I Ditched the Desks... Now What?

Friday, August 07, 2015

For the past couple of months, I have been thinking a lot about my classroom. One thing my former students have always said to me is how much they loved my classroom because of all the bright colors and anchor charts galore. I must say, I do love my classroom. I have put time and effort into making a colorful, literate, creative space for my students to learn in. However, as I sat back and reflected on my classroom there were aspects that weren't working. I am not looking to just update my classroom and make it 'prettier' so to speak (although being a former art major, I do love pretty things and a certain aesthetic). What I really want is to restructure, and redesign my physical and social classroom space that will be optimal for the shift that I want my classroom and my students to take.

I reflected on what I was asking my students to do. I am asking them to be open-minded, critical thinkers. I am asking them to be collaborative learners who share visions and ideas and work together towards common goals. I am asking them to have a growth mindset, and to take risks both academically and socially. I am asking them to be content with failure, and view it as a step forward, rather then a step backward. I am asking my students to not only utilize technology, but to use technology in innovate ways to redefine their learning. I am asking them to have a voice and share their thoughts, opinions, feelings, and knowledge not only with their peers, but with the world around them. I am asking my students to take ownership of learning by making purposeful choices in what and how they learn. I am asking them to be 21st century learners.

So I look at all that I am asking my students to do, and I immediately see changes that I need to make to help them be successful. First I looked at the physical space. How can I ask students to be collaborative learners when I have them in cookie cutter desks that confine collaboration? So the first thing that I did, was ditch the desks! I'll admit, as I was telling my custodian that I wanted all of my desks removed from the classroom I was a little anxious. What if this was a mistake? What if removing the desks is a disaster? But then I thought... what if it isn't? What if removing the desks was the first big step into cultivating the type of environment that my students deserve? It was a risk that I was willing to take! With the change in the type of learning my students are doing, they need to be able to move around freely, to collaborate, to work independently, or to work in small groups as needed.

So now here I am, in the process of walking into my desk-less classroom and redesigning the space to facilitate and mirror the type of learning that I am asking of my students. There are a couple things I have in mind as I have been researching flexible learning environments and creative spaces. My plan is to have creative, comfortable seating and functional areas of the classroom that will foster collaboration. I want it to be fun and colorful and a place that will inspire my students to learn. With the 1:1 initiative in my district, technology will be easily accessible and used effectively in efforts to get students connected and begin to thin the walls of this physical space.

My goal is simple: I just want my classroom to be a place my students want to be. I want them to feel comfortable to both learn and foster relationships. I am still a work in progress and figuring it out as I go. I am working on redesigning a 21st century learning environment and will post pictures of my evolving classroom!

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  1. Great move, Stephany! I ditched the desks last year for collaborative tables. While the physical space is clearly consistent with the student-centered environment I want in the room, I found myself slipping back to teacher-centered teaching and the kids began to get frustrated. They recognized the two things didn't mix well. I hope to really disappear from the front of the classroom this year and utilize my innovative space better.

    1. Exactly! And thats what I found last year, that my students were frustrated with the physical space because the work that they were doing and how they were learning wasn't mending. I am hoping little by little I can create a functional 21st century learning environment! Thanks for your comment & insight!


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