Sunday, April 18, 2010


We rearranged the desk in our classroom. It’s not the first time that we have done this this year - usually it is reactive as opposed to proactive. Cliques need to be broken up, we need to do more work based on reading levels, we can’t stand to have certain kids so close to the front of the room for another second.

This time it was no different - a reaction - but we carefully calculated our moves to have a maximal impact. What we could take no more of was laziness, and we created a seating chart based not on ability level, but on ambition.

We created two semi-circles - one inside the other. Both circles opened at the front of the room, so that Ms. J and myself could easily walk to the center of the circles to address the class.

The inner circle is made up of the kids who do their work, pay attention in class, ask questions, and are generally engaged. The outer circle is made up of the kids who feel entitled to pass, but not inclined to do any work. We created this arrangement without a word about our criteria, but when people saw who was where, it spoke for itself. Some kids were unhappy about being placed on the outer circle.

“What am I doing here?!” asked one particularly entitled girl.
“You sleep in class. It’ll be easier for you to get some rest if you are in the back.” we explained.
“Uh, uh, I do not belong here,” said another perpetually confused girl. She can never understand why we pick on her for not doing work or coming to class. She began to nudge her desk forward, toward the inner circle. Halfway through class I had to reprimand her to return to where she belonged, in the outer circle.

The hope is that the inner circle will grow, and the outer circle will shrink. Hopefully having this visual representation of how hard you work will inspire some ids to work harder. For some it is helpful. There are several kids who will soon be promoted to the inner circle.

And to be perfectly honest, those on whom this has no influence, I’m happy to have further from me. It’s nice to spend a little less time convincing them to learn, and a little more time just showing them how.

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