Last Friday night I was lucky enough to attend our IB program’s De-Stress Night. This is a chance for students enrolled in our program to blow-off some steam and spend a fun night in community and celebration. This was entirely positive but it was not just about fun. There was a serious tone to at least part of it and that was provided by me (always willing to be the downer of any party!!).
I brought up the concept of The Third Teacher and our own Environmental Rethink campaign is going. We talked about the learning environment that they use every day and really discussed if this was the most condusive to learning. It was funny at first because the students were reluctant to say anything negative. It was as if they would be challenging their teachers, (who they adore), to say anything but we assured them that this discussion was a new thing for everyone. This was something that as a community we were looking into and so needed their help to navigate. After that, there was real energy in the room.
I have posted some of their feedback here. The instructions I gave them were to not worry too much about reality or what they thought was doable but to go with whatever came to mind. I was trying to get them to expand their lens. To see beyond what they have always seen in front of them. This is key because I genuinely think they have rarely, if ever, thought about their learning space. They have always thought that a box with uncomfortable chairs and rows of desks was what they had to work with. That was that and any energy spent on thinking about something else was time wasted. Also, perhaps I think that they did not really think it mattered what they thought. Decisions about space is made by other people, (adults), and it was their job to make due. Sad but probably true of most students and even teachers. They have never been given license to think about their space.
It was eye opening to go through their notes as most of them were not things that were too outlandish or impossible, (although some were asking for a Puppy Therapy room and Coffee Bars in every classroom!). Most comments were right in line with some of the discussions we have had as a staff and things that can certainly get done. The key will be, finding the time to get things done. It is easy to say that we will remake a class but there are challenges, not the least of which is that we have all rooms full during all periods. We are victims of our own popularity as we simply don’t have room to shift people around and empty a class for it to be redone. We have to tackle this and a few other hurdles but I am sure that it will be an amazing learning experience once we move through it.
I honestly think the bigger trick will be getting people to think about their space in a different way. Our elementary colleagues are much more used to this as their space is so integral to their day and, for the most part, their space is their space. In a high school it is rather rare for someone to have the same room every period and in our school at least, impossible for them to be the only teacher in that room. All challenges that we will look to address but I have to say that the challenge is really something to look forward to.