Space Matters

Inspiration and insight occur in unpredictable places. I took a break from work Memorial Day weekend, so that I could begin the excavation process of unearthing my house from beneath the clutter that had accumulated everywhere this school year. The prospect of spending time in such a disorderly space this summer was really upsetting. I chalked that up to my own issues with clutter. After all, my husband and sons seem remarkably unmoved to clean up. A funny thing happened when we reorganized and cleaned the family room and the boys’ room. My kids began behaving better, and they were more relaxed and happier in the neater space. They told me they liked it so much better this way.

On a somewhat related note, I have been thinking about ways to make my classroom a more comfortable environment. I began this year with two bean bag chairs and a small rug in my room. The bean bags are used a decent amount by students, but they were wearing down so that they really needed to be combined to be comfortable. With some budget money left in May, I decided to buy two video rocker chairs. When I brought them in, students were really happy. Kids would come to class early to get those seats. They maintained focus on the work just as well in those seats as at the tables. In fact, some kids were more focused by having their own space. I also noticed that students were wanting to come into my room to work during free periods.

I have been thinking a lot about space and use of it recently. I asked one class to write on index cards where they work best. They all had favorite spots, and some noted they needed an environment with few distractions, even visual ones. I asked other students what they would like to see me do next in my classroom. Aside from the coffeemaker and mini-fridge suggestions, there was consensus that more comfortable furniture like the video rockers would be welcome. Also, plants and a zen garden were popular ideas.

So, what do I do with this information? At home, I will continue to fight the good fight against clutter. This summer, I will look for things to enhance my classroom environment to make it more inviting and comfortable for students next year. I will eliminate the clutter from my desk in the classroom, so that my own disorder does not inadvertently make my students uncomfortable. I would actually like to get rid of my traditional desk. I rarely use it anyway (hard to use with stuff piled on it; I have gotten used to working in other spaces in the room, ones that do not separate me as much from the students). I even work in the video rockers sometimes. I need to be sure that the room is not overdone with maps and posters. Too bare and it  may fail to inspire, but too busy and it may inhibit focused reflection. My room is not big enough to have too many different types of zones, but I would like to honor the preferences of students as much as I can.

I think that I had to fall to the depths of disorganization myself to know that I needed to change some things. If I had a bigger budget, I would probably do more with the classroom, but even with a small amount of money I think I can make some important changes.

Any suggestions?

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