In my career I have had a variety of situations regarding classrooms.
I was lucky for 5 years to have my ‘own’ room and it was rare that anyone else taught in there. It was large. I got it organised. I used the space and storage exactly how I wanted. Students knew where to get things from. Everything was stocked. If you came in you would easily find a board pen AND the board rubber. You could easily find lined paper or a set of colouring pencils. If a student asked for anything, I would have it to hand instantly. It was my domain. My beloved classroom.
And then I started working on SLTs. Suddenly, you’re teaching less and you’re last to be allocated rooms in the system. Some would say ‘rightly so’. You’re timetabled to teach RE in a science lab. You have a class in an English room. This shouldn’t be a problem right?
I cannot explain how unhappy I was doing this. I have arrived into rooms where the teacher desk is so covered in paperwork that I cannot fit my laptop onto the surface. Often I have sifted through it and seen the hard work that children have produced unmarked and unvalued in scruffy piles.I have arrived to have a whole whiteboard covered in text and of course, absolutely no board rubber to clean it off.
Classrooms where remote controls are not in the obvious place or don’t exist in that room. Rooms where there is no lined paper in sight. A room where you can never refer to your own subject specific displays and you cannot put up examples of your student’s work.
And then there is the table set up. Going from rows to horse shoe to groups. People used to say ‘quickly get the students to move the desks around at the start and end of the lesson’. They clearly haven’t worked with secondary aged children for a while! Why should the start and end of my lesson be ‘table arranging’?
I have also taught in a dual campus school. You had to drive in your break time from one campus to another. Some people didn’t drive and walked. In the rain & sun. You would arrive to class completely shattered, needing the loo and you have no time to set up, let alone make sure you’re ready standing at the door to greet the students with a cheery smile. It was only at that moment when you realised that you hadn’t brought the worksheets left on the desk at the other campus that your lesson fell apart. Or forgetting a board pen and there not being one in the room. Really? How can there not be a board pen in a class room?!
At it’s worse I taught in 14 different rooms. 14 different systems to conquer before I could start my lesson.
So now, having taken a demotion, I am in the luxurious position of having ‘my’ own room. I am beyond happy. I LOVE MY ROOM. It’s organised. I know where things are. Anyone teaching in there knows where things are as they’re in the logical place i.e the board rubber is next to the board, the remote controls are on the desk. Someone said that the kids had told them I’m ‘OCD’ about my room and how it’s organised. I admit it. I am.
Don’t get me wrong. This is no-ones ‘fault’ ( well you could blame the Government for funding I suppose!). However for the quality of my teaching it is essential. I genuinely feel my teaching is better because of it. Think about that. Think of the impact it may have on students on a daily basis. What if they had four classes in a row they were table shifting?
So what does this mean for you?
If you have your own room. Relish it. But ensure that for anyone coming into that room you make it accessible. Welcome them. Don’t scowl when they bring their huge trolley of equipment and large box of books. Offer to help. Ask them if they need anything specifically for that lesson. Make sure the board is clean for them. Offer some storage space for things hey need to leave in there. Ask if they want any display space.
If you are the leaders of a school, think about what you can do to help those that are nomadic. Should there be an expectation that every room has a ‘set’ of core items? Could a member of support staff help prep a room? Do a tour of your school. What do large piles of paper ‘tell’ the students and visitors about your school? If your observation criteria includes something on classroom environment, think carefully about your expectations. What can you do to ensure rooms support learning for all, not just if you’re doing science in a science lab? Other suggestions for which I have had provided:
- Bottles of water for teachers to grab quickly as they cross campus
- Buy teachers a crate on wheels or flight bag
Remember, staff well being is central to a positive & healthy school.