thinwalled classroom


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Bob Greenberg in Connecticut sent this video out to a few educators last week. It’s a new twist on an old theme: Are we preparing our students for the future or are we teaching the same way we did fifty years ago? Every time I watch a video like this it makes me take pause and reflect on my teaching practice. It also makes me listen to the voice of Clarence Fisher in my head repeating over and over “Learning Studio.” Over the last two years I’ve made changes within my classroom to accommodate the diverse needs of my learners but also to accommodate the way I want to teach. I’ve added bean bag chairs, swivel style office chairs, stability balls and a beloved couch. I still have desks but they are separate from the chairs which allows for the variance in seating options. Next fall I’m doing away with desks and using tables. I’ll still have a few desks for those students who like to have their own space. You know…the students who like to be an island. But what I’m trying to do is to create an atmosphere for the students and myself to feel comfortable so that we can get onto the business of learning.

I’m certainly the odd duck in my school. My principal laughs when she comes into my classroom because I only use half of my lights because I think I’m lucky to have great windows. I’m the teacher the caretakers hate because my desks are never in rows and they have to work a bit harder to get my floor clean. My class also happens to be the class that spreads out around the school. You’ll see my students laying on the floor with computers in the hallway, sitting in a corner of the library, relaxing on a couch in the family room or sitting in a comfy chair by the school office. The students are generally engaged and on-task. Not to say that nothing ever goes awry but I think that could happen within the four walls of my classroom. I’ve created an atmosphere that my students and I are comfortable with but unfortunately it’s very difficult for others to get their head around. The one difficulty is when a substitute teacher is in my classroom and tries to micro-manage my class. The students are used to being very mobile, choosing where they work (I always have the final say if it doesn’t work out) and who they work with. The idea of choice is very difficult for a substitute teacher who finds it easier for all students to sit in rows, not move around, be working on the same task(substitute worksheet) and not interact as they work. So, what I’m saying is that that I’m constantly reflecting, plotting and planning changes in my classroom but I also appreciate that this isn’t everyone’s way.

It would be great to see classrooms change into “Learning Studios” and teachers to embrace change but that isn’t happening soon. So now what.? Do we just go on our merry way and become the islands in the middle of the school? Or do we encourage others to jump on the path with us? I’m not sure but I know that I’m happy in my own piece of the school and I wouldn’t change what I’m doing for anything.

I’ve been working on a collaborative project that will study and follow the Iditarod Trail Dog Race. I followed the race with my class last year and we really enjoyed it. This year I wanted to expand on the project to include teachers and classes I was working with on my class blog. Fortunately when I looked at the requirements for my EC&I 831 class there was a major technology project required. This was what I needed to stop thinking about the project and get on it. I contacted several teachers requesting them to join me in the project.

February 4th, tomorrow, is the day we start. I’ve prepped my class of grade six and sevens and we’ve had a look through the wikis I’ve set up for the project. I’ve had class lists emailed to me and set up the students in groups. My students have already been chatting to their partners in Seattle and North Battleford. The group in Beiruit has had some political turmoil that has disrupted school but Barbara has put a group of students together that have started to attend school again. It’s a learning experience for all of us and I think we’re as excited as the students to begin.

Wish us luck as we start our learning adventure. Peek into our project wiki and see what we’re up to.

Iditarod

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons Kayak 49

I’ve been thinking about the make up of my professional learning community. Who are the people I talk to, collaborate with and discuss new ideas? My professional learning community is the world wide network of educators who like me, are trying to integrate technology into their classroom. My PLC is outside the walls of my school and possibly the limits of my city. My closest collaborator lives within the same province but we’ve never met. I receive feedback from a teacher in Seattle and I reguarly share ideas with a teacher in Beiruit, Lebanon. I’ve received wonderful emails from teachers in Korea, Australia and throughout the United States. I’ve just been chatting to a teacher/librarian in Rhode Island who shares the same sense of humour as I do. Today when I was looking at novels in the library I started wondering who might want to collaborate on a novel study after Easter. These wonderful people in my PLC encourage me to think beyond my classroom and push the boundaries of my four walls.