We as teachers are always looking for the most interactive, engaging, and exciting classrooms. We have learned to “teach like pirates” and to bring our passions in the classroom. We are inundated with all these amazing technological tools that will help to enhance our subjects. With world geography, our content is constantly changing what with current events, changes in our global community, and wanting to include topics such as the Sustainable Development Goals.
We as teachers are constantly asking ourselves: What subjects within our curriculum will be exciting to learn about? The most engaging? How can students lead themselves without me repeating directions five times? How do you build the perfect routines? How do I grade? DO I grade?
The questions never stop.
One thing I like to do is create my perfect classroom. I know this may sound kind of upsetting since, of course, reality gets in the way of my “fantasy” classroom. But this exercise of mine helps me identify what’s important to me, what things I may need to let go, and what I can work hard on to ensure that they work within the classroom.
So, without further ado, here’s part of my fantasy classroom:
Flexible seating → I really first learned about flexible seating after reading Oskar Cymerman’s “Starbucks My Classroom” and fell in love with the idea of a cozy, warm, and inviting atmosphere to help with collaboration and communication skills within the classroom. Oskar states “ that desks promote compliance, while coffee shop style seating encourages community building through increased and intentional emphasis on communication and collaboration.” I was fascinated by what educators are doing within the classroom and their furniture: bringing in sofas and standing tables, pillows and clipboards, going to Ikea and incorporating .
To me, flexible seating isn’t about making my classroom look pretty (although a colorful and organized bulletin board does make me happy).. It’s about giving students a choice. It’s about giving them an opportunity to learn what is best for them. I know I personally work better when I’m able to bounce ideas off of colleagues, putting my feet up, and having the opportunity to listen to my own music.
My fantasy is having my classroom look like “Central Perk” from Friends: hightop tables, couches, chairs, and sure, why not a few snacks along the way. My reality is I’ve done what money can allow. This year, I’m trying no seating chart but stressing the fact that no one should be sitting alone. Students need to choose a seating arrangement that is appropriate for them. Some students fall into the same seat everyday because they prefer that seat. But that’s like me going into my favorite Starbucks and crossing fingers that my favorite table is available. Yes, I have the “Chatty Kathys” who sit next to their friends and wish to just have conversations all the time, but now that it’s been about a month since they’ve been exposed to our flexible seating arrangements, they’re used to sitting with people they’re comfortable with and it’s no longer a “new” thing to them.
Student-Choice → In my fantasy world, students would choose the activity they would like to do that day: Skype with someone around the world, focus on current events, work on a global issue on a project with no deadline, and just overall work on something that interests them the most. Remove the standards. As Captain Barbossa says in Pirates of the Caribbean about the Brethren Code, “the code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.” I wish my classroom would sometimes run like a newsroom,with me offering tasks for the day and students choosing what would interest them the most.
In my reality, I am trying to incorporate more of student-choice within the classroom. I started a little TOO ambitious with my “Map Review Choice Board” by offering too many options and actually losing sight of the standard itself. I ended up making more work for myself rather than the students. The incorporation of some hyperdocs helps students understand the importance of working towards a deadline and managing their time.
In my reality, I’m looking to incorporate quests and missions into my curriculum that enhance media literacy skills, summarization skills, knowledge of cultures around the world, examining current events and taking actions. Although these may end up as extra credit this year, throughout the year and all of next year, I’m hoping to do more project based learning activities such as these.
Global Collaboration → In my fantasy world, my students would be Skyping, emailing, Flipgrid-ing, and collaborating with students all around the world each and every day. They would go directly to the source to discover more about religion in India, the water crisis in Sudan, and how higher elevations affect communities in the Andes Mountains. We would have an on-going list of contacts from all around the world that is available to all of my students.
In my reality, my focus has been on increasing global collaboration within my classroom. Mystery Skypes are starting next week! With this activity, my class will be Skyping another class somewhere in the world and ask “Yes/No” questions to determine their location. I’m hoping to take our Mystery Skypes even further by having students undergo a follow-up activity with their new Skype friends.
In my reality, I’ve begun playing around with penpals and emailing back and forth. Marc Font, the head of studies at Escola Alegre in Barcelona, had reached out to me, and we are to begin a “ePal” activity between 31 of his students and 31 of mine. The first step would be to have them introduce themselves with the idea of exchanging information about their cultures. Later on, students from both classrooms will work on a social studies project together.
I’m slowly working towards making my fantasy classroom a reality. If you could transform your classroom into your fantasy classroom, what would it include? How are you working towards making your fantasy reality?