Today’s Contributor: Lindsay Lumbreras
Lindsay is in her 7th year of teaching and currently teaches at Patton Elementary- 4th Grade Math & Science.
In my 6th year of teaching, I had the pleasure of changing grades and was sent out to portable land. You know portable land, right? Where you are out in the fields of many schools where wood paneling takes over and small animals have free access to food you accidentally leave out over the weekend. Well, as I thought about my journey from main building to portable, I wondered how teachers arranged classrooms that were lacking in space and limited in storage.
I then combed through blogs and Pinterest pages, talked to colleagues and visited other teacher’s rooms. I found this new concept where desks are tossed out and flexible seating was brought in. Genius! I was immediately hooked and did as much research as I could. I found that there were so many inexpensive items you could purchase for students and the idea of this flexible seating world became much more attractive to me. I set out to find inexpensive items that were colorful and attractive for my in-coming students and started small by placing a few “pod” chairs in the classroom as well as standard tables in place of desks. I then added stools and yoga balls around week 2. I was so proud of my work for a total of 2 months. That’s when the flimsy lap desks broke upon the stress of large textbooks, yoga balls were popped by sharp pencils and the pod chairs gave way to the weight of 4th graders. I was so discouraged!
I was forced to revisit the purpose of my new adventure, to give the students an opportunity to learn while allowing the flexibility of seating. When I think of how I prefer to work, it is comfortable in my recliner, laying on the floor or rocking in a chair and I wanted my students to be allowed the same experience. So I restarted. I asked the student’s what they would prefer (and what would hold up), and visited the district warehouse for items that could be used creatively without me going to purchase more on my lush teacher salary. I asked for donations from parents and reimagined space. Two years of flexible seating later, here are the items I still have in my portable: 5 stools, 2 smaller and thicker yoga balls, 2 office chairs, and a large rug. I still have tables and got creative with height. I lowered one table for floor seating on the carpet and raised two others to accommodate stools.
The most eye opening change I made was bringing back some desks. Yes, that’s right, desks. Why? Because some of my students need the structure of a single desk and not everyone enjoys flexible seating. Here I thought all of my students would love flexible seating and use it just as the happy students on the blogs I viewed did. Not all of them enjoy sitting on a dusty rug or bouncy yoga ball. Not only did I bring back some desks but also a lot of typical student chairs and you know what? The mix works and thus far this year, my students have enjoyed something new and I have enjoyed the sturdiness and continued opportunity for flexible seating. I tell colleagues that are starting with flexible seating to not be afraid of change! Students are flexible and we must be too! Yes, teach proper care and use of seating is necessary but also allow for some creativity. For example, some of my students roll up yoga mats and use them under their feet while sitting in chairs to keep their attention. Perfect! Now if only I could convince my principal to get some couches brought in for faculty meetings. Wouldn’t that be nice? Some day…