How many of these have you tried in your classroom? 

More tools to add to your toolbox…  


Dusting off the cobwebs…yet again.

Ahem…good morning! As is obvious, I have done a stellar job of ignoring my blog and, in the process, failing to write about many significant educational moments in one way or another. For that, I am sorry. If you know anything about teachers (and if you're reading this, you do), you know that we get into those long stretches where all we can think about is our job and the many responsibilities that come with it. Needless to say, I fell into that trap and am not afraid to admit that I became a little lazy when it came to writing even a short blog post. I'm one of those people who feels the need to write substantially, but I do myself in when I don't have enough to fill three paragraphs. It's funny: I teach timed writing and constantly tell students that they need to condense their thoughts and that they can write solid essays without a ton of quotations or references. Maybe I should follow my own advice! Starting today, I will. Whether I post a few thoughts on a personal experience or share an article or commentary I have read, I will write more. In the words of the venerable band Whitenake, “Here I go again on my own.”

I have so many thoughts that I could post here, but I want to share an experience I had a couple of weeks ago when I served on a Visiting Team for a school evaluation. (For privacy reasons, I will not share the name of the school, except to say it is a beautiful prep school in New Jersey.) Teachers rarely get to see colleagues from other schools in action, so I jumped at the chance to do just that. As I migrated my way through the school's hallways and observed the different learning experiences taking place, I also noticed something that, until that point, I had ignored in all of the school's I previously had seen: classroom design. The classrooms in this school seemed more like learning centers, very student-focused and designed to appeal to all sorts of learners. Even though the school was built in the 1960s, I could tell that the school's architect planned not only for those present-day students but also for students that would fill the halls in subsequent decades. In other words, future planning became a key part of the school's construction. Of course, it cannot be assumed that today's building is an exact duplicate of the original structure; after all, technology alone has grown by leaps and bounds since that time. Still, it seems that while many schools built in the 1960s and later now show their age, this one does not.

When we think about the 21st century classroom, we not only need to consider the content and the learning taking place within the room, but also the physical space itself. Many schools have very little wiggle room with respect to redesigning classroom spaces; cost, location, and even building materials (the dreaded cinder block) make it difficult to convert yesterday's classroom to tomorrow's learning center. However, if a school wants to ensure its own survival, it must at least give thought to the types of learning that will occur in the next decade or so. Then, it becomes a matter of future-proofing classrooms and school buildings to stay ahead of the curve. Such changes also can reinvigorate and re-energize school communities that might feel stuck in a time warp.

This future-proofing will become a reality for me very soon, as my classroom is scheduled to receive a significant upgrade over the Christmas break. I know for a fact that the remodel will allow me to refine and to expand my teaching methods in very positive ways, and I'm looking forward to showing my students how a new space can enhance their learning and their appreciation for literature and writing.