Educators are lucky. We get to enjoy two New Years. Of course there’s the typical New Year’s Day celebrating the new calendar year, but Educators celebrate another special day; the beginning of the new school year. As pouty and sad as we may be that summer has ended, secretly we love it. What job do you know where you get to end the year, share your learning with others to grow during the summer, and then add new concepts with fresh new faces for the new year.
What I love the most is the chance to recreate a new space. We don’t get too many opportunities to redecorate a new space every year, so having to design a new classroom gives a lot of us a new spark for the year. I have been out of the classroom for five years as an instructional technology specialist, but I enjoy walking the halls and seeing what the new creative spaces teachers have been coming up with.
I have been in rooms where I have seen desks in sets of seven, tables in rooms instead of desks, and even teachers taking a chance and removing their desk from their room. All of these ideas and more center around the most important theme; the children. No matter what workshop I have heard teachers attending this summer or book that they have read, student voice has been ringing loud and clear. This extends to the way teachers set up their classrooms.
I have often stepped into teachers’ room whether they are complete or not and asked what was the purpose of their room. One teacher has his room set in groups of seven with his desk hidden in the corner. I love the fact that he says the flow of students being in groups of seven help students even get into smaller groups and he can easily float throughout the classroom and quickly do small groups or pull outs. In the same room we discussed about putting print rich material at eye level and actually having black butcher paper in the background so words and images can stand out better. It’s small but it makes a big difference, so I even placed it in my room.
Teachers taking new chances in removing their desk so they can have more space has also allowed them to move freely in the room more. When teachers tell their colleagues that they are doing this some are shocked and amazed. This isn’t a new concept but what they realize is that they are rarely at their desk and they are constantly in small groups. The expectation of administrators is that they are with children so some don’t see the point in having them. One teacher has told me that it forces her to be organized and stay on task. Really when it comes to space she just needed an area to place her belonging in a closet. With the desk removed children are able to spread their wings more in the classroom and share ideas.
There is one teacher that I follow on Twitter where he has totally transformed his room into a comic book wonderland (super jealous). He understand that how difficult it is for children to get into reading and that comics somehow have more of stronger connection with students. His room honestly looks like a Barnes and Noble for comic books.
I have seen where principals and directors change the look of their offices to make it more inviting and comfortable for anybody that wants to talk and/or have a meeting. I too have made changes in the way my room looks. As an instructional technology specialist in my district, I do not have an office; I have a classroom. I’m cool with that. Recently I decided to move in the back of the campus to utilize a big space that was often used as a place for storage or a place where students go and test. It really disturbed me that the room wasn’t used at it’s full potential. I did some major cleaning and got rid of “old technology” that simply wasn’t used anymore. The purpose of my room is that I wanted to reflect how a classroom would look. Just because I am a tech person, doesn’t mean that I just have tech stacked everywhere. I wanted to create a space that resembled going to Google, Apple, or Microsoft, or now even my favorite tool FlipGrid. It’s a place where you can relax spread your wings, make videos, collaborate, and more. The campus calls it an innovate room but I call it a flex space. When teachers want to do something big but they don’t want to move tables or change their room around, I want them to come to the room and utilize the space to their liking. I only have a small area to work but that’s ok because I am always on the go. The room is still a work in progress but I love it. When you come into any of my rooms that I have created it has a nice fragrance, I use natural light from outside, soft chairs rugs, and lamps. Let’s not forget that I have an espresso machine and soft music playing in my room and video games. The best compliment I got was from a student when he walked in the room and looked at me. He said “Is this your room?” I said of course and mentioned that he loved it because it feels just like home. Because of this concept student and teachers who come to my room are more relaxed and productive. That’s the goal.
So what is your space like? What purpose does it serve? If you are still working on it that’s ok. Remember as an educator it's a space for them not you. Make it inviting. I want to try something with you guys. I want to document your space. Share your room/office with a pic or video on twitter. It can be a final product or a work in progress. It doesn’t matter. Invite us into your space and use the hashtag #sharethierroom. I hope use this as a platform for all educators to share ideas on creating spaces throughout the year. I can’t wait to see what you all come up with.
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