Sunday, 20 September 2015

Brain Privacy, or Why I'm Cross about Tables - Joan Lennon

School children reading 1911 (wiki commons)
(No need to go as far back as 1911 to find desks in rows - I just liked the photo.)

A modern classroom with grouped tables (wiki commons)

You know how school visits tend to come all at once, like buses?  I've just reached the end of just such a bulge, mostly teaching creative writing.  Which has been lovely, exhilarating, exhausting, infuriating and occasionally really depressing.  And as a factor in the last two categories, I would like to name-blame-and-shame the way the tables are grouped in classrooms.
I'm fed up with grouped tables because I'm fed up with this emphasis on working in groups. You can do creative writing as a group.  Sort of.  And grouping the tables the way they almost always are facilitates group learning.  Kind of.  But I'm really really NOT interested in a story or a poem produced by committee, because I really really AM interested in the stories and poems inside each individual pupil's head.  Which are not like the stories or poems in any other individual pupil's head, or any other person's head, now, in the past or in the future.  Why can't that fact be acknowledged in the furniture?

Maybe rows of desks aren't the answer, and maybe schools can't afford anything like the Scottish Parliament's wonderful think pods -  

(Sci-Fun website)

 - but oh I wish there was some physical way to give our pupils some brain privacy.  Or even acknowledge that it might be a good idea.    

Just don't get me started on open plan schools ...                                                                           

Joan Lennon's website.
Joan Lennon's blog.
Joan Lennon's YA novel Silver Skin website.


Sue Bursztynski said...

I think you'll find that most schools gave a combination of group work and individual work. As for single desks, I don't remember ever having one - and I started school a very long time ago! The desks in my classrooms when I was a student had room for two children. And there's something very depressing about those rows!

Trust me, kids who want to think up their own poems and stories will do it!

Penny Dolan said...

Sue, you are making a good point and I'm sure that in your hands there's lots of opportunities . However, to my mind, it's not entirely simple. When working in groups is seen as a Good Practice - i.e., boxes can be ticked because that style of interaction is encouraged - and where opting to work alone is awkward - whether at a practical seat-organisation way, as Joan suggests, or because solitary writing children may seem, by their peers. to be excluding themselves socially, less-confident children may not feel it's worth the work of "going it alone".

Nick Green said...

Yet another example of introverts and extraverts needing different learning styles. Some people thrive in groups. Some do well when left alone. Most need a mixture of the two, to a lesser or greater extent, depending on their level of introversion vs. extraversion. So many teaching mistakes result from the misconception that children are essentially identical empty vessels that will all learn in the same way. Which could not be more wrong.

Anne Booth said...

I really agree with this post and the point re extroverts and introverts. Very interesting.

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