All teachers are used to the occasional parent requests, but sometimes the volume can overcome our ability to address all of them. Here's a problem that was faced by one of my followers:
“I have 32 kids, and pretty much all their moms have asked if they can sit in the front, either for vision or behavior. I do the monthly seat switching for community building (which the parents and kids are all aware of) – since we just had the big seat switch on the first of the month, now I'm getting the ‘sit in front’ requests.
“I accommodate as best I can. Also, I suggest that the free glasses provided by our district should be taken advantage of. Some relent, but what do I say to those pushy parents?”
We love involved parents, but…
Can you relate to that? I mean, we try to accommodate parent requests as much as possible, but there are only so many front-row seats in a classroom!
The “please seat my child at the front” request is very similar to the “Please don't seat my child next to Johnny” request. I've gotten both of them in the past… and they both severely restrict your ability to effectively manage your classroom.
There is no short answer to this problem; it’s very situation-dependent and each individual request must be dealt with separately. But there are things you can consider and adapt to your own situation.
I have always been quite firm with parents when I get a sit-in-front request. In fact, I have never agreed to the request. My initial response is usually:
“Of course I will meet the needs of your child, along with the needs of all 25 children in my classroom.”
This is a not-so-subtle way of reminding parents of how many different kids you are working with.
I usually follow up by telling them that I don't just teach from the front of the classroom. I teach from all over the classroom and, in fact, when kids are at the front they are usually seated on the carpet and not in their desks. As such, when they are on the carpet, it's very easy for them to have an unobstructed close-up view of anything I'm doing.
Don't follow a seat re-shuffling pattern
Regarding regular desk re-arrangements, I heartily applaud that. However, I never do mine on a regular schedule. My kids know that they can walk in on any morning and find themselves sitting in a different spot.
I make changes whenever I feel it is needed to ensure my students are experiencing success from day to day. I might move a few desks, or I might move all desks. My students know that our class mantra is:
“We will work with anyone.”
If you avoid a regular schedule of moving, one that parents know is coming up at the beginning of every month, that can help mitigate recurring requests.
Making vision accommodations
If vision issues are a true problem and a parent is not taking advantage of the free eyeglasses, then you could explain that their child will need a 504 accommodation for their vision in order to ensure that they are properly accommodated in all classrooms going forward.
Most parents will opt for getting the glasses rather than going through a 504 process since, obviously, there's really no need for a 504 if they'll just put out the effort to help their child see!
What’s really going on
The bottom line is that parents aren’t precisely asking for seating preferences. What they really want is reassurance that their child will do well in school. Such a request is their broad-brush attempt to do their part for this.
Usually, I have been able to reassure these parents that their child will get every single bit of attention that he or she needs regardless of where they're sitting in my classroom. And if they doubt that, I always explain that they are more than welcome to come into my room at any time on any day and observe.
The autism-spectrum exception
There is one exception when it comes to allowing a child to sit in the same place all year. That is if she is on the autism spectrum and really needs that stability of being in the same spot all year long. That's entirely understandable. Plus, these kids usually have an IEP to support that approach.
Of course, if you are using a horseshoe arrangement as I outlined above, then there is usually plenty of room to accommodate this.
As I said, not a simple answer, but hopefully you'll find some things to help you out with parent requests.