Last week, before the arrival of Ida and Oskar, I was able to sneak in some work time in my new room. As I stood there trying to envision what the room would look like, I realized that it didn’t much matter for two reasons. One; what it looks like empty is vastly different from when it is filled with 20+ 5th graders. Two; more importantly the emphasis should not be on what it looks like but what it FEELS like. So some questions I pondered as I set it up:
Which way does your desk face?
Or do you even have a desk? I don’t anymore but rather a workspace with my computer and planner on it. And it faces the wall in the corner. No more hiding behind my desk, no more defined my teacher space where the kids are not allowed to go In fact, my super comfy office chair often gets snagged by the students because they know I don’t use it much when they are in the room. I faced it toward the wall so that I am not tempted to sit behind it, no distance between the students and I, and it works.
What is on your bulletin boards?
I used to be the master of fancy bulletin boards and I was very obsessive over my border and letter placement. Unfortunately, that meant that I had nowhere to showcase student work or things we needed throughout the year. I will tell you right now, my bulletin boards look super sad at the moment; empty, scratched and not cute at all – very un-elementary like – an d I am fine with that, soon the students will take over.
How much space does your teacher stuff take up?
Is every space yours or is it open for student use? Do you have so many things out that you may need more bins to keep it all contained? I try to keep my stuff in cabinets, leaving impromptu work areas for the kids. It sends the message that I am not the most important person, but rather that this is our space, and they have as much claim to the counter tops and shelves as I do.
What do people see from the hallway?
When people walk by what do they see? Tables? Your desk? Nothing? At the moment, when people walk by they will see our tables, empty spaces, ad framed pictures and quotes. This will obviously change once the students come in but what visitors see does influence how a classroom is viewed as well as lend itself to the overall feel of the school.
What is the movement flow like?
Can students move or will they constantly have to ask someone else to push their chair out of the way? This is out of many of our hands but we can work uot the best overall flow before the students get there. Can kids access the high-frequency areas such as cabinets, supplies, reading corner, or will they have to squeeze by, take a strange route or get stuck in random places? Can the students “breathe” in the room or is it filled to the brim with all of your treasures?” And do ask the students and watch their patterns those first few weeks of school, I don’t think a year has gone by where we haven’t changed something within the first few weeks.
Do they need permission?
My first year I was very obsessed with keeping things in their place. So if that particular reading chair belonged in the reading corner then that is where it belonged, no permissions to move granted. Now students take the movable furniture wherever they need it and at the end of the day we put it out of the way. I even did this with their desk supplies; I told them exactly what they had to have in their pencil cups (no seriously I did) and then patrolled them to see if they followed my order. Talk about control freak! SO now, no permissions needed, just put it out of the way at the end of the day.
Is there room for the students?