All of my students have either dropped out of school or have been asked to leave. Most of them did not like school because it was boring or was holding them back from what they really wanted to do. They had a passion and wanted to follow it.
So I realised the other day that I had to make my classroom not seem like school. The more it was like school the more it encouraged “school-like” behaviours or indifference, mucking up and waiting for the teacher to tell us what to do.
I started the year with the room set up in a way I thought would encourage and facilitate learning. Students didn’t seem to mind it and it was working quite well but we had to keep shifting chairs.
Then one day a couple of the students commented on the horseshoe shape of tables in the room next door and how good it would be to have ours placed the same way. I appreciated their initiative and agreed to give it a try.
This was to prove a bad move. With the furniture now representing “school” the attitude to learning and student behaviour changed for the worse. The class as a whole settled into school mode and I soon realised I had to take charge to build a new culture or learning. The room design was a key to bring about this change.
I had a meeting with a couple of GOTAFE teachers to talk about what I was learning and they suggested to get the students to remove all the furniture out of the room and get them to design a new classroom from scratch. So we did this.
So this is where things stand and when the next term resumes we will have a new classroom design that the students have had some say: Features will include: 4 couches, some bean bags and coffee tables, a group of tables to sit around for advisory (like sitting around the dinner table), some fish bowls, maybe a class pet and satellite tables around the room for individual and small group work.
Should make for an interesting and exciting start of the school term.