We’ve been talking more and more about the classroom space and how it can be more student centered and flexible. Last week at the mini faculty meeting, we shared how one of the budget discussions centered on raising class sizes (AGAIN! I don’t know why this is an “easy” fix to a tough budget each year), how we were already over our building’s capacity, and how the new school being built on this side of the county to relieve overcrowding won’t be opening for at least another 6-7 years. This all means bigger classes, the chance of sharing rooms increases, and that we need to be creative with our space. All together, with our culture of improving ourselves, this is the perfect time to talk about the work space in our classrooms.
I shared a few of my favorite articles on the subject with the staff:
- Ditching the Desk by Nicolas Provenzano via Edutopia
- How To Get Rid of the Teacher Desk by Jennifer Gibbons on The Cornerstone for Teachers
- Getting Rid of My Teacher’s Desk by Matthew R Morris
This started the conversation. Over the last two weeks several teachers have shared how they plan to shift their spaces to give more back to students. Teachers who had tables, desks and wardrobes were downsizing to one smaller table. The conversations about what was really necessary in the classroom (and why do we have so many boxes of markers and paper clips in our desk drawers?!) was what I was really impressed with.
Just like those home makeover shows, this conversation often starts with decluttering. What are we keeping in those desk drawers? Do we need that many of whatever it is? Can they live in a shared space or somewhere that students have access to them? Getting rid of things is hard for teachers. I think most of us have been through the years when it was hard to get supplies and so it seems like a good plan to sock some away for when those days return. But just like clutter in our houses can stop us from using great space, these extra piles of supplies filling extra furniture can mean we don’t have enough space for the real work in our classrooms – the learning.
One of my favorite conversations was with a teacher who shared that what really resonated with her after some reading was the question of the horizontal space in the room. Who uses it the most? This is the space on top of cabinets, desks, tables, book cases, etc. Every flat space. As she looked around her room, that was a turning point. We had some conversations about what spaces she could “give back” to her students and create space where their supplies are easily accessed. It was pretty incredible that some of those spaces (one in particular, where books were stored in the summer was a LARGE piece of furniture, standing height and nearly empty for 10 months of the year) had potential to give students choice not only about where they sat, but whether they sat or stood for class time. This ONE question led her to redesign not only her teacher space but also to create some flexible seating spaces for her students.
One complication of this work is the question of where do we put all these desks? A nearby elementary shared that they’ve removed the large teacher desks from nearly all their classrooms and they have a storage shed packed full of them! In our district we have a warehouse which is a very cool system so we don’t waste as much. Schools that have extra furniture can send it to the warehouse. Other schools who are in need of furniture are able to look through the furniture there and choose pieces for their school or classroom. Our warehouse has been invaluable as we’ve worked to redesign our classroom spaces. Tables, soft seating, even coffee tables (for floor seating) is at a premium from the warehouse.