I give a lot of thought to the physical space of a classroom, mostly because mine is a pain. I alluded to this in my last post, so now I’m going to go into the story of my problematic classroom in more detail.
In the beginning of the year, just like any other starry eyed teacher, my classroom was immaculate and cutesy. There was a place for everything and everything was in its place. But my class grew from 14 students to 20 students which meant adding a table (more on that to come). I was having a lot of behavioral problems because my room was way too small for that many kids, especially kids that size (5th and 6th graders can be as big as adults). They kept bumping into each other, which lead to several spats, which was driving me crazy. So a board member had the idea to knock out the wall next door and give me a double room. This was a great idea in theory, except there are some problems with the electric panel and rather than knock down the wall, they knocked down a 6 foot section in the middle. It’s more like an extended entry way than anything.
So basically my classroom is two separate rooms that are linked together by this 6 foot entry way. After the wall was knocked down, I tried to reassemble my room. I moved all the “extras” such as the classroom library and the computers to the new room and left all the tables in the old room. This worked well because I could see everybody and they could see me and hear me.
However, the principal wanted me to separated the 5th and 6th graders because she thought it would alleviate some behavior problems. She helped me to completely rearrange everything (if you’re keeping count, this is the fourth time) and spread out some of the tables into the new room. By this time I’ve rearranged my room so many times that I give up and I stop trying to make my room look nice and cutesy. I’m just plain worn out of putting things up and moving furniture over and over again. The principal expresses concerns about the way my room looks, but not to me. Instead she tells some other teachers, including Ellen. Ellen assumes I already know when she comes to talk to me, but of course I don’t. This further fans Ellen’s fire of disapproval that the principal is a poor leader and communicator.
So now I teach half of the students through a 6 foot hole in the wall. Does this sound strange? Well it should because it is. I really think the physical space of the classroom is a contributing factor toward behavior problems. For one thing, it’s impossible to see everybody so people easily goof off and hide things from me. Second, the kids are at big round tables,that seat four instead of desks. This makes it hard to see and makes “stuff” an issue. They have center baskets for holding things, but then they fight about somebody’s stuff getting on to their side or putting too much stuff into the center basket. Plus transitions are more difficult because they have to get up to go to their caddy to get their personal things instead of reaching inside a desk.
So that’s the story of my classroom and fills in some of the blanks in my last post about why Ellen had to help me with my room.