Thursday, October 07, 2010

Back to the BIG IDEA

Okay, okay, so my last post was this love letter to the risers because I've come to realize that they symbolize what is really important to me: ME.  Sad, isn't it?

Maybe now is a good time to remind myself that this whole journey is not about risers or even classroom decor per se.  It's really about creating the proper neural connections for kids.  My mission is for kids to associate learning with everything they do, everywhere they go, but the manifestation of that mission turned out to be classroom decor.  I wanted to break the idea that learning is only associated with desks and classrooms.  My reaction to that was to get rid of the symbol of institutional learning: desks.  So I redesigned my classroom, eliminating as many of the trappings of traditional classrooms as possible.

So here's the big question: does it make a difference?
The short answer is yes.
The longer answer is yes, sort of.
The explanation is that it made a huge difference to my students last year.  My students were proud of where they learned and it built a strong sense of community.  They loved the freedom and flexibility.  But I don't know if they made the leap that they can "take their learning with them wherever they went."  In my own defense though, I don't know if I took it as far as I could with that message in the time I had.  It will be interesting to see if I can replicate and extend the results this year with my new crop.  So far, so good.

At the very least, it has made a big difference to ME.  I have come to realize that the way I set up my classroom is really important to me.  Messing around with my classroom decor has really improved my working conditions and my frame of mind.  I've had a lot of fun trying different things and I've taken my students along for the ride, and they've loved it too. 

But again, I don't want it as decor for decoration's sake.  If that were true, I might as well go back to the commercial posters and borders.  I didn't want a classroom that looked like a traditional classroom because I want the neural break from factory-type learning.  But on the other hand, I didn't want the classroom to mirror my students' homes either.  What I really want is to create a classroom that reflects a more universal learning environment. Or perhaps a more ideal one.

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