Not your ordinary classroom

Published 8:21 pm Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Two teachers at Hillpoint Elementary School have implemented unique seating arrangements in their classrooms, which has had surprising results.

Brandy Roberts and Rita Scheer, who teach third and fifth grade, respectively, wanted to bring a change to their classrooms.

“It’s probably the best thing I’ve done in my teaching career, hands down,” Roberts said.

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The new seating included overturned crates with mats as seat cushions, tall stools, exercise balls and wobble stools. Roberts said the majority of the funding for the seats came out of pocket, and her husband even helped build some of the seats.

“If I’m going to go, I’m going to go hard for this,” Roberts said.

However, for the wobble seats, which were going for about $80 apiece, Roberts used, a crowdsourcing website for teachers, to raise funds for the seats. Within about three days, the class received enough funding to purchase the chairs.

Roberts, who has taught for more than 20 years, said she was initially hesitant to put in the new seats because of uncertainty of how it would be perceived by parents and handled by her students.

“I was always intrigued by it but afraid of implementing it,” she said.

In the early stages, Roberts and her students made an agreement to make proper use of the seats. She also evaluated the students’ learning styles and preferences to determine the most suitable seating stations for them.

Eventually, she implemented “Free Sit Fridays,” to have the students choose where they wanted to sit. She hopes by early next year to have the students sit where they please.

Over time, she has noticed the crates are a student favorite.

“I like the part you sit on because it is fuzzy,” said student Alaina Scoggins. “I think regular desks are boring.”

However, several students like the wobble chairs as well.

“Sometimes, I want to go in a circle and it helps me focus more,” said student Valorie Roberts.

Ever since implementing the seating arrangements, Roberts said, “it’s been calm and peaceful,” in her classroom.

Scheer, who has taught for more than three decades, implemented “bouncy bands” in her classroom.

“It just calms them down,” Scheer said. The bands allow students to stretch their legs, bounce their feet noise-free and prop their feet up, she said.

Students agreed the bands help keep them busy yet focused.

“It helps us not to jump around in our seats,” said student Nyasiah Allen.

“It moves my legs so I can focus more,” said Katelyn Jones.

In addition to the bands, students can sit on exercise balls and swivel chairs for reading times.

However, Scheer said she is limited in what she can do because her students are only one year away from middle school, which typically doesn’t have unique seating arrangements.

Roberts said she would recommend the flexible seating for other teachers to investigate.

“If they need someone to be a spokesperson, I have no problem with them coming into my classroom and seeing it — it works.”