“Please find your seats” is something she might say, however. That’s because a few months back, Bolek removed the desks from her classroom and replaced them with bean bag chairs, papasan chairs, video game chairs and the like—all of them donated by students.
“This is very brand new,” Bolek said.
Bolek was inspired by the way Google decorated its offices and thought something similar might work in a classroom. She also was inspired after doing research that said creativity often is lacking in the classroom.
“It requires us as educators to come out of our box,” she said. “I kind of stood back and said, ‘I’m not the one that needs to learn.’ The kids are the ones that need to learn.”
While there might have been skeptics, Bolek said not only has the new seating arrangement worked, it has made classroom discussions richer. Students who were in her class last semester will stop by the classroom.
“They still come back in; they were very sad to go,” she said.
One of her current students, Payton Laczynski, a senior from Shorewood, said she enjoys the classroom atmosphere.
“It’s comfy,” she said.
Bolek believes that arranging the classroom the way she has—with loose seating that students can arrange when they come in—can work in any classroom and in any subject area, provided that the teacher is willing to work in that kind of classroom.
“This environment requires that you are not the one in charge,” Bolek said. “I always want to know what they want, what excites them.”
Senior Matt Andrews, of Minooka, also likes this more informal classroom setting.
“It’s a nicer environment,” he said. “It’s not so strict.”
Bolek has found the reactions of her students interesting. For most of them, she said, sitting on the yoga balls is distracting. But that is not true for all of her students.
“I have a student who can’t sit still, and he puts himself on the yoga ball and he sits still for the whole period,” she said.
Bolek is realistic, though. When she administers a test, she moves her students to the library or another room that has desks. And she has eight chairs in the back of her classroom that surround two tables, for the students who prefer that kind of seating.