Sunday, July 19, 2015

Environment as Third Teacher

In the quest for education rigor, academic performance and high stakes testing, the educational environment is easy to forget.

I'm talking about the actual brick and mortar building.
The classrooms, the playgrounds, the hallways, the bathrooms.

All of it.

Sure, it has to be safe. Everyone is aware of that.

No one (or at least I'm not) is going to send their kids to a school like the one in Matilda!

But if we want to reach students and help them to achieve all that they can be. Or let's face it, to just ENJOY the journey, we have to stop and ask what their daily environment looks like.

I really, really appreciate the Reggio Emilia approach of Environment as the Third Teacher. Interested in learning more? Click here is a fantastic pdf article on our teaching environments. What I see in this approach, besides acknowledging that the environment we live in is important, is that it levels the playing field a little between teachers and auxiliary staff members.

In fact, I bet the custodial team at my campus has never been given articles on environment and how all team members are CRUCIAL for successful schools. Sure, people are quick to stop these hard workers when something isn't done, but when was the last time I stopped Lilly as she is organizing the cafeteria and told her thank you and that she MATTERS! Shame on me.

So what am I going to do?

Well, I'm going to start by saying thank you and telling our maintenance/custodial team that they matter. Then I'm going to work on changing MY environment. A really good article on creating quality environments is "How the Environment Inspires Curriculum." 

And then I'm going to...

1. De-clutter. I'm going to look for and get rid of "unintenional knick-knacks."  (man just typing that and looking around my dining table, I'm like oh man. How about the Easter basket that is on my china cabinet? It's July. Talk about an "unintentional knick-knack")

2. Walk around the room/building and ask "What is the purpose of ___?"

3. Remember that the environment needs to be balanced. If I break the room into sections, have I balanced the space or will all of the students be forced into one area so that I can create a cool space that looks fun but rarely used. The idea of taking a section and placing it on a mental scale has me rethinking sections of my classroom. I have a ton of space designated for rarely used stuff, but for every day life with students, we end up crowded.

4. Create more FOOT space than SHELF space. (Boy this another ouch for me. I have shelves, shelves and more shelves. Both at home and at school.  I really need to get rid of some of my junk to make room for life!)

And once I've done that. I'm going to stop and brainstorm about the places that I like spending time in. And figure out what I can do to bring that about into my daily environment.

Here are a few of my favorite places.. these are just representative pics from google. I haven't necessarily been to Starbucks on at Downtown Disney. :)


So what do I notice about these places.. I love the contrast between light and dark. I love the different textures. I love the see-thru containers.

Stopping and brainstorming about my teaching (living) environment is pretty fun. I would have said that the lack of windows to the outside world was the hardest thing for me to overcome. But after some visual brainstorming, I have so many ideas! And ideas that I can implement! I can't cut a hole in my cinder block wall and put in a window for my classroom. But I can add contrast and texture!

This is where I am starting.  These are pictures from my classroom at the start of school last year.  It's pretty much the same.. maybe even less cluttered right now!

First up. Moving the big front table from the dominate position in the classroom. We use it primarily for holding supplies. So why does it get soo much space?? If I move the monster table to take up some wall space, I can open up a large section of the classroom for feet space. This would really help the traffic jam of students trying to get in and out from their tables.

And the half painted wall of cabinets? It bothers me, but I got used to them. Like we all do. We get complacent in our daily life. I'm not sure what color they will be painted, but something for contrast!

And that's one of the best things about summer. It's a time to rejuvenate our minds and bodies AND our environments!! Because I want my environment as the third teacher to be a ROCKSTAR.. not a teacher in need of assistance plan! ;)

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