Sunday, March 1, 2009

Spaces for Teaching

A recent post on Edutopia (Re-Creating Teaching Spaces, 2/5/09) has me thinking about space. I have read quite a bit about making sure our schools and classrooms are conducive to learning and usually this is geared to thinking about the students. What about the teacher? I always ran my classroom as a community of learners and that included me, the teacher.

I do not have the best skills as creating what may look like an orderly environment to outsiders, but it worked well. Often there were things hanging from the ceiling or posted on the cupboards - student artwork or organizational tools from one project or another. Student personalities blended with mine and it was a community; this was also the way I survived best.

It was important for me to be respectful of all my students and their needs. It was also important for me to tend to my needs if I expected to be good for anything all day long. The goal is learning; and how does that happen best. . . .

Stephen Hurley's posting got me thinking because a school is the workplace of a teacher. We have to live there as much, if not more than, the students. All is better if we provide openness for student needs. Why is it then that many teachers feel that their space is not supposed to be reflective of themselves? Why are all classrooms suppposed to look the same (or are they)? How is orderly defined in each classroom? I do think about this idea frequently, because I want to make sure to not overly-distract my students.

This fall, I transitioned into a different position this fall and now have an office rather than a classroom. I slowly eeked my personality into my office and no matter what I do, I cannot get away from piles. Neat piles, but piles none-the-less. As I moved things out of my classroom and tried to decide what to take home and what to store at school somewhere, I had haphazardly hung a plastic chestplate of armor (from our study of the middle ages)on a protruding nail in my office. I figured I would replace it with a calendar or some tasteful work of art for my professional space. That was August. The chestplate still hangs, without any context for new visitors, but my students prefer it there. My niece explained to me that it helps the office feel more like me. They still think it's not busy enough to reflect me, but they'll settle for leaving the chestplate on the wall. I'm okay with that - though I doubt that that type of learning community could ever be properly assessed on a test or report card....

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