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Am I Flexing? My Journey with Flexible Seating in the Secondary Classroom


Flexible Seating Pin

This post is part classroom reveal, part definition of flexible seating. If you only want to see my room, scroll down. 🙂

Like most school teachers, as the end of July approaches, I begin to think about when I can get in my classroom to get it ready. It seems counterproductive to spend part of my summer break working on my room, but I can’t imagine going back to school, sitting in meetings, and NOT thinking about the fact that my room needs to be done. Some teachers are cool with not touching a thing until they report back. I am definitely not one of those people.

Two years ago, I began bringing in pieces of furniture to augment the school provided desks and chairs we all have in our rooms. I wanted different heights, textures, colors, etc. so that my room would seem less institutional. I was going for a cafe or coffee shop feel that is warm and welcoming. I wasn’t thinking about bean bags (can’t clean them) or yoga balls (I’ve heard they pop), just different tables and chairs. I wanted kids to feel that they could move around if they needed a break from sitting, so I had bar-height tables where they could stand, and a coffee table that they could work at while sitting on the floor.

The debate rages

Lately, if you’re paying any attention to Instagram, Facebook, or blog posts about education, you know that the ‘to decorate or not to decorate’ debate rages pretty regularly. Some say that showing pictures of their “perfect” classrooms makes others feel bad, some argue that they want to create a welcoming space for the kids, as well as a place that they enjoy spending their day. There are pretty good arguments for both sides, but I don’t like when people post things like “you don’t need a fancy classroom to be a good teacher”. Huh? It’s like they think we decorate to cover our inadequacy or something. But I digress.

After reading several of these posts, I realized that I don’t really know the meaning of the term “flexible seating”. So I Googled it. Here’s what it says on Wikipedia:

flexible seating classroom is one in which traditional seating charts are replaced with seating arrangements that allow the students to sit where they choose. One of its principal objectives is to reduce the number/duration of sedentary periods of time, which research has identified as a danger to health. 

Hey! That’s what I do! But then it continues:

Flexible seating classroom designs include:

  • stools
  • couches
  • beanbag chairs
  • chairs
  • beds
  • mats
  • inflatable balls
  • standing
  • laying on the floor
  • pillows
  • benches
  • hanging chairs

Most of these items aren’t present in my classroom. I’m big on chairs and tables for every kid. The other stuff (pillows, floor, armchairs) are for independent or group work after direct instruction. So maybe I don’t employ flexible seating? I’m not sure.

Edutopia says this: Flexible classrooms give students a choice in what kind of learning space works best for them, and help them to work collaboratively, communicate, and engage in critical thinking. That sounds like what I do. I guess I’m just more structured with my choices? I also include aspects of hygge (items from nature like wood, fire, and plant life) to create a cozy, warm atmosphere.

Basically, I don’t really know what I do or what you would call it, I only know that it works for me and my students. Whether you decorate or not, isn’t that really the bottom line? If it works for you and your students, then it’s right. Right?

Now for the reveal

Here is what my room looked like before:

After many hours of slaving away in my room, here is what it looks like now:

I’m not quite finished, a few of my desks are in the hall, and I need to hang a couple more things on the wall, but there you have it. Also, if you’ll notice the hanging light fixtures, those will provide the light, along with lamps, instead of the fluorescent overhead lights.

There is a chair and table spot for each student, and the love seat and armchairs will be used during group work or independent reading.  Like I said above, I don’t know what that’s called, but I know I have a smile on my face every single time I walk in my room. 🙂

I’d love to hear your comments, thoughts, critiques, and suggestions!