Behavior Buffers in Classrooms: The Seating Chart Dilemma

Behavior Buffers in Classrooms: The Seating Chart Dilemma

Quinn Kauffman, Staff Writer

Many people have experienced being sat next to someone in class, someone that either acts better or worse than them, in the teacher’s attempt to even behavioral issues out. Usually, the plan is to put kids who do all their work next to the kids who won’t stop talking. Teachers could have a true intention of wanting to help people that are doing worse in class, but it often comes off as unloading responsibility onto the kids who do their work.

Speaking from experience, trying to get math done while others are talking at you, loudly, and nonstop is not the ideal learning environment. Because, to let you in on a little secret: kids who talk all the time don’t stop talking when they are not with their friends, they just talk to the people they don’t know. The teacher’s plans also backfire when/if the quiet kids start misbehaving badly because influence goes both ways, and it’s not surprising when you put kids with massively different personalities next to each other. 

Now, I’m not talking about kids who get better grades being sat next to the kids who get worse ones; I’m always happy to help kids who need some extra guidance on their math or science. But certain kids can substantially disrupt focus and learning when teachers try to ‘fix’ their behavior this way. Additionally, I’m sure that kids who do worse in class would feel far inferior if they were to be sat next to kids who teachers deem ‘better than them’, class after class every day.

Of course, some kids legitimately do better in class when they are next to people to help them. Some get better grades, or just understand more of the material when they have a person next to them to help them. You also can’t really put the rowdy kids next to other rowdy kids, so where do you put them? They have to sit next to someone, and putting them next to a kid with the true intent to help them with school is not a problem. But it becomes a problem when those ‘better behaved’ kids are supposed to take the place of a teacher. Students can help their peers but it’s the teachers that are there to really control behavior, and when the teachers just give up on trying to stop it, it forces others to do their job for them. I personally think it is unfair to the student who has to stop their work to try and teach other students

In the future, maybe teachers could take some more opinions from kids on seating charts, or just make sure not to unload controlling classmates onto kids. I’m not suggesting that everyone should be put next to whoever they want in class, but being a little more lenient with the seating charts and having a small number of kids who want to sit next to each other could help them work. When behavioral issues are addressed directly, and students are supported, it’s a much more beneficial and long-term solution anyway. School is often very stressful for kids, and sitting next to people they like can make it a whole lot easier.