My Space

This is my classroom. This is the place where I work. This is how I choose to lay it out: the desks in threes, all facing me, all facing the front of the class, all facing the white board. It hasn’t always been like this. But I like it now. I have a poster of Yoda on the wall to the right. To the left there is a wall display explaining how to critique. Above me, pupils will read the words. ‘Stuck? Then it was worth coming in today.’ This is my classroom. This is the place where I work.

Image 1It was years before I had any control over how my room was set up. As a new teacher you can consider yourself very lucky to have your own classroom. Usually you have to cart a box about between rooms before you finally arrive home. So I started with pairs of desks in three rows, all facing the teacher. This worked well but made transitions into group tasks very complicated and potentially disastrous. I moved from having groups of six, to groups of four when that proved difficult to handle, than back to six when I was more experienced, before settling on the plan you see above.

 I’ve made many mistakes on my way to this point. Deluded into thinking that pupils work best in groups – sorry but it ain’t always true- I stuck to a pattern, hoping that I would be right in the end. Why group work fails for me is because it is very difficult to assess how every member of the group is working effectively and, more importantly, learning from the experience. But, sorry, this is not meant to be a rant against group work. Just the way I’ve done it. I’ve yet to come across a situation where three wasn’t enough for some proper peer collaboration.

This might not be the most popular thing I’ve ever said in my blog but there are times when, as an English teacher, I need to lecture. I need to have students listening to me, looking at me, writing down what I want them to write down. This is not a strategy for control, a strategy to avoid distractions and misbehaviour; it is a conscious choice to ensure that they listen to what I am teaching them. They spend a lot of time working in threes on peer critique and peer assessment and there is the odd occasion when they turn backwards into a group of six. But, at times, I need them to listen and learn.Image

Of course I want my pupils to be part of this space; I want them, perhaps, to take ownership of wall space at times, displaying their work for all to see. But it is my space. They turn up for fifty minutes a day and I have to make that work with five different classes. I need to be master of my domain and in order to do that my class is set up the way I work best. And the way I work best is the best way for my pupils to work best. If you are a new teacher keep that in mind. This is my classroom. This is the place where I work. And where pupils learn.

8 thoughts on “My Space

  1. Great post Kenny

    Excellent reflection on the way that you arrange your room and prefer to teach your kids.

    “sorry but it ain’t always true”

    This for me was a key part of the post. I see others on the internet who in their blogs are unequivocal using phrases like it “doesn’t work” or “it is best”.

    It is nice to see implied flexibility and a willingness to change approach as appropriate.

    An it seems to be working well. Can’t ask for more that that.

    • Thanks for that. The idea came from a Twitter conversation actually. Like my last post on corridors I think we undersell the way we make our classrooms work.

  2. I think it’s quite strange how you maintain the classroom is “your space” after all I find it a little selfish since your days of learning are over.

    I don’t mean to sound rude here, however I have always looked at the classroom as a student area, sure they don’t want it to be however it is, it’s where they come to learn and it’s where they should feel most comfortable to learn.

    I think it’s best if you stand back and allow the students some space in the classroom make it feel like it’s THEIR learning environment not yours. I like your idea on layout however nice idea although the school I’m at have an English department with 30 seats and not enough space.

  3. Teachers never did quite like bad feedback… I understand however think about what you wrote.

    “This is MY classroom… This is the place where I work.” We Work, Our Classroom, no? Okay…

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