One of the most obvious changes in modern education to the parent paying even a casual visit to the school lies in the seating arrangements and the general organization of the classroom. No longer do we have neat lines of desks ranged one behind the other in rows. Instead desks seem scattered higgledy-piggledy, some in groups, some facing each other, some in semicircles, some even hidden behind a partition in the corner, and none of them apparently facing the blackboard.
How, the puzzled parent asks, can any teacher teach in that kind of chaos? The parent need not worry. Every item in the apparently haphazard jigsaw has been placed exactly where it is for a specific purpose. New methods require a completely new classroom arrangement.
The desks are clustered in groups because the class is divided into groups, each pursuing a different subject or activity. We find desks shoved together and pupils facing each other because certain activities demand co-operative effort and much more space than one desk lid. Six desk lids of the same height pushed together provide that space.
For some subjects – the reading lesson, for instance – grouping the desks in a semicircle is more convenient. Even the placing of desks behind the partition is intentional. That is probably the Quiet Corner or Library Corner, where a group of pupils is busily engaged in making notes from reference books.
The blackboard itself is of much less importance than it was in our days, but if the teacher does wish to teach a lesson from it she can readily bring out the small group she will be teaching and make them cluster around her. To fit the new flexible conditions demanded by modern methods there are probably almost as many different classroom arrangements as there are teachers.