I’m spending lots of time this summer reading about how to implement changes in my classroom that will improve both learning and engagement for my students. There are more great PD books out there than anyone could consume in a summer, but I am giving it my best shot. Articles and blog posts are a whole other category of PD reading that I am trying to glean tips from. There is a topic that I keep coming across that really interests me; classroom redesign. This topic also infuriates me and here is why.
Most educators I know are not just doing a job – teaching is part of the fabric of their beings. Thinking about their craft and how to be as effective in their role as a mentor to children is ever present in their minds. The strategies to use in the classroom, the content to emphasize, the most effective way to conduct formative assessments, crafting meaningful feedback protocols, picking up on students’ emotional cues, and creating a welcoming and respectful environment for learning are all topics that are fighting for space in our brains daily. These are all areas where our talents as educators and the investment of our time and energy can make tremendous differences for our students.
The current fascination with redesigning classroom learning spaces is an important topic and, to some extent, we can move desks/chairs/tables that we currently have in our classes to facilitate movement and sharing of ideas. I am onboard with this. What I am not onboard with is the suggestion that it is somehow my responsibility to obtain furniture for my classroom. Are you kidding?? I have often cited teaching as the only profession where you have to bring your own pencil to work. Seriously. Depending on the district you work in, you could be provided with all you need to teach with and more, or you could have to literally supply your students with pens, pencils, paper, and create your own instructional materials. This is one of education’s dirty little secrets. Well, maybe not so secret, but certainly not discussed as openly and frequently as it should be.
Blended learning pedagogy and the frequent use of technology for learning make changing how we group and move students within the classroom a topic that cannot be ignored. Dropping Chromebooks or iPads in a classroom and thinking that magically learning will morph into something new is naïve. There is a method to every teacher’s madness, so to speak. Purposeful and meaningful use of technology requires tremendous forethought and planning. Mobility and grouping strategies are a huge part of what makes technology in education so powerful. If we want to maximize our investments in educational technology and really create change, we need to pay attention to the physical spaces in which our students learn. This cannot be an afterthought and it cannot be left to chance or the ability of an individual teacher to shop yard sales with personal funds! When was the last time you were scheduled for surgery and your doctor had to purchase the operating table, supporting machinery and bring his own scalpel? Just saying……………