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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Spring Cleaning Your Classroom

I'm lucky to work at a school that provides a patch of green, fixes the broken windows, and washes off graffiti when it happens. But I've worked at the schools that smell of urine, at the sites that lay forgotten by funding but are still expected to succeed.

According to one fashion-makeover television show, a makeover does wonders for your confidence, your pride. Another TV series -- this one about home rehabs -- says a makeover can even renew your hope in life.

Popular hosts from these reality series need to come to schools, slap some paint on the walls, and work their magic. Where is Paige Davis, from Trading Spaces, or Xzibit, from Pimp My Ride, when you need them?

Teachers need help. They need someone to clear out the clutter and piles of supplies left behind by those who inhabited their rooms long ago. They need someone to build bookcases, replacing the gimmicky gutters bought at Home Depot and stuck hastily onto walls. They need carpets -- now held together by duct tape -- replaced, and cabinets, long since stripped of paint, reborn. They need cubbies. They need shelves. They need supplies, more diverse than even Staples could provide.

Schools need desks designed to allow students to move into groups, rows, columns, and pairs. They need chairs balanced on all four legs. They need windows without webs of cracks, and faucets that turn off once used.

Students need green. They need patches of grassy squares where they can relax and read a good book. They need a tree to eat lunch under.

Schools need to be freed of police tape, freed of asbestos, and freed of the landscape of concrete and asphalt that make learning feel more like a prison than a future.

Our schools need makeovers. We talk a lot about deeper makeovers, ones that reflect true reform. But they also need physical makeovers -- a metamorphosis that allows students and communities to have some pride in their schools.

Yes, we all know that change happens from within, but we can't deny what can happen from simply improving the environment.

If you were to make over your classroom or school, how might it look? What changes have you already made? In what ways did they improve student learning and motivation? Please share your thoughts.

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Kelly's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Finally someone who seems to understand the importance of allowing student's minds to be attracted to item in a classroom, to have them feel safe when thinking of ideas in your class setting because of the decor an appearance of the room. What positive successes will come from a place where students can relax enough to be open to learning because of their classroom environment. I 100% believe that all people learn at a faster pace and with more permanence when we view our physical setting as comfortable and balanced. The thoughts and emotions that we feel in various physical surroundings often dictate the emotional response we have to those surroundings. Pride, disgust, anger, contentment, peace, and happiness are evoked by what we see, hear, touch, smell, and feel. If we all stopped to take a moment and reflect on this fact, we would acknowledge that intrinsically, each one of us prefer to have pride in where we are and in the things that we take part of. Why should this exclude a classroom setting? Hard work and vision is all one would need to start this process of a "make-over."

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