Teaching with Intention {Chapter Three}

So I think it’s safe to say that classroom environment is
important.  I am also willing to bet that
something stated in your beliefs on education that you have been pondering
about (and hopefully recording :D) regard the environment of your
classroom.  The environment sets the tone
for what happens in the classroom throughout the entire school year. 

But how the heck do we begin to create a classroom
environment that fits all of our hopes and dreams?  That’s a difficult task.  Debbie Miller suggests that you start by
purging and organizing all of the things that sometimes clutter our
classrooms.  If you’re a hoarder or hate
organizing, I’m sorry….don’t hate me, but it must be done.  (Don’t
worry, I’m right there with ya.)
  Begin
by making three piles.  I also do this
when I’m cleaning out things at home. 
Make a pile of the things you know you need to keep.  And be honest
with yourself; don’t store junk just because you have a hard time letting
go.  (I’ll
think about taking my own advise on that later….)
  Make another pile for things that someone
else in other grade levels or positions might like or need.  Worse case scenario, if they can’t use it,
Goodwill is always accepting donations. 
Load it up in the back of your car (or
truck….or U-haul…..or semi trailer)
and PURGE!  Don’t be afraid to throw things
away.  If it is old, worn out, or hasn’t
been used in years, THROW. IT. OUT.  You
are just cluttering your classroom and making it harder for both you and your
students to be productive. 

Next, begin thinking about the set up of your classroom.  I think many of us do this without even
thinking about it based on our teaching styles. 
You know what you want and that’s great.  Debbie suggests asking the following
questions:

*Do the children and I need a meeting area?

*Do the children and I need areas for small group work?

*Do the children and I need a library area?

*What about the configuration of kids’ desks or tables?

Now, here is a little challenge for you posed by Debbie in
this chapter:  Walk out of your room and
come back in with a fresh, critical eye. 
By clicking on the image above, you can download a freebie to help you
complete her challenge but you could do the same with a piece of paper.  When you walk back into your room, ask
yourself, “What are the things I like
about my classroom?  What is working well
here?”  Record all of these things on the
right hand column.  Don’t make any
changes to these areas.  Instead, try to
think about what makes these areas so perfect!

Next, ask yourself, “What doesn’t make sense in my
classroom?”  Record all of the things you
feel don’t make sense in the center column. 
Start looking for possible reasons why they don’t make sense and begin
thinking about solutions.

In the last column, record what you would like to see.  If I were you, I would toss the budget out
the window for this column.  After all,
you’re just jotting down ideas not signing a contract to actually do it.  But it could help you to develop creative
solutions to achieve the look and feel you want without the price tag.  After all, when I get a crazy idea, I search
eBay, Craigslist, post on Facebook, go to garage sales, scour sales ads;
ANYTHING to find what I’m wanting without paying full price.

Now, the challenge gets even more difficult….are you
ready?  This could sting a little but could
also be the most helpful.  Ask a colleague
to fill out the second page of the freebie above.  These questions are pretty deep and you need
an honest opinion, so choose someone who will be honest with you.  Don’t pick me….I’m a sugar coater.  :/

Have your colleague tell you:

*What do you know I value based on looking around in my
classroom?

*What do you know I believe about teaching and
learning?  What’s the evidence?

*What do you know about the kids in the room?






Now, if we’re only talking about environment, don’t ask your
best friend to do this.  Their opinion
will be a little skewed.  They KNOW how
what you value.  They KNOW what you
believe about teaching and learning.  You
need someone to be honest with you and see if the environment of your classroom
actually matches what you are striving for.  

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