|The view from my desk|
Right now, my desks are arranged in rows (I change my room arrangement a lot). So, I often teach from the back of the room. That way, the back is the front and the front is the back. Those front row kids stay engaged because they want to be the ones to tell you the answers, but the back row kids are now in the front and they can't hide.
My desk is at the side of the room so that when I mix up the desks into little pods of three or four, the side is the front and the front and back are now the sides. Confused? So are the kids sometimes, but no one gets to hide.
I have also been a back row hider myself at times. I have been known to have my desk in the back. That really confuses the hiders in the back row, because now they are sitting beside the teacher. You can't hide when you are beside her!
I think that often the back row kids aren't really hiding. They are waiting, daring challenging you to create something so engaging that they have to come out of hiding. They want you to make them come out and participate. Make it worth their while.
I also believe that the back row hiders want to see if you care enough to connect with them or if you only concerned with getting through curriculum. So make those connections.
Talk to them outside of class--and not about school. Ask about their game the night before, how rehearsal is going, did they get a deer over the weekend, how their race went. And sometimes, go beyond the obvious. When NASCAR driver Dan Wheldon was killed back in October, I asked a young race car driver if it scared him to race after accidents like that. I got a great lesson in the difference in NASCAR and modified racing and why that kind of accident wouldn't happen in his races. But, he knew I had been thinking about him and cared.
Soon, the back row will come to you. They'll let you know about their game, their rehearsal, they'll bring you a picture of that deer.
And, once they come to you, you've got them. Now, you can sneak a little learning in on them. You see, back row kids don't really like to be preached to, lectured, or talked at. They want to do things. They want to be active. Personally, I try not to talk for more than 15 minutes, then we move on to an activity of some kind.
Relate. Talk. Do.
That's my philosophy.
And here's a little secret. It works with the front row kids too.