Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Such an easy first step:

Environment, even on summer vacation we take time to change and clean our homes or even travel to explore and see amazing things in exotic locations. What is so different about our classrooms? During the year we probably spend more time in them than anywhere else truly connecting with the ‘cells and bells’ comments more than we want to admit.
The one quote that really hit home was on page 230, “We need to understand the role of physical environment in shaping culture. ……. As a student walks into the classroom, the physical space is part if the hidden curriculum, conveying messages about how learning will happen.” The quote continues to even reflect on the lack of attention placed on the classroom environment in secondary schools when in elementary and professional locations great lengths are made to create warm, inviting spaces.
Now I am the type that even asks the students and my own kids if the classroom has too much going on. The response is usually no however at times I do feel closed in by the many chart paper poems, kids work, word webs etc.  And, guiltily the Pintrest bulletin board that I created to ‘inspire’ my students to think about a novel in a new way. So, first change, first teacher work day, ask: ‘Do your displays highlight your creativity or that of your students?’  I honestly, never thought about this before. Every summer I would think about a theme for my elementary classroom in order to carry throughout the year – you know – lets take movies so, popcorn name tags, theater tickets for parent notes, spell popcorn for management purposes etc.  Then I moved to middle school – no themes here (students are too cool except smelly stickers) Yet, I still created a bulletin board to motivate. Little did I realize (like being hit in the head – think V8 commercial) that student discoveries/inquires are more motivating. Again, so obvious it hurts.
I also see my neighbor classrooms with nothing on the walls. Even having meetings in these classrooms create a feeling of unimportance. If we hang pictures in our homes to create warmth and togetherness, why would our classrooms be any different?  This is when a ‘small platoon’ is visible the most.

Ritchhart explains how to create a culture rich environment simplistically and in the extreme of creating a whole new school. Now, the latter is impossible but the other spectrum is so easily done that it is painful to think of all the teachers that have nothing on their walls. Shutting many students down before a word is even spoken.

1 comment:

  1. I was at a keynote someplace and the topic was student motivation. The speaker mentioned that putting up pithy posters wasn't really motivating to students. That after a while it just becomes background noise and they don't actually read or internalize it.

    One of my fifth grade teachers had a board this year that was blank and was meant for the students to leave encouraging notes for one another. By the end of the year it had so many little squares of encouragement and praise. Meaningful encouragement and praise.

    I have written in the margins so many times that you can tell from the second you enter a classroom what the goal of the teacher is. I agree with you completely.