It's an honor when a collaborating teacher asks you to help them think through a classroom set up. As a coach, I think of moments like this as a wonderful opportunity to dig deep into our teaching believes and philosophies. These belief systems should guide anyone on the decisions we make as to why we do what we do.
Two years ago, I had the pleasure of working with several ELL teachers that were going to share a big classroom. Even though they were all on different schedules and delivering different ELL services (some were collaborating with teachers in the classrooms most of the day, some were pulling out students in this classroom), there were several factors we needed to consider as a team.
One of my own philosophical coaching practices is giving people time to think through things (if possible) versus expecting their best work right on the spot. Thinking time allows us to think carefully, redefine ideas and sometimes revise our own thinking. One thing I like to do before I bring a group of teachers together is share with them some questions that I would like for them to consider prior to our face-to-face conversations.
Below, you'll find a copy of the note I have sent to this great team of teachers to ponder regarding their own beliefs on classroom set-ups & arrangements.
I want to thank each of you for giving me the chance to sit down and reflect with each of you. I appreciate your thoughts, feedback, questions and wonders. Please be reassure that I am listening carefully.
Based on your comments and feedback, one of the things I would like to work with all of you is the classroom space. When it comes to designing (and deciding) a classroom space I need your feedback and input so please consider the following questions:
1. Thinking with our students in mind, what do you believe is important that every classroom reflects?
2. Thinking with our students in mind, what do you believe are important physical elements in a classroom? (ex. an organized classroom library, community tables, wall spaces for charts, etc)
3. What do you need, in terms of classroom set up, for things to be more efficient and organized?
4. Have you used the smart board in the class? if not, would you like to?
Please take a minute to consider these questions. We'll be discussing them together this Friday afternoon so get ready to share your beliefs. On Monday afternoon, we would be looking at the classroom together to figure out what physical improvements can we make so that the room is conducive to learning and functional for everyone.
Please note: you do not have to answer these questions via email. I'm sending them before so you have time to process them, share them and eventually together come up with a good action plan.
The results of sending questions ahead of time was wonderful. Each team member had a chance to dig deep into their core values. They came to the meeting not only ready to share their own thinking but also ready to listen to what their team members have to say. As a team, we sat and discussed this for over two hours before we touch any furniture or move anything.
The result? A great classroom environment for our students and a process where everyone felt listened and respected. I hope these questions help you, either if you are a coach or if you are part of a team sharing a common space. Please, as always, feel free to add any comments, questions or share your own vision with the rest of us! Happy learning! Happy sharing!