Starbucks My PD Please

Free-choice seating (allowing students to choose their seat) with flexible-seating choices (comfortable seating) has been a welcome wave of change in 21st Century classrooms. Cemetery-style desks are being replaced with yoga balls, wobble discs, Hokki stools, and more. If you’ve been in a Starbucks recently, you’ll notice the different options available to chat with a friend or do some work: tables for 2, comfy chairs or couches, and/or booths. Kayla Delzer noticed this back in 2015 and wrote an article describing her vision to make classrooms more like a Starbucks. Many teachers have been offering seating choice during read-to-self time as part of their Daily 5 rotations for awhile. Making it available for an entire day takes some planning but is definitely doable: Learn more here.

Think about the last Professional Development or Staff Meeting you attended at your school. Ours are usually held in our Media Center with staff seated in elementary student chairs at elementary height tables: The space is designed for our students which means many of us have a difficult time sitting at and using the tables for any kind of note taking, group work, etc. Uncomfortable feelings of squished and folded are a given for the 1 hour 15 minutes to 2 hours plus that we’re working there. Most of the time we have the option to choose the seat and to move it away from the table so that our legs aren’t folded and/or we’re not pinned in by the staff seated nearby. Add the exhaustion from all of the day’s work in the classroom and you may not end up with the best recipe for high productivity.

But what if you could make an impact in a smaller work space? What if you could provide each grade-level team a Starbucks atmosphere at their weekly Professional Learning Team (PLT) meeting? Would you do it?

Lucky for us, our Principal, Mr. Soutter, did! He along with 1st-grade teacher, Ms. Sauers and 4th-grade teacher, Mr. Collins turned one room into a space with choice, functionality, and aesthetics. Check out the “before” and after pictures below.

The “before”* pictures are taken of the space next door where staff still have meetings. Notice the folding chairs hanging in the picture to the right: This is the same type seating we had for our PLTs in previous years!

How did this beautiful space affect our school year? Well, it did not affect the culture, which took a hit in 2016–2017. I share this not be negative but to be real: These things happen. There is no “magic bullet” as I’ve pointed out here regarding Free-Choice seating with Flexible-Seating choices in the classroom. But, despite this, our preliminary End of Grade numbers are looking good, particularly when compared to schools in our area of the district. Hmmmm…could there be a connection between this encouraging data and the space where we planned together as grade-level teams? What do you think? Please continue the conversation by sharing your ideas in the comments below. Thanks so much for reading!

*The “before” pictures aren’t truly “before”, because the room was planned and prepared over Summer 2016 as a surprise for staff and not revealed until the beginning of the school year in late August 2016! Since the “before” pictures are still in use by staff, they definitely make the case that the “after” equals Starbucks My PLT 🙂

Originally published at on June 23, 2017.