happens in the first couple weeks of school. Our central idea, ‘people organize themselves to achieve common goals’ was a great fit for this engagement. My students surprised me in the initiative they took, they used teamwork to help put our class back together again, and because I had let go of the control of having assigned seats my students felt empowered to change the original set-up of our classroom.
The classroom after they had worked together:
Making reflections now, 2 weeks into school, I realize my apprehension to flexible seating was led by my fear of giving up control. If I give up control, what will my classroom be like. This leads me to a Spiderman quote: “With great power, comes great responsibility.” In my previous thinking, I thought that giving up control would create a classroom full of chaos. Instead the opposite occurred. The students rose to the challenge, they became more responsible for their environment, they took ownership of their learning, and in the end, I too, grew and changed as a learner and as a teacher.
Links to Articles:
Matching learning spaces to physical and online spaces. — By Bianca Hewes
Classroom Set-Up: How much should we be doing without students? — Making Good Humans