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A science classroom experiences a radical transformation

Abigail Fanning, Social Media Editor

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Most students are familiar with the typical classroom: desks are arranged in rows, students sit in chairs that look like leftovers from the 1970s and the teacher leads the class from the front of the room, usually lecturing.

Paul Blair’s classroom is nothing like that. Although Blair has only been working as a science teacher at Sevier Middle School for two years, his classroom is filled with stuff that students usually would not see in a classroom. The furniture in his room look like something from a comfortable living room.

Blair’s classroom consists of nine armchairs, an ottoman, bean bag chairs, a patio table with two patio chairs, “hair styling” chair and a table with two comfy chairs. The inspiration to arrange his classroom was to move away from desks and chairs.

“Desks and chairs are possibly one of the most uninspiring configurations for a students to want to learn in,” Blair said. “I want my students to be learners, and in order to do that, I need to meet them where they can learn. If you watch teenagers study, whether we old fogies like it or not, they lie on their bed, or on the couch. Very rarely do they sit in a hard plastic chair and at a formica-topped desk and learn. So, why is it that we believe that this is the most conducive learning environment for them at school?”

Blair believes that people need to stop “playing school,” and instead, start creating learners in a room that does not look like a leftover from the past.

Blair hopes his classroom arrangement will make students want to come to class.

“I want students to want to come to class,” Blair said. “I want them here on time so that they can get the seat they want. If they have a reason, even a seating reason, to want to come through the door, then I am on the way to enabling learners.”

So far, he feels his classroom arrangement has been successful in getting students through the door.

“I have very few tardies,” Blair said. “I have yet to have major discipline issues, and the students are starting to understand the flow of the paperless classroom much better.”

Blair has yet to make any major changes to his classroom, but if he could make a change, he would get a big rug or get carpet for his classroom.

The school administrators have reacted positively and supported Blair’s classroom arrangement.

“They were all very supportive, which gave me great encouragement to go full into this endeavor,” he said.

Blair has had acclaim for his classroom setup from students, as well.

“It’s great because it helps us learn more,” Allen Pan, an eighth grade student, said. “I like all the comfy chairs and how we do our work on our laptops. It helps me get more work done because I can concentrate more.”

“I love it because the chairs are so comfy,” Yahia Turner, an eighth grade student, said. “It helps us because if you do stuff while you are comfy, you will get more stuff done.”

A’lannah Williams, and eigth grade student, agrees.

“I like it a lot because it gives me a comfy chair to sit in it instead of sitting in a hard chair,” she said.

Despite the comfy chairs, effective work, and the classroom helping students learn more, doing work exclusively on laptops has gotten more mixed reviews from students.

“I don’t like how all of our work is online,” Pan said.

Turner and Williams have a different area of concern.

“I dislike the wooden chair,” Turner said.

Williams agrees.

“I dislike that one hard chair in the corner,” she said.

In the end, Blair is pleased with the effect his classroom arrangement has on students.

“The students love it,” he said. “Some of them lie on the floor and work. Others, quickly try to get to class to get ‘their seat’. It is a fun environment.”

Despite the relaxed atmosphere in Blair’s classroom, students still finish their work in a timely manner.
“Students do get their work done,” Blair said “It has been a little struggle with turning in work, being that it is all on Canvas, but we are working through that and getting the flow down much better.”

Unlike the students, teachers have had more mixed reactions of Blair’s classroom.

“Some have loved it, and some have skeptical interest,” Blair said. “No-one has openly scoffed, so that is a good thing.”

Blair recommends other teachers try a less formal classroom arrangement, as long as the teachers are willing to give up some control.

“If a teacher is willing to give up some ‘control’, I think that it is a great idea,” Blair said. “You must be willing to deal with a bit of controlled chaos at times, and you must be willing to guide the students, not dictate your mandates to the students. The whole atmosphere and paradigm of teaching must change in a setting such as this. A teacher must also be prepared for pushback by students, and know how to handle that case by case.”

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Hundreds of students. Thousands of stories. The Sequoyah Scribe.
A science classroom experiences a radical transformation