The delicate art of seating charts

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I teach bilingual classes in Illinois. Without going into the many subtexts implied by that statement, I will make one important observation. Bilingual programs in Illinois can be a lot like roach motels; students go in and they don’t come out. They keep raising the exit test scored required to get out, too. Many of these students have been with the same relatively small group of students for years. Some students have even been known to deliberately fail the test in order to stay in the program with their friends.

Tonight I am trying to make seating charts, a surprisingly complicated endeavor. I want to separate friends, but my classes contain many friends and few strangers. If I choose a nonfriend seating partner for a student, I risk that student being bullied or at least insulted by the seat partner. I can’t use the unattractive fat boy as a block in many spaces because some girl will then surely make him feel like an unattractive fat boy. He’s better off in the place he chose for himself. But some of these girls absolutely must be separated. Some friends can stay together; they listen, do the work and help each other. Others distract each other constantly; these girls are going to fight the new chart.

In another class, I need to separate a group of boys. I could use a few cones of silence to deploy strategically over a few desks. Members of this group talk to themselves when no one else is available.

Eduhonesty: Planning a diplomatic dinner at the U.N. no doubt resembles my night’s most important task. A vital computer program has been down for a few days so I have a lot of catching up to do in general. Seating charts will come first. Then parent calls. Then setting up grade programs. All my planning periods of the week have pretty much been sucked up by required meetings. Meetings are scheduled for every planning period with extra meetings being planned outside my planning period since we have no time for meetings during our planning periods due to our many meetings. If that doesn’t seem to make sense, well, I think it captures the sense of my life. As far as I am concerned, I have no planning periods. They can’t fool me. If it quacks like a duck, it’s a duck, even if you call it a pomegranate, and a planning period is not a planning period if you can never use it for planning.

Postcript: The charts are done and parents called. The grades remain untouched since the program has changed. I don’t know what to do. Instruction has been lightly touched upon. I am ready for the day’s openers. It’s 6:00 AM and I have a lot to do fast.