All students would prefer to be seated next to a friend, but unfortunately it doesn’t always work out that way. Many Berkeley High School teachers use assigned seating. While assigned seating can be frustrating to students, especially those who already have friends in the class, when done well it does more good than harm.
It’s fun to learn with friends. However, it can be hard for someone to walk into a classroom where they don’t know anyone. Often they’ll end up sitting in the corner of the room while other people talk around them during breaks or after work is done. Assigned seating helps to prevent this situation. With assigned seating, most people at a table group won’t know each other. Students are pushed to make new friends, and people without pre-existing friendships feel less isolated.
In addition, assigned seating challenges students to reach outside of their comfort zone when making friendships. People often become friends with people similar to themselves. In a classroom, this might result in a table with only extroverted people or a table of very academically motivated students. Assigned seating helps students form friendships with people who are different from them. When students have diverse friendships, they gain the opportunity to practice empathy and open themselves up to new perspectives.
On top of this, when teachers use seating charts they are better able to manage the classroom. Teachers can choose to not seat students who distract each other together. They can place students with trouble focusing closer to them or at the front of the room. They can group confident students with students who are struggling, so they can help provide more support. In general, teachers are able to pay more attention to the special needs of each student.
One of the drawbacks of assigned seating is that teachers may make mistakes. At the beginning of the year, teachers have no way of knowing which students have issues with each other or the way each student learns best. But luckily, some teachers have found a way to negate the downsides of assigned seating. The most common way is to ask for student input. When providing input, students give teachers information they don’t already have. Students can let teachers know if there’s someone they do or don’t work well with. They can also provide thoughts on where they learn best, such as the front or back of the classroom, and why.
People argue against assigned seating because they believe it prevents students from practicing self-control. However, certain students simply aren’t at the place where they can make those responsible choices yet. Assigning seats gives students input, allows them to practice self-restraint and independence, while still ensuring everyone ends up where they can learn.
Teachers should assign seating thoughtfully with student input. School is for learning, and assigned seating assists students in that. Assigned seating not only helps students focus on classwork, but also teaches them how to create new and different friendships.