Unassigned Seating: Reforming Education, One Chair at a Time
Balance balls, standing table, exercise mat, wobbles and craft sticks. What do these things have to do with a 2nd grade class at Fredericksburg Christian School?
These are all common “tools” used every day in Jessica Meade’s classroom. When Mrs. Meade was asked why she chooses to use these tools, as she and her students call them, she said she had read some research on this unconventional method one summer and was impressed.
“Kids are not as active as they used to be, but we still have the same expectation in the classroom. We want them to sit quietly, etc.” She went on to explain that as adults, we can choose how we want to get our work done. Maybe it’s at the kitchen table with headphones on, or maybe it’s in our big comfy chair. Either way, we know how we work best. And she would argue that the students know what works for them, too.
When students walk into her room, they are allowed to choose a craft stick. Written on this colorful stick is the tool they will be using that day. It could be a balance ball, or perhaps an exercise mat so they can read lying on their belly. Some will stand at the table or sit at their desk using a wobble chair. Others prefer a good-old-fashioned desk chair.
Through this unconventional method of teaching, Jessica has learned that even at the young grade level of 2nd, students are discovering how they best learn. “The children know what works best for them; they are self-evaluating. I make them call it a tool, not a toy. They have to prove to me that [the method they chose] works.” She went on to say, “I am fascinated by how simple a tool can be. I have seen simple tools relax a child so they can complete an assignment.”
“THE CHILDREN KNOW WHAT WORKS BEST FOR THEM; THEY ARE
SELF-EVALUATING. I MAKE THEM CALL IT A TOOL, NOT A TOY.” – JESSICA MEADE
The students begin with the method they are assigned on their craft stick in the morning. But they are allowed to change their method throughout the day depending on their need. Mrs. Meade shared that as their focus wanes, they will come to her and ask for another form of seating. They are learning for themselves how to be effective learners.
When asked how the parents are responding to this idea, Mrs. Meade said simply, “Most parents are open to any idea that will help their child. They want educators that love their children and will do anything within their power to help them reach their potential.” And if you are wondering about discipline in this setting, Mrs. Meade says she doesn’t have to correct behavior as often.
Jessica Meade’s courage in implementing new ideas into her classroom certainly demonstrates her love and commitment to her students. Her innovation stems from a love for God and her belief that each child has a preordained destiny. “I want them to become what God wants them to become,” said a humbled and faith-filled Jessica.
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