Classroom Comfort is Key for Student Success


Maggie Childers

As some Novato High teachers pioneer new classroom set-ups and designs, it is important to examine why this is being done, how it can help students who learn differently, and if it should be fully implemented throughout campus. 

Many teachers are experimenting around Marin with classrooms that lack the traditional desk and dry-erase board dynamic, which is the typical classroom given the funding the schools receive. However, some set-ups have included bean bags, hanging chairs, large tables, stools, couches, plushy chairs, lawn chairs, and standing desks. Using some of these varied sitting arrangements can not only liven up the classroom but the students within them as well.

Many students who learn in non-traditional classroom atmospheres have had positive reactions to the modernized settings. 

“The atmosphere is really welcoming, comfortable, and a healthy, happy place to be in. It’s not just strict, like the curriculum, so we can have a fun time in class,” said sophomore Jayden Anderson.

Research done by the University of Wisconsin shows that furniture in a classroom is directly linked to a student’s behavior. The study claimed that depending on the lesson as well as the personality of the teachers, different arrangements were suited better for certain students.  

Social studies teacher Jason Searle, whose classroom is filled with bright yellow bean bags in the back, a wide TV in the front, and large tables in the middle, described why he chose this layout for his classroom and how it benefits his students.

“This has to be about creating a classroom culture. I think it only works with the personality of the teacher. In my class, I want students to come in and feel comfortable even though in AP Euro we’re going to go into a lot of detail. I want you to feel part of the culture; it’s also easier to do Socratic seminar quickly, you move around easily,” said Searle.

Searle also mentioned how the classroom benefits the students. 

“I like that it gives people options. If you want to teach people how to be the best version of themselves as a student, you have to give them options on how they can be a student in a classroom,” he said.

In 2015, Vallecito Elementary School in San Rafael was the first school in the country to have standing desks in almost all of their classrooms. The standing desks were intended to help those who fidgeted in desks, and the results were positive and students loved the change. The standing desks proved one thing; those who learn differently or have trouble focusing need ways to improve their classroom learning.

Alternative classroom furniture can create atmosphere variety and uniqueness, allowing the kids to feel like they have a choice when coming to school. For students, sometimes choosing how or where you sit can greatly improve your mood and work efficiency. This is due to an increased comfort level and sense of freedom, which is not always offered in a traditional classroom setting.

Funding for furniture other than standard desks is difficult, but not impossible. Just this year, a math teacher at Novato High, Kaila Budwell, received funding for better desks for her students. Although she opted for a more traditional setup, she hopes to have a more creative and active classroom once the portables are moved. 

Many teachers are thinking about switching to a more varied classroom. A place with colorful beanbags, quirky chairs, couches, and more. Not only is this proven to increase productivity, but it continues to help schools and teachers bridge the gap between conventional learners and unorthodox ones.