Friday, April 17, 2015

My "Perfect" Classroom

Recently, @dougpete issued a challenge to have teachers compare their classroom to "The Perfect Classroom, According to Science." I've been putting a lot of work into revamping my classroom lately, so I wanted to take him up on that challenge. I figure if I'm working toward making the space better for my students, I might as well aim for scientifically perfect! 

I am fortunate to have my own classroom - many (but not all) teachers at my school do. The school was originally built in the late 1960s for a capacity of about 1000 students, but now only serves 450. So while there is lots of space, there is still juggling for the four science labs, and since I divide my time between science and math, I try to not take it for granted that I can stay put throughout the day.

Be sure to check out the original Perfect Classroom article. Here's how my classroom stacks up:

An older photo, looking from the back of my classroom toward the front.

Light

Alas, my room had only one window, facing east, and into the school's courtyard. It is at the front of the room, perfect for sun glare off the blackboard and interactive white board. As the room extends to the south, we only get direct sunlight first thing in the morning. There is a small (few inches at most) wide opening that runs the width of the window at the very bottom (you can just see it in the photo below), that barely lets in any fresh air. If there was one construction aspect of my classroom I could change, this would be it - more windows, please!

This is the only picture I could find with our only window in it.
Most of the classroom extends back behind this picture.

Noise

My classroom is in a quiet part of the building - out of earshot of the cafeteria, the gym, and the music classroom. If anything, the noise coming from inside my busy classroom is the only noise with which we have to contend! In this aspect, it ranks very well.

Temperature

I'm not sure if it is because of the lack of windows, or due to inadequate air ventilation, but my classroom is usually one of the warmest in the school, to the point of many students finding it uncomfortable when coming from other classes (even through the winter!). We try cracking open the window (see above) and bring in fans when necessary, but I dislike using them because of the noise, and paper being blown around.

Accessibility

Because my room is so long, there is enough space to move around without banging into desks all the time. I might have to move a few items, but I would have no trouble accommodating a student on crutches or in a wheelchair if necessary. We are on the second floor of the school, just down the hall from an elevator.

Lots of space to move around.

Layout

This is in a state of flux in my room, but I'm liking the direction in which it's heading. There is ample area to stand while working, or to sit at a small table or large table, depending on the size of the groups students are working in. There are higher chairs for sitting at the counters, as well as a more relaxed area with bean bag chairs, an area rug, cushions and a coffee table. This will change as I swap out the larger tables with smaller, more customizable desks, but for now it seems to work quite well.

Many options for students to work comfortably.

Plants

None. I tried really hard back in the fall and winter, but the teacher with whom I shared the class with at the time would often open the window (again, see window note above!), and the poor little spider plants would alternate between freezing and roasting. I've moved them to the school's greenhouse for now, in the hopes they recover and can return! Perhaps a fake plant or two might liven things up...

Wall Decorations

Perhaps my favourite wall decoration at the moment are the safety posters from 1973 that I found in a cabinet last summer. Otherwise, I have student work on the walls, a world map from our global electricity project, a giant periodic table of elements, and some informational posters. I am looking forward to some of the senior art students designing and painting a mural for me to go across the front of the room, over top of the blackboard.
Three of the eleven "vintage" science safety posters. Found them brand new!
Overall, while my classroom certainly isn't the perfect room, it doesn't fare too badly. More natural light would be lovely, but I'll gladly keep the extra space and length of the room over some of the smaller classrooms in the school. 

How does your classroom compare? Is it a perfect classroom?

Thank you to @dougpete for the challenge, and @avivaloca for the encouragement to post!

2 comments:

  1. Heather, I love the look of your space. When I get back to my classroom I want to take out half of the desks and play around with the space more. I feel so limited by the possibility of 34 students, though...need a place for everyone and that would require some $$$ for other options. I couldn't do beanbags, etc. because of chemicals, but I love the standing desk option + the variety of lighting. Looking forward to seeing how it goes for you.

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    1. Hi Amy! The nice thing about our comfy area (beanbag chairs and all) is that they are very removable for when we do labs - as opposed to a couch or something more permanent. I was lucky to get money from my school and board to add new items. My room fits 30 comfortably, but I am lucky to have the extra space. It's nice to see the students all spread out. I should try and get a picture with everyone in action... Would love to see what you do with your space once you're back in the classroom again :)

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