Classroom pain points

This term’s inquiry unit is essentially a classroom redesign. The inspiration for this came this blog post and video. We knew that it was in the pipeline to review and to update (for real) our current learning spaces. Although only built twelve years ago there is so much about them that feels outdated, with the computer pod and uniform desks and chairs. We also knew that Year 6 needed to meet some design and make Science indicators as well as 2D and 3D space, scale and position in maths, so it was a no brainer really.

The unit started with the classroom being turned upside down, you can read more about this provocation here. Our inquiry unit has progressed really well with our students working hard to try and answer the essential question of ‘how can we meet the needs of the learners with the space we have available?‘ Currently they are completing to scale drawings of our current learning space, one of which you can see here. And they are working in groups to design a new layout with special consideration of sustainability, function, form, safety and aesthetics. Again in order to meet desired HSIE indicators.

Yet it is hard for students who have spent the last seven years in a traditional classroom setting to visualise just what a future space could look like. So we have also interviewed our IT Manager and our Principal. As well as started a Pinterest board of inspirational pictures and studied the website of Stephen Heppell and others closely. To help them one of our first moves was to identify classroom pain points and it was during this we identified that our teacher desks took up way too much space, were covered in clutter and were surrounded by piles of books, which had not been opened for a while. I also knew that I was guilty of sitting behind it far too much.

So taking a deep breath and a leap of faith last week I ditched my desk. I have read before of other teachers doing this but until now I had never actually considered doing this myself. I moved my essential tools into a far corner, set my filing cabinet up as a standing desk and cleared out some of the treasures I have been storing. The effect has been to open up a corner of the classroom which has now been turned into a reading nock with direct access to our verandah. My desk has been moved and is being used as a student storage space. I expect to get rid of it altogether next year. I can do my marking in the far corner, previously a sports bag dumping ground and stand to read emails. The benefits of standing over sitting are well documented, so it is a win win situation for my health too.

De-cluttering has been cathartic for both my teaching corner and my head. Dumping ancient photocopied worksheets in the recycling bin felt good. After all I have not used them in years, so I know I will never do so again. The books too have been moved into storage ready to donate somewhere else. As I have no actual desk I am standing more. I can do my marking in the far corner and the classroom is looking cleaner and less cluttered.

As for the students, I hope that seeing the classroom actually change in front of their eyes will help some of them realise that this inquiry is for real and that together we can make a change, so that ‘we can meet the needs of (all) the learners with the space we have available.

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