Inspiring Learning Spaces: Phase 1

Have you ever stopped to think about how much has changed in education over the past 50 years? Technology is the most notable change, as many classrooms now are brimming with iPads, Chromebooks, SmartBoards and QR codes. However, with all of the changes and progress we have seen in education, there isn't a lot to show for it inside the four walls of a classroom. I know what you're thinking.. "Umm, what about Pinterest? My classroom is cuter than it's ever been!" But despite chevron labels and pom poms hanging from the ceiling (don't hate, I'm right there with you!) our classrooms are still pretty standard. If you're in denial, I want you to consider this: when you envision a classroom, what pops into your head? If you were playing Pictionary and the card you picked was "classroom", what would you draw? Most people would draw a classroom with rows of desks and a teacher at the front. 50 years ago the teachers had all the knowledge and the students were there to receive that knowledge. That is no longer the case.

classroom environment

Education is drastically different now than 50 years ago and so are the students, yet our classrooms still look the same. The kids still walk in the door in the morning and sit in their hard backed chairs (which have probably been in the room for 30 years) and we still stand in front of them barking out orders in front of a board (but now it's interactive, YAY us!) Do you see where I'm going with this? If we always do what we've always done, we will always get what we've always got. Once I began researching more I found that tons of teachers had caught the same bug!
I have since seen dozens of teachers looking for flexible seating on Donors Choose and on Pinterest. Trailblazing teachers like Kayla Delzer of Top Dog Teaching have been leading the pack with innovative and creative ways to make the classroom environment student-centered, comfortable, technology rich and engaging for students.

I was inspired to change my learning space at a technology committee meeting in my district in November. I left  that meeting motivated to go back to my classroom and rethink everything within our four walls. The idea to inspire our learning spaces came after some of our faculty members attended a conference and heard David Jakes speak. We were shown videos that were similar to an Extreme Home Makeover, but with classrooms. Based on the book and philosophy of The Third Teacher by Cannon Design, these videos showed how teachers can remake their classroom to meet the needs of the 21st century learner, without spending thousands of dollars on new furniture and a class set of iPads. In their book, The Third Teacher, they explain that in every classroom there are three teachers: the teacher, the students and the physical learning environment.

A few things really resonated with me after the meeting. First, we need to rethink the classroom environment that we create and challenge ourselves to really meet the needs of the 21st century learner. Second, we need to be always willing to change and progress. Just when you get excited that your classroom *finally* got iPads...consider this! The technology your students are exposed to now is the WORST technology they will use in their lifetime. Third, our students don't know a world without iPhones and touch screens and WiFi. Students today view WiFi the way we view electricity. We never drive to work in the morning wondering if there will be electricity when we get there.

inspired spaces

Over the next few months, I am going to be sharing a series of posts on inspiring your learning space and reimagining your classroom environment, without breaking the bank! My hope is that you will join me and become as inspired as I became as you piece together your classroom this summer. Each post will challenge you and give you ideas on how you can change your learning space without spending a fortune (because what teacher has extra money to spend in the summer?! Or ever? Ha!) I hope that you will share these Inspired Truths with teachers in your building. It's becoming quite contagious in mine.

Inspired Truth Number One

How much of the room belongs to your students?

Somewhere in my research I read a statistic that said 80% of the classroom space should belong to the kids. WOW. That was like a punch in the face to me. I am embarrassed to admit that when I read that statistic, probably 40% of my classroom belonged to me. What do I mean by "belonged?" I mean that 40% of the classroom was full of MY filing cabinets, my desk, my computer, my shelves lined with bins that were color coordinated of MY supplies and MY stuff. Things my kids didn't touch. Of course it is all "for the kids" because I am the teacher, but did I really need to be taking up all that space to stay organized??? The next day, I got rid of my teacher desk and purged a TON of things from my classroom that I did not need.


Follow the same mentality that went viral this year with the popularity of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. If it doesn't spark joy, thank it for it's service and get RID OF IT! We are teachers, I know. We are hoarders, packrats, thrifters, up-cyclers and re-users. But for crying out loud it is TIME to get rid of the manuals from your reading program in 2003. Are you really ever going to melt down all of those crayons and make them into valentines? Is it necessary to have 3 bins of counting bears and four different types of base ten blocks? Will you realistically ever use the scraps of borders that don't even match your current classroom theme? Do all of those markers even WORK? When was the last time you put in one of those VHS tapes? Speaking of which, when was the last time you used the VCR? Or the TV? Or the 150 puppets that you inherited from the teacher who had this classroom before you? Is it necessary to have an entire bookshelf dedicated to thesauruses?!?! Do yourself a favor, find a recent education college grad and pawn all of this stuff off on her. She will be thrilled, and you will feel an enormous weight lifted off of you. You can donate gently used school supplies to churches, youth bureaus and other school districts. Get rid of all the things. Make room in your classroom for the space that your students need to be 21st century thinkers. Share your photos of what you purge on social media and hashtag it #inspiredspaces so I can see how much you've done!

Stay tuned for Phase 2: The Great Furniture Swap!

1 comment

  1. Love this Sarah!! I purged like crazy & everyone said I was nesting, but I just needed more did the kids! I got rid of cabinets & tables & got rugs & pillows! Can't wait to read more!


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