Teacher Leadership Subscribe to RSS

Classroom Environments: Does Space Make a Difference?

| Andrew Marcinek

Before you read another line of this post, STOP. Look around. What does your environment look like? Is it cozy? Is it uncomfortable? What do you think of the lighting? The colors? Have you ever really stopped to absorb your surroundings? Maybe it is time to start.

I have been thinking a lot about learning and workspaces recently and the affect they have on our overall mood and productivity. Most of us arrive at our place of work daily and never realize the impact the space, the lighting, the color of the walls, or the arrangement of tables and chairs has on our mood. Also, we never realize the impact it has on our ability to learn or be productive. Unfortunately, most of us in education have been arriving at a rather common outfit for, well, as long as we have been teaching. If you ask most educators what their classroom looks like it will probably sound something like this...

It's a square, almost rectangle room with two small windows. My desk is in the back of the room so I can monitor all the rows of desks at one time. The walls are beige and there is a generic, tile floor. I have two bulletin boards that display student work.

While this is not an actual quote, this is my perception of most classrooms I have encountered. So, beyond the actual construction of the building, why have we all assumed the same classroom setup for years? It's a question that I haven't really thought about until recently.

At Educon this year, I attended a conversation with Ray Bordwell and Peter Brown on Innovations in 21st Century Learning Spaces. This conversation really got me thinking about physical space and how our environments affect us. A few days later I read a post titled, "Hope is a good thing," by Sarah Edson that related the experience of prisoners in The Shawshank Redemption to our current school buildings and classrooms. Both instances provoked my thought, and soon, my mind started to race. In the past few weeks I have become fixated on learning spaces and why we continually fall into the same pattern year after year. Why do we continually build schools that look like prisons? Why do we create unappealing classrooms for our students? Why can't our classrooms have couches instead of desks? Why can't we have a classroom that is one giant space walk? Why can't our schools look like one of those trendy startup company workspaces where everyone looks happy and really cool?

The other element to the learning space conundrum, is the personalization of learning. While many school's move towards mobile device integration and universal Wi-Fi, the space remains, for the most part, the same. Walk into any coffee shop that has free Wi-Fi and you will see one option for what I classroom could look like. However, walk into most classrooms and you will see the same structure, only now with shiny new devices.

So, it hit me this morning. While most of us connect on a daily basis through social media, we rarely get to see the space on the other side. While your space is a very private domain, I would like us to share our classrooms, both good and bad, so that we might learn how to generate more dynamic spaces in our schools. Maybe you have a really amazing space, or maybe it's awful. Either way, just share it.

This is a project that will look at a variety of learning spaces from all over the world. It is my hope to collect as many photos of learning (work) spaces as possible. The end result will allow us to look at a variety of learning and work spaces and see what works best, what doesn't work, and generate new ideas for the environments in which we learn and work in daily. The instructions are simple.

1. Take a photo of where you work each day (if you are a teacher, please take a picture of your classroom)

2. Geotag your photo

3. In the title include your name (first name is fine) and describe your space in one word.

4. Tag your photo with ShareYourSpace2011

5. Add it to the flickr group page "My Learning (Work) Space 2011"

Thank you all for your help with this and hopefully we can all learn from seeing each other's space.

I would like to thank you all in advance for sharing your space and contributing to this project. I hope to write a follow up post soon to examine, and highlight spaces that were submitted.

see more see less

Comments (14)

Comment RSS
Instructional Tech

21st Century School

Was this helpful?
0

I have seen the plans for my future school and the classroom walls are almost gone. Departments are arranged into areas called neighborhoods. Neighborhoods are made-up of classrooms called learning spaces. In the center of the learning spaces are learning hubs. The hubs and common areas emphasize community, transparency, and collaboration. The walls can be peeled back opening the learning spaces to the inner hub expanding the space or joining two learning spaces. These spaces support flexibility and interactivity. The student to laptop ratio is 1:1. The spaces all have WiFi and there are outlets in the floors. Learning space furniture can be easily moved and reconfigured. Teachers share a space that facilitates collaboration and teaming.

The moods of students are

Was this helpful?
0

The moods of students are definitely affected by the way classrooms are setup. If students don’t feel relaxed, they are not going to absorb as much information. Due to oversized desks and lack of space, it can be hard to make a classroom inviting. Although teachers are not always given the best facilities, I have seen classrooms setup, where bookcases or filing cabinets blocked natural sunlight. Then again, I have seen a classroom actually set up with a couch by the teacher’s desk, so that when students were having issues they could talk to the teacher one-on-one. I have also seen teachers repair old and chipped bookcases with wallpaper or lamination paper. It is a shame that more funding isn’t provided to help teachers upgrade their classrooms.

7th/8th grade mathematics/science teacher from Asheville, North Carolina

Live simply so that others may simply live.

Was this helpful?
0
Quote:
Quote:

" Your students DESERVE a better learning environment. If teachers do not advocate for their students the status quo continues- nothing wrong with educators fighting for what is right. You shouldn't be in a noisy 60 year old basement with students who need better. Start bitchin'. ;-)

Easier said than done. I teach for a non-profit organization. Funding is scarce, but that's the kind of environment I thrive in, because I can test my resolve and resourcefulness. The same goes for my students. I am not of the "I want it all" materialist school of living and I try to teach my students to reject it as well, especially when the future national economic collapse will require that citizens everywhere get by on less, otherwise, they'll perish.

History proves again and again that nations who print more money to stave off the inevitable will suffer from immeasurable inflation, which is the first step toward collapse, mark my words.

I agree with your anti-materialistic view but I hope you're wrong about our collapse. Having taught for a long time, however, I have seen time after time teachers giving their hard earned money, sweat, and tears to upgrade classrooms while administrators and those "in charge" sit in offices with mahogany desks and credenzas. Our society talks about children being a priority but the walk isn't always evident. It IS important to have a welcoming, comfortable, and positive learning environment. Sounds like you make that happen.

Here's an update on my NODE desires in light of my birthplace: http://alturl.com/xiun4

Climate Control

Was this helpful?
0

While we all have various classroom issues to cope with while trying to create a classroom environment that is conducive to learning - we cannot underestimate the overwhelming importance of a teacher's personal attitude and the community he or she creates within his or her classroom. A colleague of mine once said "we are the climate control" meaning, we each control whether our rooms are calm, bright, spring days full of promise and discovery or whether they are dark, stormy, stressful, unpredictable places. We may not be able to control the type of room we have, but above all, we must use all of our energy making sure the climate our demeanor creates is one in which the students feel comfortable and believe that there teacher is going to be both fair and enthusiastic about learning.

Life Skills Support Teacher

Quote: " Your students

Was this helpful?
0
Quote:

" Your students DESERVE a better learning environment. If teachers do not advocate for their students the status quo continues- nothing wrong with educators fighting for what is right. You shouldn't be in a noisy 60 year old basement with students who need better. Start bitchin'. ;-)

Easier said than done. I teach for a non-profit organization. Funding is scarce, but that's the kind of environment I thrive in, because I can test my resolve and resourcefulness. The same goes for my students. I am not of the "I want it all" materialist school of living and I try to teach my students to reject it as well, especially when the future national economic collapse will require that citizens everywhere get by on less, otherwise, they'll perish.

History proves again and again that nations who print more money to stave off the inevitable will suffer from immeasurable inflation, which is the first step toward collapse, mark my words.

7th/8th grade mathematics/science teacher from Asheville, North Carolina

M.A. Hauck- Students deserve the best - never settle.

Was this helpful?
+1

"While so many of my colleagues constantly bitched about the conditions, I expressed my thanks that I even had a space to work. That's a problem I have with today's working professionals in general. They think they deserve to have the best."

To "adapt, improvise and overcome" is admirable; teachers do it every single day for many reasons including the physical make-up of their classrooms. Your students DESERVE a better learning environment. If teachers do not advocate for their students the status quo continues- nothing wrong with educators fighting for what is right. You shouldn't be in a noisy 60 year old basement with students who need better. Start bitchin'. ;-)

Life Skills Support Teacher

Just Be Thankful you have space to teach!

Was this helpful?
0

Andrew: I know you from ESF. I was a TLA specialist who directed successful shows for three years going. I was stuck in some of the most counterproductive spaces you could imagine over those three years. Yet, I treated those spaces like gold. While so many of my colleagues constantly bitched about the conditions, I expressed my thanks that I even had a space to work. That's a problem I have with today's working professionals in general. They think they deserve to have the best. I currently teach in the basement of a nearly sixty year old building with noisy plumbing creaking all day long and creating distractions. In my room are twelve students with ADHD and other assorted emotional disturbances. Imagine what that noise does for their concentration. The furniture isn't that great , either. Yet, you learn to ADAPT, IMPROVISE, and OVERCOME. If you can't you will fail at your job. Looking at a picture of someone else's room isn't going to help me. It certainly won't help anyone else. I think my words alone paint an adequate enough picture.

High School science teacher from Georgia

Arrangement is important.

Was this helpful?
0

I am glad I found this blog! I too believe that the arrangement of my room impacts my students. I am a high school science teacher so my room has lab tables and a teacher demo table attached to my desk which does not allow me very much flexibility in how I arrange my room. We have the type of desks that have the seperate chairs and i despise them! I have 30 of them and they take up so much room! I have male students that want to stretch out and move the desks behind them so that they will have more room! I am all the time rearranging the desks in my room for different activities and to just change things up a bit! Thanks for sharing!

ELA Teacher, Georgia

We should all consider classroom arrangement

Was this helpful?
0

I really like your idea in investigating work spaces, especially classrooms. As I was giving our state test today, I looked around my room (of course all walls were bare of any educational information due to testing) and thought about how cold the classroom environment must seem to an outsider. My personality is the total opposite so I certainly don't want the first impression one makes of me--my classroom--to come off as cold. I completely agree that schools should be built different from the prisons they mimic. Creativity in classroom arrangement seems very limited because of the structure of the buildings/classrooms. I definitely want to make my classroom more "hip" for my 7th graders and want the students to WANT to have the opportunity to learn in my room, so I will be looking forward to seeing creative classrooms. I truly believe how they feel in the classroom directly influences how they learn.

Teacher Candidate

Was this helpful?
0

A wonderful idea and different point of view. I love it, even for younger classrooms. Why do the desks have to be in a row? Why do we have to be in desks all day long. This is getting my mind stirring. Thanks!

see more see less