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(Bu Chris Sharp) A very well established axiom of managing a classroom is that education does not work until behavior succeeds.   That is true – you can’t learn anything when you just let yourself go crazy.

The public-school system today has fixed their latest lance on the problem of classroom behavior in the form of the seating chart.  The classroom seating chart puts each student next to another student whose personality is seen as not agitating or exciting the student next to him or her.  It will usually take a little trial and error to finalize a seating chart that is designed to numb each student to each of his or her neighbors.

But should every student be surrounded by numb, boring neighbors?

For example, I am sure that if every scientist had made a determination to partner with only the most boring colleagues – so they would have no excitement working with them – there would have been no partnerships of Nobel Prize winners such as that the DNA co-discoverers James Watson and Francis Crick.

But I am also pretty certain that if we were all to choose to work with the most boring and numbing partners we could find, the work we produced together would be comparably boring and numbing.

The purpose of seating charts in our schools seems to be to create a classroom management structure.  When there is no interest of a student in even talking with the student nest to him or her, the school is believed to have achieved an important operant goal to have nothing competing with the teacher’s voice in the classroom.

Now teaching is my adult second career.  In my first career, as a First Amendment journalist, I was more interested in everyone talking as much as possible, hoping that I could pull some useful grist out of all the chatter.

I was dissuaded from championing this kind of dialogue when one day while I was taking over a class for some high school seniors and an administrator handed me a DVD for the movie “Finding Nemo.”  It was explained to me that “finding Nemo” was a replacement lesson filling in while the regular curriculum was being recharged.

“But these are intelligent 18 year olds,” I said.

Then it was explained to me that playing “Finding Nemo” was designed to keep the students from talking.  “Otherwise they will talk.”

I hadn’t been teaching long at that point, but I had already developed enough savviness to understand that it was useless arguing against the public school attitude of not talking.

It may true that a rigidly applied seating chart will reduce the stray talking in a classroom.  But it has also proven true that as the students gets to better know the stranger at this side, the two students will gradually build the rapport of two friends, setting off another seating re-arrangement.

Read more here: A Sharp View: Friends don’t let friends fail in school