“No chair for teacher”: Is it time we do away with this regressive and myopic policy?
I don’t know when this practice started, or who started it.
I came to know of this more than a decade ago, when my mother was teaching at a school which had this policy; no chair for a teacher in the classroom.
The reason is pretty straight-forward. In the school management’s wisdom:
a) A lesson cannot be facilitated if the teachers happens to be seated even for a few minutes in a 40-minute class; and
b) Management’s belief that default mode of teachers is to be lazy, so if left to themselves they will spend the lesson time glued to their chairs
So, the best solution to enable learning? Do away with the chair altogether, so a teacher cannot sit even if she wanted to.
To some, this might seems outright horrendous and wrong in every way possible.
Yet, it is not an open and shut case
Because there are many to subscribe to this thought process making it a practice that still exists in many schools in India, even at high-end schools. Just the other day, I saw a post on LinkedIn by a school leader asking for views on whether a chair for a teacher should be placed in the classroom. Unfortunately, many seem to support the practice, without real understanding of how learning happens.
It appears that, amidst a web of fad and myth, good old common sense in education has become as elusive as that teacher’s chair
Let us look at this particular policy for instance, from the following angles:
Angle #1- Does the policy consider impact on teachers
Consider a few facts, true for most schools:
- Average class is 40–45 minutes
- Teachers have an average of 6 classes in a day
- They are likely to have 2 or 3 back-to-back classes
(that is 80 to 120 minutes standing at a stretch)
- Teachers may have sick days, when they are not necessarily at the luxury of taking leaves
(Majority of teachers are women; women also have monthly cycles. Also, even on the healthiest of days, teaching happens to be a physically strenuous job — over and above the mental exertion)
- Teachers (particularly female) are at high risk of developing varicose veins due to long hours of standing
(Models insure their legs, for injury due to high heels. We don’t discuss occupational hazards of teachers with as much interest.)
Angle #2- Does the policy consider psychological impact on learners?
We assumed that the policy is pro-learner. But is it really?
Children are far more perceptive than adults. We, in our grown-upness assume the child does not see anything.
Unfortunately, children both see and understand many things adults assume they cannot
Even things adults hope they will not
Imagine a classroom, where it is the usual row-style seating arrangement. Everything is the same — except that there is no chair for the teacher.
- Are the learners likely to wonder, why the teacher does not have a chair?
- Is it possible that learners may even conclude on their own that — if there is a chair, the teacher will sit and not teach well — so the chair has been removed?
- How are they likely to perceive their teacher (that teacher is lazy if left to herself?) and how does that perception effect learning?
A teacher’s chair is not just about ergonomics
It is also symbolic
Angle #3- Is the policy even effective to begin with?
- A teacher who does not have the skill or will to facilitate a good class, will not deliver a good class, whether sitting or standing. A teacher who can and wants to deliver a good class, will do so — even if she chooses to be seated for a few minutes
- Removing a teacher’s chair, while keeping the same restricted row style seating for children — does not do anything to change the learner’s experience per se.
- Schools with best teaching practices rely on a lot of development, reflection and feedback among the teachers. How can teachers be open to discussion when there is no trust between the management and teachers — reflected through such policies?
There has been a lot of talk of school reforms around the world. Unfortunately, that change has been slow.
Worse, lot of that change has also given rise to expensive fads in the name of improvement
The arguments against this policy is obvious, Yet, it exists in schools and finds supporters, because we have forgotten the very fundamentals of education.
Even “expensive” schools hesitate to spend on professional development of teachers (perhaps it takes away from their profitability). Teacher’s pay are a matter of concern. And then there are such counter-productive policies, in a bid to appear as pro-learner.
A school that is really committed to creating the right learning environment, starts with the teachers. Of selecting, developing, understanding and valuing teachers. It takes hardwork that many in the business-of-education are not willing to take the trouble of.
Finally, as someone who really understands education, once told me:
You can run a great class even under a tree. All you need is a good teacher.
And a good teacher, I believe, can decide for herself, if she wants a chair or not.
While she writes on a wide variety of subjects, her favorite topics are leadership, culture, artificial intelligence, education and ‘self’.
You can read her articles on LinkedIn or Medium (Use this link to Medium blogspot)
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