I’ve worked a lot to “re-orient” my teaching over the past few years. This is not just in the ‘way’ I teach, the ‘how’ of assessment and the ‘what’ of the new content of my courses. There’s another way I have signaled my change in teaching and that is in the physical set-up of my room. It began with the seating – when I realized that I could talk all day about communication, but if I didn’t support my students by creating the environment then I was really just that – all talk. So I changed the seating and have not regretted a day since I did.
There has been another issue in my class – my ‘computer’ working desk. Before I go further we have limited wi-fi and are not a 1:1 school. I am tied to using my laptop computer/LCD in a traditional classroom setting. And I am further tied down by where my ‘screen’ was located. In that traditional place, smack dab in the centre of the room. Smack dab in the middle of the white boards. And that put me smack dab in the middle of all of the action. I have been increasingly uncomfortable with this; with all of the student desks oriented so that they could see me in the middle. I’m trying to get out of the way of my student’s learning. I’m trying to minimize the time that I am front and centre. I’m trying to model that I am the ‘coach’ and what coach makes it all about them?
Finally I could stand it no more. We have a new principal this year and I am grateful that he really ‘gets’ that we are in changing times. So I went to him and said that I was tired of being in the middle of the action. And that I wanted to make a physical gesture to my students that they are the focus – not me. My principal got right on it with a simple work order and faster than both of us imagined the change was made.
I am so pleased with my ‘new’ setup. I have way more board space to put up information that students need. The room is actually more ‘roomy’ because the computer desk is no longer the physically there. But most importantly I no longer have to be in the middle. I’m now really the coach in the corner (Canadians – no Don Cherry references please!).
We can talk a lot about our philosophy of teaching. But I also think it is also the physical setup changes that hammer home to students that ‘things are different’ here.