Most of the classrooms I teach in at Fresno State are stuffed with desks, drab, and old. It’s hard to do group work when chairs are in rows and there isn’t room to move them into groups. Seriously, some of the rooms I teach in are that small.
A couple of years ago, though, I taught in a one-of-a-kind-classroom that had just been developed on campus. It had screens on every wall, tables on wheels that could be moved anywhere in the room, a huge photograph of campus, cafe tables for small group work, rolling whiteboards that groups could use to present their work, and Apple TV. It was kind of amazing to teach in such a space–except for the technology set-up that was sometimes frustrating (for example, some days, the sound just wouldn’t work). I taught in that classroom again last semester and loved it even more because I had finally figured out how to get everything to work. Since I was teaching prospective teachers, we talked a lot about the room at the beginning of the semester and about how American classrooms have mostly stayed the same for 100+ years. Our classrooms illustrate institutional beliefs about learning and about kids, too. And what teachers DO with their classrooms illustrates their relationship to kids, their job, and administration.
This semester, I’m teaching in two small rooms that lack space for rearranging chairs/rows. I’m managing, but I long for tables that groups can work at and room to spread out in. I also think back on when I taught middle school and was able to stay in the same room. I liked decorating the room and making it look appealing–and I really liked being able to display student work. I miss those days.
I’d settle for teaching every one of my classes in this room. This is what I think learning should look like.