Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What does your classroom say about you?

Today's post is from @carriemarshall1, a teacher on the East Coast of Canada.

If someone were to walk into your classroom while you were out, what would they think about you? What kind of a teacher do your walls say that you are? What are your values and beliefs? All of these work together to become our "hidden curriculum." I was originally introduced to this concept when I was working on my first degree back in the mid-late 80's. Of all of the ideas I was introduced to then, that (and the role of play) resonated the most with me. It resonated because I believe it is true. What I value, what I believe, those things come out not only in what I choose to put on the walls, how I arrange my room, but also how I choose to teach.

I claim to teach with an integrated curriculum, making sure what we are learning is not taught in an isolated way, but showing my children how math, science, literacy, etc. are all interconnected.
As this year has rolled on, I have been reflecting on my walls and my room. What does my room say about me? My response has caused me to make some minor changes to my room. I have opened it up, tearing down the artificial dividers that I had put up between my "centres". So, instead of having a science centre, an art centre, and a math centre, I have a space for all of these but it is much less defined. Because I see the interconnectedness in all three of these areas, and I want my students to see that connection as well. Because I see the interconnectedness of the world, I want my students to see that too. I "tore down the walls" figuratively, and I opened up my classroom. 

This is an older photo of my room. It is still pretty open, but what I ended up doing was taking all of those shelves that separated the areas and moved them up against the walls or shifted them in such a way as to give the room a bit more flow without making it one large open space.  By opening up the classroom, the students are forced to integrate our subjects because they are all in the same area. The sand and blocks also blend quite nicely in as well.

But, opening my room up was only part of my "integrated revival". I began to critically look at my curriculum and how I was approaching teaching. I am a lover of science. I enjoy all of the fun experiments we can do, I love to bring nature indoors and the class outdoors. I love investigating ideas about how and why things work. But as I reflected on my day, I noticed I was not highlighting this love. The more I began to read, the more I was convinced I could reignite this love of science without sacrificing the literacy and mathematics goals set forth by the department of education. I have always had a science journal, but I realized I was not utilizing the journal as best as I could. It had become more of a filler activity. Now, much more of our daily writing is centred around what we are investigating in science. When we talk about patterns, we shift over to the science area and see the patterns in nature through leaves, shells, starfish. 

Teaching is always a work in progress. I believe that when we stop reflecting on our teaching, we stop being relevant to our students. So I continue to reflect on ways to integrate my classroom. I reflect on what my walls are saying. Right now, I hope my walls are saying, "This is the classroom that values all of its members. It shows in what she has on the wall, how the room is arranged, and what is written in the science journals." I hope my walls show value and respect, because that is what I have for my kids.

Carrie Marshall is a wife, a mother, and a teacher. Born in the midwest, she now resides on the East Coast of Canada. She has been teaching in the area of early childhood for 23 years, 9 of those years in kindergarten.

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