When Your Seating Chart Gets the Best of You

You may not be obsessive compulsive like I am, but a little organization doesn’t hurt. I find it interesting that there are teachers on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to being organized. As a teacher, administrator and student, I have found that there are basically three kinds.

First (and my personal fav), there is the obsessive teacher that has everything in order. They have pencils neatly arranged and sharpened in a cup, desk neat and tidy, an order and total lack of chaos on their bulletin boards and on their walls. Most often they have completely synchronized their little world to be at the peak of efficiency.

RELATED: TJ and the Briefcase Intervention

Second, you find a teacher with mounds on their desk, milk crates with what looks like stacks of miscellaneous papers, tests, and assignments mixed together, in what to some looks like a mess that could never be sorted out. However, there is a method to their madness. Often, they are the most organized people around. They know where everything is, whose is where, and always seem to pull it together at the drop of a hat when they need the information. They are most often the creative type. (Not me.)

Third, there are some that I literally can’t stand to be around. There are mounds and piles everywhere. They are constantly looking for something in a pile, and often never find it. I know several of these people and like them very much. But, the lack of order kills me!


It didn’t take me long when I began my career to figure out where I fit into this. I literally cannot function without order. As a district level administrator and superintendent, I found it impossible to begin an important and time sensitive task before taking time to clean my office, read my emails, and go through the neat stacks of papers and envelopes on my desk. I did not want any distractions after I began. To be clear, I am not completely OCD, just borderline. There are many parts of my life that are far less than perfect in that regard. I always have, what I call, a junk drawer. I may have a couple. Look into my vehicle and you will always notice it is clean and orderly. But, don’t open that arm rest! You get the picture.


As a first year teacher, I tried to arrange everything in my classroom as perfectly as I had imagined it would be. In fact, that first year or two, I may not have even had the junk drawer. Everything was organized and perfect before the first day.

I am very bad with names. I’m great with people and situations and remembering things from the past, but names are a problem for me to this day. In my preparation for my first year of planning, I developed a strategy. I had seen my teachers, especially in the university, use several tricks to learn students. I had a plan!

My first year teaching, I taught three subjects and coached basketball. It was in a very small rural school. In this community, everybody knew everybody. I was the new kid, the new teacher, and new to the community. I was using every trick I could think of to be organized and efficient. My seating chart and my lack of ability to remember names was my downfall.

After a week of being in school that first year, and being overwhelmed by all the things they forgot to tell us about in our undergrad classes, it happened. I was finally beginning to learn names! Well, sort of. Then…

Her name was Lauren. She sat on the second row, third seat. She seemed like a very bright student and was always polite and courteous- she stood out in that way.  But today she was sitting in the fourth row, second seat. This steamed me a little due to the effort I had put into making sure everyone sat in the same seat so I could learn names. Regardless of how much I had come to like this girl, I was going to address this.


It began simply enough. I simply told her where she was supposed to be sitting and to move. She protested! I couldn’t believe my ears! This girl was talking back to me one week into a new school year. I had a problem. I was determined to keep that stern teacher face until Thanksgiving as many new teachers do. She was talking back! I had no choice other than to lite into her like a windmill in a tornado. After all, all the other kids were watching to see if I was a pushover or if my rules were meant to be broken. She continued to protest, “Coach I’ve sat here everyday since school began!” I was positive was this was not the case. I told her, “You don’t talk back, and move back to YOUR seat!” She stood up, about to cry and said, “Where?” I showed her and the boy sitting in her seat looked confused.

So, I had done it. I had had my first confrontation with a student in front of others and won. So, for emphasis, as she was going to her seat, I started reminding everyone to sit in the right seats EVERY day. I continued on, “You have sat in that seat every day since school started.” She said, “Coach, I think you may be talking about my twin sister, Lydia. She’s in here next period.”

Palm meet face.

Have you got any good stories from your first few years on the job? I'd love to hear them in the comments!


Organization and data are great and useful tools in teaching. When we use organizational tools and properly disaggregate as much data as he can, we can make great educational decisions and help our students in many ways. SchoolStatus helps to merges data and communication in a meaningful way. Call us to see how we can help and keep you from losing a student in the crowd.


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