Room(s) for Improvement

Posted by Marty Kelly

Hi. I’m Marty. And I’m a hater of change. Like the U.S. Treasury. Okay so not that kind of change (but can’t we all agree that pennies are so over?). No, I’m talking about change change–of the sea variety. Like the time we moved houses in second grade right before Christmas (who does that?) and then my parents tried to put the Christmas tree in the dining room in the new house (again, who does that?) and I cried so much they finally had to move the tree on Christmas Eve. Except it fell apart (the tree, that is). ‘Twas very much the night before Christmas and all through the house ornaments shattered amidst four-letter shouts. 

Or the time my husband told me he would return from a work trip on Thursday and called Wednesday to say they finished early and he was on his way home; and (take note: this is not, I repeat NOT, a great relationship strategy to make your partner feel loved) I got UPSET that he was coming home early because that was not “the plan.” It should come as no great surprise that literally no one’s love language is not being welcomed home.

Look, I understand I am not painting myself as the picture of good sense or rationality, but as I said, I am a hater of change–and I don’t discriminate. Good change is bad, and bad change is badder. Though I am notorious for mis-singing most songs (I thought “On a Straight Tequila Night” was “On the Strength to Keep the Night”), my thinking Aretha was singing, “Change of fools,” could have predicted long ago how I feel about change. 

By now, I hope I have set the stage well enough for you to *somewhat* fathom how well it went last year when Blake drew the short straw of  informing me that my precious Room 4 of the Upper School was being, shudder, renovated (Narrator: it did not go well). Moreover, that my big, beautiful wooden desk with all my glorious stacks of books (my babies!) in front of it was, the horrors!, being torn away from me. Dramatic much? You betcha. And if you know me, you have heard this sob story of mine so many times I’m sure your eyes are stuck in the back of your head from rolling them so hard. Get over it already, right? I am, I promise. Meriwether and others told me it would be okay and it really is. For the most part. I mean, definitely still a little fussy about my desk, but Paul Buckley is the proud new parent and taking really good care of her and says I can come visit whenever I want. 

Thus, when I decided that I wanted to write an update about how renovated room usage was going, I figured the least biased, most objective report would come from, you know, probably not me. Yay for self-awareness and journalistic integrity (Linda, don’t correct me if this is not what that is)! So, in a game I call “getting other people to do my job for me,” I consulted some new* middle and upper school faculty for feedback on their classroom experiences so far in the new rooms. *Some of our new faculty are what I call old/new in that they are an alum or they have taught here previously and returned or that they just moved to a different division. So here is what some of these old newbs like Buck Cooper and Val Prado have to say.

Question 1: What do you like about your classroom?

Val: I had an “i2” room last year in 4G for the first time and again this year here. I do love the writable wall space – it is so awesome for math. We do something called “studio time,” in which the students work on various problems that are prompted out of order and come from different concepts. The goal is to explain your thinking so others can follow your mathematical reasoning. Once your work is up on the wall, your work is “public” and we can all learn from you! 

My favorite part about my new room here is the dimmable light. I strongly advocated for that feature to be added in the LS and it truly makes a big difference for the learning environments, e.g. during different times of the day with the sunlight, or for simply setting a certain mood. 

Buck: I appreciate that it’s reconfigurable–that I can have students working quickly with a good workspace in a variety of ways: partners, groups of three or four around a table, individually at a table either with two or three other people. I also love that I can tinker with what “the front” of the space is. With 270 degrees of whiteboard space, I can do a better job of not privileging the children who are sitting closest to where I stand and talk because it’s where the screen/whiteboard is. I can spread the love all around, so to speak. I also like that there isn’t any required shelving beyond the rolling gray library shelves. I can maximize the space we have for teaching and learning and store stuff not immediately needed out of sight.

Question 2: What do your students like about your classroom?

Buck: Some love the spinning and rolling functions of the chairs. Some seem to love that there’s sufficient whiteboard space for absurd graffiti that I’m less likely to erase.

Question 3: Is there anything your classroom does not allow you to do that you would like to be able to do? 

Val: The movable chairs are awesome for storing materials underneath, however, they are super bulky and cannot be stacked. 

Buck: I’d love a moveable smart board so I could keep the space de-fronted, but also be able to easily annotate something for all the class to see. I’d also love it if I could remotely lock the rolling and spinning functions of the chairs, maybe an app?

Question 4: How does your classroom compare to classrooms you’ve previously taught or been taught in?

Buck: I’ve spent much of the last five years of my career trying to create this type of space by making do. We could push desks and tables together, but without lockable wheels, it’s potentially bad for the floor and noisy and a bother to our neighbors if it happens during instructional time. These classrooms provide a simple space, which is what I’ve grown to love. College classrooms are fairly generic because they don’t belong to anyone exclusively. I like that this space is more like that than like a space that somehow I feel like I have to go all out decorating. The pillowy, homestyle furniture, the thematic decor—it’s not me. I respect the people who want this in their classrooms because it helps children feel more comfortable, but I don’t want this in the space where I work, and yet here I have a wonderful classroom space that’s functional, clean and as I said, simple.

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