My vision is pretty bad… (Go for lasik and still wear glasses bad.) I’m near sighted in one eye, far sighted in the other. I have an astigmatism in both eyes and my left eye is a lazy. As a kid I remember not being able to see power lines. I couldn’t understand why there were poles everywhere or how balisor beacons were suspended. By kindergarten my parents noticed that my eyes were crossing and took me to the eye doctor. I’ve worn glasses ever since.
On the first day of the school year my teacher would assign desks to the students. Typically this was done alphabetically, but I was always an exception due to my vision. Inevitably I would get a desk in the front row or two. Every year of school, for thirteen years, I sat in the front row. When I got to college I naturally choose a seat towards the front of the class, because anything else felt uncomfortable.
Being in the front of the class means you’re more focused on the teacher and they’re more focused on you. You get more eye contact and attention. It means that you are noticed more by your teacher (for both the good and the bad). You’re called on more often to answer questions and give your thoughts. Its no wonder that students who sit in the front of the class score better on exams.
My poor vision turns out to have been a bit of a gift after all. To this day I naturally gravitate towards the front of the room (which turns out to be a great hack for conferences).
Is sitting at the front of the class a zero sum game?
There are a finite amount of desks at the front of the class. And for someone to sit in the front means that someone else needs to sit in the back. But that doesn’t mean the front of class mindset can’t extend to every student. The question is, how can we shift the culture of a classroom and change our styles of teaching to make it so every student feels like they’re at the front of the class? How can we create a posture where even the students in the last row feel like they’re all in, can be called on at any moment, and are engaged in their learning? How do we end the back row syndrome?
The classroom where every student feels like they’re in the front is one that will produce students who are capable and ready to lead their own education.