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Kathy's Chaos: The Seating Chart

The importance of who sits next to whom

My son was devastated to find out he was seated between two girls in his new second grade classroom.

“It’s not fair! Why can’t I sit next to my friends?”

It may not be clear to him, but it’s perfectly clear to me. He is a boy’s boy. He is a good student, but would much rather be running, tackling, wrestling, throwing, catching, jumping, riding or any other physical activity available.

“Buddy, get used to it. You will be sitting next to girls for the rest of your school career.”

Rolled eyes back at me.

"Trust me, someday it won’t seem so terrible.”

In my son’s particular case, sitting in the middle of two girls who pay attention and follow the rules directly results in better behavior. The teachers are obviously on to him.

My third grade daughter is in the opposite position. She is seated on the end next to a boy.

“I’m sitting next to a boy again!”

It happens to her every year. It seems that she’s resigned to the fact that this will be her seating chart fate. She doesn’t love it but has accepted it.

It makes perfect sense to me that teachers intersperse the boys and girls to maintain some sort of order in the classroom.

What doesn’t make sense to me is the way that classroom desks are arranged these days. It’s so different than when I was in elementary school (back in the dark ages). We sat in single rows, with one student in front and another in back. Perhaps four or five rows of four or five students in each.

Now, my kids’ desks are always arranged in a “U” shape with the desks touching or they are paired next to one other student with their desks touching. Always with the desks touching. What's that all about?

My husband, who is an admitted “germ-o-phobe”, can’t stand it.

“I could never sit like that. Doesn’t that spread more germs? Doesn’t the kid next to you touch all of your stuff? Doesn’t it make it more tempting to copy the other kid’s work?”

Yes, yes and yes. There must be a reason. I just don’t know what it is.

For the record, my fifth grader was very happy with her seating assignment and declared on Saturday morning that she would actually prefer to be at school versus at home having to deal with her little brother.

And so we are off and running with the new school year. Here’s hoping for a good one.

KC September 13, 2012 at 05:54 AM
The old-school rows were basically used for the lecture method of teaching. Today everything is all about "hands-on" and "teams". As a student, I always preferred a circle as it is a more democratic arrangement. Somebody comes up with a new theory and the furniture gets rearranged. It drives the custodial staff nuts. lol
CShorShell September 13, 2012 at 05:28 PM
When I was in elementary school, the classrooms were setup in rows as you describe. By the time I got to junior high, we were paired up in two's. By high school is was a mix of these two scenarios as well as the u-shaped setup you are describing. As I understand it, as student counts in classes grew then came pairing of the desks, because you can then fit more desks in a room. That's really a space organization type thing. The u-shape or splitting of the room into two sides with a big aisle in the middle where the desks face each other (which I also had in high school) was a setup meant to promote class discussion and interaction. It also keeps the teacher centralized within the room for better oversight of the students and so the students can hear them better. The seating arrangement is really just how teaching has evolved. All styles have their pros and cons. As for the germs, kids borrow each others pens, pencils, etc. whether they are sitting right next to each other of not. It's really unavoidable. So you can think of it this way (if it helps) ....it builds their immune system.
Dan Berger September 17, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Very interesting post! I'm the founder of Social Tables and we've built seating chart software that we're giving away to teachers. It let's any teacher quickly create her classroom's diagram and seating assignments so she can try different configurations... something that sounds like your son's teacher could have used. We're also about to announce a partnership with TFA. To learn more, check this blog post out: http://blog.socialtables.com/2012/08/24/free-giveaway-for-teachers-plan-your-seating-with-us/

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