I have said it many times before — as a middle school teacher, you sort of get in the habit of saying things over and over, and over and over, and over – – seventh graders are some of the most conservative creatures on the planet. One of their favorite three-word phrases is, “this is boring,” but any change in routine or in what it was like before, and they flip out. It’s both fun to watch and a bit of a pain in the heinie.

A couple of days ago (where the @#$$ did this week go?) I realized that one of the reasons my classroom is arranged the way it is doesn’t exist any more. I used to use an old school overhead projector (still the piece of teaching equipment with the best cost/benefit ratio) and a 32 inch monitor for clicker screens and video and such. I couldn’t put them side by side, so I had one on each side of the room, and arranged the kids’ desks in short (3) rows facing each other, so they could see both displays. Awww, just look:

typicalday3At the top  of this pic would be the overhead display, at the bottom would be the big monitor. I would  patrol back and forth through the center aisle.

The problem was the corners sometimes had visibility issues (seventh graders NEVER wear their glasses) or clicker reliability issues.  And the night custodian, in the course of sweeping, would always shift one side of the room one way and the other the other way, and…etc.

But these days, I have an LCD projector, and I don’t use the big monitor any more. And I usually alternate the overhead and LCD, so they can point in the same direction.

It took me a year and a half to realize I could reorient the room. They say that after a while, you take on some of the qualities of the population you teach. Hmmmm.

Anyway, Thursday I just turned every desk 90 degrees. So now, everyone is still in the same place, but facing the front instead of the middle of the room. I have 6 rows of 5, instead of 10 rows of 3.

You would have thought I had formed the desks into a pentagram and was chanting the Lord’s Prayer backwards.

All of them came in, absently found their clickers in the bag while cursing the previous class for being so sloppy about putting them away (oh, the irony), finally looked up and said,

“Whoa. Where do I sit?”

“The same place you were yesterday.”

And then most of them proceed to where they think their desk has moved to, the equivalent location in their minds.

“This is weird.”

“Nooooo! Where’d you sit yesterday? What desk?”

And they would point to the exact desk they sat in the day before.

“You’re still sitting there.”

“Whoa. This is weird.”

“I didn’t move anyone’s location, I just turned everyone 90 degrees, so you all face the front. I’m the only one who moved. I’m going to hang out up here for awhile, and see how this works out. I’ve told you guys that I was going to experiment on you this year.”

And then I would go through it all again for the next few through the door. It ended up, by 6th period, I was more exasperated than amused by their gluiness. But about a quarter of them actually figured it out after the first “the same place you were yesterday” response, and so we shared a few chuckles at the confusion of the rest of them.

Of course, about half  “hated” the new arrangement, and half liked it. I demoed how I could reach everyone with my Stick a little easier, and I did solve some chronic clicker reception issues, but even I was a little discombobulated by the switch; I kept heading to my usual location on the other side of the room (see above about taking on the qualities of those you teach).

So far though, I like it. We’ll see.