When I was teaching at a nearby university, there were occasions when I was scheduled to teach in a different room due to other goings on in the department. I was often assigned to a very traditional, old school room in the basement. In this room, which was a wide rectangle from the front view, had a large whiteboard, an overhead projector, a media cart with an old MAC and a screen that was sometimes stuck rolled ip crookedly and bunched. The lighting was way too bright and bounced off the beautifully buffed white linoleum floor, white ceiling tiles and extra large whiteboard. It was an assault to the senses to be in there.
But the worst part of that room, by far, was the seating. The room was full of these babies.
At least 60 of them. And as each student entered this space their body language said it all. Shoulders drooped and some just stood in the doorway trying to accept that this was where they would spend the next 3 hours. There was no escaping it.
These are problematic and inappropriate for many reasons. They are the wrong size for today’s young adult. Today’s college student is larger than the earlier generations that filled these seats. Today’s college students carry lots of stuff with them now. A beverage, a snack, a large backpack, a lap top or iPad. These desks were not designed for today’s students. They were designed in a time when sitting in rows, facing forward, listening to lectures and taking notes was the norm. Sit and get.
Let’s consider what we ask our school age students to spend the day sitting in. Especially our students with special needs, our students of varying size, our students with sensory needs and sensitiviites.
Today’s thingamajig post is all about ways to make our students more comfortable at their work stations. Desks, tables and chairs. Because when we aren’t comfortable, when things don’t fit right, we can’t concentrate and work productivity goes down.
I cringe every time I hear a teacher say any of the following. Criss cross applesauce. Sit on your pockets. Pretzel legs. Off your knees so everyone sees.(Thank all things holy teachers no longer say, sit Indian style.) The expectation is kiddos maintain that position until the lesson is over. And the lessons are too long. Most kids are flexible enough, strong enough and comfortable enough sitting like this. I have observed teachers doing the long silent wait until every kiddo is sitting this way. No variations allowed. But some kids have low muscle tone. Some kids aren’t comfortable holding this position for more than a few minutes and when we insist they do, all of their energy goes into keeping their bodies in position making it impossible for them to be engaged in learning. Some kids just hate the way the carpet feels. Some kids are very uncomfortable in that close of proximity to others.
I am all for using the floor. I just think it should look more like this.
I am encouraged by the seat and desk variety I see in special education classrooms. It’s expensive, for sure. Acquiring this stuff often means foregoing purchasing other materials for your program and classroom. I argue here that special seating should be offered to all students in all classrooms and that instead of using special education money, use district money. Because we know that ALL students can benefit when we provide variety to meet ALL needs.
Instead of the traditional desks
How about trying desks that meet the needs of students that prefer to move or stand while working.
For the students who need to wiggle while they work at their desks, try this
Or this little gem of a rocker.
For mobility of desks and chairs for group work.
This is just a very small sampling of what is out there for our students. There are solutions for every challenge. Universal design has brought us some incredible options. And if you need a rationale with your budget request, I know these things help student focus, attention span, creativity and productivity, which I am sure will help with those standardized test scores. Don’t you think?