Sunday, September 1, 2013

Layout Illustrating Intent

Happy Labour Day everyone! Last week was dominated by my son's 11th birthday celebrations and going into school to set up the physical space. I can do many of my preparations at home, such as long range planning, but refreshing bulletin boards cannot be done at home. I didn't originally consider changing the layout of the rooms much. I'm not a visual-spatial sort of person and there aren't that many options when dealing with large shelves and/or banks of desktop computers. However, after visiting with my colleagues and admiring how they had refurbished their teaching space, I was inspired to try to make some improvements. It wasn't until after I took some snapshots that I realized that my new layout illustrated my teaching philosophy.

Last year, I couldn't use my blackboard much because the CD player, wide tables, and writing supplies were in front of it. My SMART Board also sat in the corner, obscuring the portrait of Agnes Macphail (the first female MP in Canada and our school's namesake). The bulletin board was also blocked. I moved the SMART Board to the other side of the library and placed the tables underneath the bulletin board. My clever mother-in-law, who is a Grade 1 teacher in Baltimore County, uses fabric for her bulletin boards because it is less likely to fade. She gave me some cute "reading frogs" material for me to use. The supply bin storage unit is right next to the "assessment boxes", where I keep assignments done by each class. (These boxes used to be on top of a non-fiction shelf.)

By moving the interactive whiteboard, I've created more space for the book exchange area. I also moved the dual language book shelf (actually a transformed podium) right next to the circulation desk, close to the main door.

I'm always toying with the table set-up and right now it's a long, upside-down U. It provides enough space to sit on both sides, decent travel lanes from the front of the library to the back, and enough room to work.

My office is renowned as a garbage pit. I don't spend a lot of time in there, but it is my personal space. I may have won the war against gravity by pinning my posters to the ceiling trim with those black and silver paper clips. You can even see the top of my desk, and it's brown! I moved one of my filing cabinets to the back of my room, beside my desk.

The play area has been expanded. I wrote about my initial play area here and there aren't significant changes but enough alterations that I notice. I moved the mini-blackboard and whiteboard easel to the play area and linked the circular tables together for more play space. I permanently added a bin of dress-up costumes and accessories. The basketball net used to fall down all the time, but by placing it in that corner, I can see the players using it and it won't fall down as often.

So, how do these changes give you a glimpse into my educational priorities? My SMART Board is not the pivotal part of my library anymore - it's not the first thing you see when you enter. Technology is important to me but not necessarily the direct teaching / lecture method of technology integration. (I know that IWBs aren't meant primarily for teacher use and whole-class instruction, but I find it takes concentrated effort to avoid falling into the "teacher touches it the most" trap.) Space is important. I like having wide-open spaces which are open to all sorts of possibilities. Clearing space between teaching areas and book exchange areas means that both can go on simultaneously without disrupting the other. Giving students time to play in school is something I believe in that is reflected in the amount of room I allot for designated spots. (Truly, play can happen almost anywhere.) You can see my brand new graphic novel shelves in the last photo - this was desperately needed, as my graphic novel collection was spread messily over a mish-mash of tables. Granting the funds for shelves for this collection shows how much comics matter to me and to my students. Items have been moved so that students can access them easier. From the blackboard to boxes to books, this school library is supposed to be for the students and I think these small changes demonstrate this. I hope everyone has a great first week of school and I pray that these deliberate changes will be felt by my students in a positive way.

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