Saturday, July 14, 2012

My home away from home

Kinderblog weekly challenge - week 2. Tell us about one (or two, or a few) of the classrooms you have had over the years. Not the kids, the ROOMS. What have you loved? What have you hated? How did you FEEL in the space? What did you DO with the space that, looking back, seems ridiculous? Or brilliant? We all spend so much time in our classrooms, we really do develop a relationship with the physical space. Tell us about that (those) relationship(s).

Although we are now in week 3 of the challenge, I have been thinking about this post for a week or so, and now is the time to sit and write it. As I have been reflecting, the one that that became glaringly obvious to me is that it doesn’t matter what the room looks like, it is what you as a teacher do with it. This hit home with me hard last week when I walked into the room that I was assigned for summer school. I walked in at 8:00 (the kids were arriving at 8:30 and there was staff meeting in there somewhere) and the room literally had nothing – tables, chairs and that was it! My first thought was – I have 18 kinders going into grade 1 coming in here in 30 minutes, I have NOTHING and it’s raining! A little creativity, some “kid” art, some toys borrowed from a neighbour and we were good to go! Having the blank canvas, even for a 9 day summer school session, was actually just what I needed!

I have had the privilege of working in several schools (both private and public) in both Canada and the United States. This has allowed me the opportunity to view MANY ways that a class can be set up. As a teacher on call, the one thing I loved was going into a room and seeing how that teacher had laid it out. Room layout is such a personal thing and everyone has their reasons as to why or why not to put things in a place. Your room is your home away from home, and as such it is very personal. And like the furniture in your house, every once in a while, it needs to be re-arranged! I typically re-arrange me furniture 3-5 times in a school year for various reasons (start of a new year, accommodate an activity/new furniture, need a change, try something new) and when I do it always feels like I am in a “new” room.

People might say that I am crazy, but my favourite room that I have worked in to date was actually a portable in Lakeside, California (just south of San Diego). When most people here portable, thoughts go to a small, stuffy space where you are confined on the outskirts of the school. The reason I LOVED this portable is because when I got it, it was literally a blank canvas. I was hired to pilot a new program in the district and as such, I was allowed to choose what shelving, tables, cubbies and of course manipulatives I wanted to have in the room. The space was a large (as far as portables go) and this only thing it didn’t have was a sink (the other portables at this school had them), which for Pre-Kinders was a bit tough, but we got creative. The physical space was a large rectangle, which allowed me to “break” the room up easily into different centers and when it was warm, we went right outside the door to use the sidewalk as extra space.  
I am going into my 3rd year in my current room and while it is a HUGE kindergarten classroom (fully equipped with a bathroom and shared kitchen), the actual usable space is awkward. In the 2 years I have had the room, it has undergone NUMEROUS configurations, all of which involved lengthy conversations with colleagues as to what they thought might help the room. The latest configuration has my teacher desk at the back near the exterior door in the hopes of allowing more play space. Some people have cautioned me against it there (proximity to parents at the door mostly), but I think it will be ok, and if it’s a problem, it will just mean another move. 

My friend Laura @lmurtsell and I have had many conversations about the “problem” in my room is how the carpet is laid. There is linoleum and carpet in the room and that “divide” seems to push us into placing furniture in certain spots, therefore adding to the “wasted” space in my room. IF I could have my way, I would switch the cubbies at the back of my room with the shelving by the hallway door. In my mind, that would make much more useable space in  both areas…but I have been told “there is no money in the budget for those renovations.” So I guess I will just be thankful that I have classroom I enjoy being in with lots of toys and manipulatives for the next group to come through in September.

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