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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