Sunday, April 24, 2016

I Failed at Flexible Seating

Updated 7/29/16: Hi and thank you so much for stumbling upon my blog! The below post (from  April 2016) was written as a way for me to document my experience with alternative, or flexible, classroom seating. It's not meant to persuade you against the concept or to say you shouldn't try it out in your own classroom! I was inspired to try it in my own room because of the many amazing teachers that have made it work so wonderfully for themselves and their students. Going full throttle into it wasn't for me but I love letting my students have some freedoms of course - standing to work if needed, working with clipboards on the rug, fun reading seating, etc. Having reflected on my own experience since publishing this post, I think I struggled a lot with how my students would cope the next school year in a desk. Was I setting them up for failure by giving them too much choice? That's question went through my head a lot. But I digress!

Flexibility is the backbone of teaching and I also believe in life you must take risks. I suppose that's why I jumped head first into transforming my room to begin with. I have no regrets! What I'm trying to say is... If you feel flexible seating could work for your class I hope you'll go for it! Let us know in the comments how it goes.


Back in November I blogged about how I had transformed my classroom with flexible seating, otherwise known as alternative seating. I jumped head first into the idea that my students would choose their work space and get down to business and that each day would be buzzing with the hum of productivity and engagement. That was the idea. The reality looked and sounded a lot different. I don't consider myself a super traditional person. By that I guess I mean that for the most part, I like to take risks and try new things. I immediately thought flexible classroom seating would be a perfect fit for my teaching style. Turns out I am much more traditional than I thought. My mom will be so excited!

I failed at implementing flexible seating in my classroom. I just couldn't make it work. I could list reasons for why I think it didn't work out but I fear they may sound a lot like excuses. Perhaps they are. I really wanted to like the new set up, to trust my students' decisions and partnerships, but as the days passed, I knew alternative seating wasn't going to work for me or my kids. Add a couple days of substitute teachers and I was truly over it!

via the Corner Stone for Teachers Facebook

Like a lot of things in life, my big plans fell short of what I expected. I couldn't manage my students' behaviors or needs as well when they were choosing their own workspaces. I fully believe that kids need movement and hands-on learning and they still get tons of that but when I switched my students back to assigned desks, I couldn't help but feel a sense of failure. Why couldn't I make it work? Why can't my classroom have the same vibe as the classrooms I see on Pinterest with their stability balls and fancy couches? WHY don't they understand that stability balls aren't meant for rolling yourself across the room?

The answer for why I failed is probably simple. I wasn't buying into it 100%. I worried about how my students would cope next year in a traditional desk scenario. I dreaded daily transitions. All the walking around made my eye twitch! And I worried that I was going to cry if they didn't stop talking off topic so much!!! The whole vibe of my classroom just felt off.

Since I've switched back to traditional seats, we've been engrossed in an author study, researched rainforest animals, experimented with rainbows, and so much more. I realized I don't need to make a grand classroom change in order for my students to thrive and learn. I'm not sure if it makes me a better or worse teacher but for me, a traditional classroom has just been a better fit this year.

Now if you'll excuse me I have some stability balls to deflate.


  1. Thanks for your post! I have five stability balls that I rotate...been considering some more choices. I don't think I could ever go all in! Glad I'm not the only one! I admire your courage to admit the latest craze was not for you and your students.


  2. Thanks for your honesty on this! I have been toying with the idea of flexible seating and looking at glowing reviews but not as many with negative reviews. I too am a little worried that my students will be rolling across the room on the stability balls.

  3. Thanks for your honesty on this! I have been toying with the idea of flexible seating and looking at glowing reviews but not as many with negative reviews. I too am a little worried that my students will be rolling across the room on the stability balls.

  4. Love this honest post. I just came across your original post when you switched to flexible seating as I was toying with the idea for this year. I then clicked "home" to see if you had any updates on how it was going and this was the first post I saw confirming my thoughts about it too. It sounds really good in theory, but there's something about having desks and teaching students to organize their materials in their personal space that is important (in my opinion of course).

  5. You are so right that it is a hard thing to buy into! When I first read about it I thought "there is no way my kinder kids can make this work" but after I did A LOT of research I felt more comfortable. I modeled and rewarded a lot at first then gradually they just did it on their own. You should give it another go and try easing into it. Maybe start with allowing them to stand up at their desks or work under their desks. I also recommend making an anchor chart with them about how the flexible seating works. I hope this helps a little.

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