"What are we doing to help kids achieve?"
What if you could start all over? What if you had a clean slate? Brand new room and equipment? Furthermore..you have the opportunity to help design it.
The school that I am in was built in the 1970's. Someone came through Ohio back then convincing everyone that the best new schools should be all open air. They would have one giant building with no walls. The sales pitch worked for awhile. Schools were built as giant spaces. Within a year or two the experiment was over and internal walls were erected. HVAC was a nightmare.
Fast forward to the present day. Our labs have not been touched in years. It was time to remodel. The school board gave the green light for the remodel. The architect provided good news. All of the support walls are on the outside of the building. Internal walls can be torn down within a week. Construction is already under the roof. The architect provided a number of plans. "Tell me what you want. We can reconstruct the walls anywhere. Need a bit more room for testing or make up labs? Want to have common prep space? Would you like flexible seating? Want a fume hood that is shared between rooms? Need extra space for demonstrations?".
I was pleasantly shocked. For years, there have been some rooms and spaces that I have been in that have been less than ideal. Bottom line...I can only control what I can control. I cannot always choose the room or the space but I can choose my attitude to make the best of any situation. Focus on the things I can effect. That has been my mantra. But what if I could make up the dream room? What would I pick and why? I have some ideas...
First and foremost....safety. It does not matter what is happening. The best leson plan gets ruined if a student gets hurt.
Hands on experiences. The best way to learn science is by doing science. Can kids easily enter the classroom and experience science in a safe hands on manner? Does the space allow for that?
Information. Are students able to work together with proper technology to process the information in a timely manner? What if I ditched every poster I had and replaced them for a few LED screens. Students would get timely information about the focus of the day or the lab we were doing on multiple screens as they entered the room. Better yet, they could display their data quickly and effectively for all to see.
Flexibility. Are there safe and reliable ways to transition from labs, to assessments to various types of group work?
It boggles my mind. This was the first time ever that I had an architect seriously ask me the question, "What do you think?" It has been a crazy couple of weeks with the realization of that question. We have been grading, doing labs, giving exams and working extra hours packing and pitching supplies and chemicals. Did I mentioned that construction started a week before school ended? During my 7th bell class on a Friday I heard some loud pounding. People were in our shared office with sledge hammers. I calmly left my class for a second and approached a guy with a hard hat. "Uhh...can I get a few things off my desk?" He just looked at me. "You better hurry". Students had questions. "Since it is the last day before exams and stuff is getting trashed, can we write on the walls?" It was the last ten minutes of class during 7th bell at the end of the year. "As long as it is school appropriate..." was my response.
Imagine if you could start all over with a brand new classroom! What would you want or do in your dream room? Please let me know. The exhaustion and fog of the end of the year is starting to lift. The new possibilities seem exciting. So what would you do? I would love to hear your ideas....