Last year, one of my dear colleagues in the Twitterverse inspired me to surrender some control in the classroom. With baby steps throughout the year, I did. Coming from someone who used to pick up kids’ desks and move them while they were out of the room because I couldn’t take the chatter anymore (“Surprise, kiddies!”), this was not insignificant.
Why do I mention the desks? I’ll tell you. Last year, I boldly went where I had never gone before. I told my class on day one that they could pick their seats. I figured I don’t know them yet, anyway, so there’s no guarantee I’m not creating a toxic grouping (despite my inability to ever do wrong). But more importantly, I reasoned that, perhaps if I gave them the responsibility, they’d come to understand that me allowing them to choose their seats was a privilege not to be taken lightly.
I’ll explain. I didn’t just say, “Sit wherever you want.” I said, “I’m willing to make a deal with you.” The deal was simple enough. The kids could choose where to sit – which I knew meant chatty BFFs would be congregating together – and we would see how conducive their choices were to productive work. If it turned out they weren’t and there were too many distractions that came from sitting with one’s homeboys, then we’d have to go ahead and consider a change in seating.
Wouldn’t you know, I didn’t have to change a seat for chattiness until January? We were ready for a change by then, anyway, so it worked perfectly.
If you’re someone who is embarking upon this year as I did last year, saying, “I actually don‘t need to be in control of everything in my classroom,” then I suggest you start with seating. See if it works for you. It will definitely work for the kids!