I guess, before I start talking about this year, let me take a second to talk about previous years as a teacher. I have taught two years prior to this year, and I'm just going to come out and say it. I have had a ROUGH time. Having ADHD myself, I am prone to frustration and emotional overwhelm and it appeared that teaching (at least kindergarten and first grade) tended to exacerbate it. I felt run down and tired more often than not, and I found myself getting frustrated by the constant distractions that were brought on by my kids.
Not only that, but I felt like my physical space (my classroom) was so cluttered by the visual noise of all those desks, chairs, backpacks, etc. Take a look at my room last year.
This is only half of the room mind you. Thats a lot of desks.
I was constantly tripping over chairs and desks (and sometimes kids)...
Sometimes I had to play tetris with the desks to get them to all fit.
This drove me absolutely crazy.
Another thing that stressed me out was the fact that they had their hands inside their desks ALL DAY LONG! What were they doing in there?? (Eating, breaking their crayons, cutting paper, sharpening their pencil, gluing their scissors shut...) All this made me feel the need to have everybody sit straight up with their hands folded on their desk all day. Not unlike what you would find in an old fashioned one room school house...
And let me tell you, keeping that up every day was exhausting. I quickly started feeling as though if they started fidgeting, and putting their hands in their desk, and tipping in their chair, that I had absolutely lost control. And it happened ALL THE TIME! This lead complete and utter anxiety on my part. I am talking about having a very tight chest, closed throat, pounding headache, and racing heart. I sometimes felt like I was having a panic attack. And it would sometimes last all day.
Skip to today, where I have no desks. They can't hide what they are doing to their crayons and pencils. They can't secretly color pages and pages of notebooks without me even noticing! It's so wonderful! And since I am not so stressed out about what they are doing and how they should be sitting, I don't mind the fact that they are wiggling around in their spot. In fact, I hardly even notice it! I almost never have the closed throat, tight chest stress that I endured for much of last year. And since I am relaxed, my kids are relaxed. It is quite the change.
As for my kids, I obviously did not have them in my class last year, but I do know for a fact that there were at least two kids that were major behavior problems last year. They both had spent MANY days in the office or in the resource room because of emotional outbursts or defiance. This year, I have been told that one appears to be a completely different child, and the other has made enormous growth when it comes to behavior as well.
I believe that the alternative seating has had quite an effect on my kids' learning and behavior, but I cannot confidently articulate how much at this point. The next thing that I am going to do is send out a survey to parents asking their opinions on alternative seating, and how it has affected their child this year. I will report my findings in my next blog post.