I enjoyed reading this post over the weekend. “The Perfect Classroom, According to Science”
By its standards, my old classroom was a little less than perfect. I’m sure that those who joined me in B41 can agree. At secondary schools, you don’t typically have your own, devoted classroom but I mostly did. No other teacher really wanted to be there and asked for room changes if one was available. As a new teacher, I was just delighted to get a job! Plus, the prospects of having the room to myself save for one period was just over the top.
To try to describe it, the school was divided into blocks or areas. We were in the B area for Business. It was on the second floor; there was room for an elevator but I don’t recall it ever being used. So, in the B block, most of the rooms were around the perimeter of the block except for B41. It was an interior room with no windows. The room itself was a regular classroom, albeit smaller than others with two rows of tables that just fit in there and sat 24 students nicely. The year I taught Grade 9 math with 36 students was interesting. Behind that classroom was a room that was to be devoted to a computer, rumoured to have been an IBM 1130, but it never materialized. So, we had this extra space where we put the computing devices that we could in there. My classroom had shag carpeting and the computer room was tiled so the sparks really flew as you shuffled from the classroom to the back room. Coming from a university setting, it was a natural transition. I didn’t notice much difference.
OK, stage is set, here’s how we stacked up against the Perfect Classroom in the article.
Light – as an interior room, natural light wasn’t possible! So, fluorescent lighting had to do. For the most part, I left the door open and we could get even more artificial light from the hallway. It was so nice at the end of the day to go outside and coach football. Fresh air and natural sunlight. Aahh!
Noise – I’ll admit – with the exception of the music room, this was the noisiest in the school. After all, it was computer science and students were brainstorming and planning together. As well, we had adjacent rooms that added to the noise – the staff room was at the back and we were only separated by a door. Other neighbours included the student newspaper, student council, and the resource room. Not that we used pins, but you’d never hear one drop if it did. Fortunately, the shag carpeting did soak up some of it, I’m sure. I was not adverse to a little music; I know it helps me think so we had a portable player in the computer room.
Temperature – If you’ve ever enjoyed Essex County in the spring, you’ll know that I was so happy to be in an air conditioned school. When it worked, you could hang meat in the room. I swear the design was to pump cold air into my room first and then let it drift to the others. Or maybe the design was to keep the computer room cold? It was not uncommon to wear a sweater there while it was over 30 degrees outside. Now, the operative thing was “when it worked” which, I’ll be honest, was most of the time. But, when the air conditioner went on the fritz, it was unbearably hot with humidity doing its thing to the walls and streams of water appeared!
Accessibility – This was never a need for me. However, it wouldn’t have been difficult. Tables and chairs were the sitting arrangement and they could be moved to accommodate any needs. You couldn’t rearrange them for pods because the room was small but we made do. You could sit on both sides of the table and make little groups or some would make seating arrangements on the floor.
Layout – In theory, you could arrange the tables however you wanted. The previous occupant had the tables arranged so that the room was narrow and long (three rows of 8). My first move was to turn the orientation so that it was wide and shallow. (two rows of 12) It definitely was easier to move the chairs than the tables. In the computer science classroom, it really didn’t matter because we didn’t sit for long anyway.
Plants – While the caretaker we had, had a real green thumb and put plants in all of the classrooms, mine just didn’t allow anything to grow with no natural light. Once, I recall bringing in a poinsettia after Christmas and I don’t think it lasted more than a day or two. One year, a class chipped in for a plastic plant to spruce things up but it really didn’t work. (I appreciated the effort…)
Wall Decorations – I had two walls of blackboards, half a wall of windows looking into the computer room and half a wall of cork board. There wasn’t much room for decoration but the cork boards were each assigned to a class. For each Monday, a small group would be in charge of changing their class cork board to something computer or technology related. It kept changing the look and it gave me another source for assessment other than coding. (there are more computer science careers than coding) The Marketing room was just across the hall (with their outside window) so we never had a problem getting design materials.
Soooooo…. my “perfect classroom” doesn’t stand up terribly well to the metric in the original article. Fortunately, for the students, they would move from class to class and our room was only home for 50 or 55 minutes a day. The person most affected would be me!
But, you know, when I truly think about it, the room is just a place for a bunch of people to be at a particular time. What really makes a classroom perfect are the occupants and I had some of the very best students pass through. It’s so interesting to connect with them on Facebook or see them in the community. That’s what is really important and to that extent, things were darn near perfect for us.
So here’s a blogging challenge for you, bloggers.
How does your classroom stack up to the perfect classroom in the original article?