Redesigning the Classroom

This follows from an earlier post…

It’s been on my mind lately that traditional classrooms, well to be quite frank, suck. I’m only a second year teacher but I’m realizing very quickly that everything I knew as a student becoming a teacher was wrong. What I imagined as a “classroom” and what of I thought of as “teaching” were all not good practices nor would they help me become the kind of teacher I want to be. Instead, I value the forward-thinking models of education that allow students the freedom to customize their learning and get the most out of their school experience. I have read a lot of interesting material on the subject that I want to share in order to continue organizing my thoughts and plan of action for implementing these new ideas. The first is a great list of some things teachers can do to turn their classrooms into “thinking spaces.” I really like some of the suggestions in the article, including changing the ambience of the room by taking away desks in favor of tables. I know that these have some instructional implications, but again I think that going with some of these choices means altering the instruction to match. It’s hard because I don’t have any experience with a classroom of this sort, so I have to invite my students to help me manage the transition and come up with ways of making it not only fun and relaxing for the students but also instructionally sound and focused on learning. The other great idea in the article was asking the students to help redesign the space through painting, rearranging, bringing in other furniture, and organizing the room to best suit the instruction. I think I will ask my students at the end of this year just to see what they can come up with but I definitely want to repaint/redecorate and make the classroom feel more inviting. I’m always intrigued why schools as to how schools could be designed so cold and lackluster when they’re supposed to inspire the best in students.

The second thing I saw was a video. It follows in the same vein as a lot of things swirling in the education reform topic these days, but I thought it was interesting nonetheless. When I watched it, I mostly kept thinking about why it’s so hard for schools to transition to newer ways of educating students. I have been focused on this topic a lot lately because as much as I want to innovate in my classroom I feel as though it will have little impact without the support of my fellow teachers. In a large public high school it’s very difficult to get all the teachers on board with the same mission, despite the fact that now all of our students have laptops and there are other great technological resources available to us. I am an “ILearn” (tech support initiative) coach at my school so it’s my job to find ways of integrating technology and helping other teachers do the same, but I find that just overcoming the teachers’ attitudes makes it most difficult which is beyond frustrating for me. I get energized by videos such as these that promote new and interesting ways of tackling issues such as student boredom, dropout and attendance rates, test scores, and the list goes on and on. I know in their heart of hearts all teachers mean well and I know that no solution is perfect, but I’m working on finding ways to innovate and get other teachers to do the same.

My goal is to start small and try these things first in my own classroom. I need to find a way to get results and measure the positive effects that change can have on instruction before I try to convince anyone else of it. I will say that I’m lucky to be in a subject where I have some flexibility because I know it’s not that easy for everyone else. Sometimes I just wish I had more support for professional development in this area because I like to have others to bounce ideas off of and innovate with. I think it’s a travesty that 1) there is not enough time for this in schools and 2) even if there were time most teachers couldn’t care less about it.

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