Amazing Kids

Amazing Kids

Monday, April 6, 2015

Happy Place

I love being in my classroom. It truly is my happy place. The only other place I would consider to equally as intoxicating is the beautiful and mostly unnoticed island of Culebra.

This year, in our classroom, I decided to go with tables rather than desks. Last year I dumped my "teacher" desk to make room for a kidney table. It made a wonderful place for kids to plop while they're reading, and spurred SO much conversation with my kids. Since getting rid of my desk made such a difference, my hope was to make my kids' work space feel comfortable, flexible, welcoming, and be a catalyst for conversation, thinking, investigating, and growing. Fortunately, my principal, Ben Gilpin, was totally and completely supportive (typical) of this and made sure I had the tables. I also persuaded my husband to build a couple more bookshelves, as my classroom library was busting at the seams! A by-product of this was that it allowed me to make more cozy spots for readers, for collaboration, and for - well, for anything!

Little did I realize how much of a positive impact it would have on our small community of learners and on me.

1. The learners in our room feel more comfortable to move around the room. With desks, there was more of a sense of "this is mine, so don't sit here." Now, I am constantly surprised with some of the choices my kiddos make in where they park themselves.

2. Learners share with each other and tend to make sure everyone has what they need. If there aren't enough colored pencils or some need sharpening, they pitch in and help each other. There's no hoarding; they are practicing kindness and reciprocity.

3. Collaboration is authentic. Kiddos can talk with someone across the table or right next to them. They make connections in various ways.

4.  Nine- and ten-year-olds learn to make smarter decisions and take more responsibility. We have chatted often about how important goals are, how we achieve those goals, and what gets in the way of reaching our goals. Now these kiddos articulate clearly if they need to move to a different table, or will trade spots at the table if distraction becomes a hindrance to learning.

5.  The room feels more friendly. I cannot even remember how many people have commented on this. Parents, grandparents, college students, tech crew members, visiting teachers, and even my own daughters have noticed it! That's huge.

Are we done? No, I'm already thinking of other ways to tweak our setup! But it's great to know we're on our way!

What have you done in your classroom to make it more inviting? Learner-friendly? Please share! We're better together!