I have stumbled across a wonderful e-Learning wiki in the past few days called the e-Learning Classroom, and as a result I am now really having a close look at my use of classroom space, and what this says about my pedagogy.
My first thoughts were that my desk was too large and my chair too comfortable! And of course one of the things about having a large desk is that it soon gets covered in 'stuff', the detritus of procrastination. I think it also sends a message to the class that MY desk is HQ, the hub, the sun around which the planets rotate. Which of course, is not how it ought to be. How much time should a teacher spend sitting at their desk, during class time? I think, on reflection, that there are not many times at all when this is necessary. Perhaps when a child is reading to us? But then we could easily sit next to them where they are, or sit on the sofa. Hmmm...
So after school yesterday I got rid of it! My desk that is. I've replaced it with a smaller desk, the same as the students have, just so I have somewhere to keep my laptop off the floor, and to stash a few stationery items. As a result, I have instantly created space which I can now consider how to use. I still have the office style swivel chair, but am thinking that it might be more effective to get rid of that - at least during class time, so that I can be mobile in the classroom, actively moving around, supervising, assisting and, well, teaching. Maybe this is 'm-teaching', where the 'm' refers to the teacher, not the device.
What I'd love to do next is try to open up the classroom by doing away with as many of the students' desks and chairs as possible - perhaps replacing them with low coffee tables. It seems to me that a lot of children enjoy working on the floor anyway, and it would create a level of flexibility that I don't have at the moment. I have put out an email to my parent community, as well as other stuff members, to see what surplus furniture might be lying around. Come to think of it, this could be a class project - they could, in groups, raise a small amount of money, which could be used to source a cheap table on TradeMe, something on $1 reserve. It probably would not take too long at all, or cost too much. And imagine how much more space I would have without 27 desks and chairs!
The use of coffee tables, sofas, armchairs, perhaps the odd round dining room table for those who prefer chairs - what does this remind me of? It seems almost like a recreation of the dining/living area of a home. I think this is good. The living room is a space that most students will associate with relaxation, family, informality - which incidentally are ideal conditions for learning. If learning is about living, and living is about learning, then why not try to transform our 'class' room (what does that tell us, anyway???) into a 'living' room.
So, a work in progress. Watch this space!