In Bob Murphy’s newly-released memoir, Leather Soul, he describes his impromptu speech to teammates at the Railway Hotel in Yarraville after that famous win. “This premiership, for some long-suffering Bulldogs people, means they can actually die happy,” he told them from a bar stool, pint in hand. Murphy remembers a quick rebuke from former captain Matthew Boyd, who told him the observation was “a bit fucking morbid”. Over coffee, Murphy and I agree that for many, it was true.
I have been watching a few of the Bob interviews lately. He really provides a different of the world on and off the field. I remember seeing this side in a documentary a few years back featuring the various AFL captains discussing life on and off the field.
There is little to no clear research of the impact of classroom design on student achievement and with so many variables to consider, I don’t think there is a single optimal classroom design for all students and educators. Having said this, based on what I have read and the conversations I have had with people I work with and online, I think I will try to keep the following in mind when I work with teachers to redesign or reflect on classroom design:
- Be specific on the problem, purpose of the change, strategies to implement, and markers for success. Without doing this, how will we know our time, efforts, and money are making a difference?
- Keep some desks*. I am not saying you need to keep all of them but before making big changes, switch up a portion of the class and leave a good number of desks for those students who need their own personal space. *Note that this is more for grade 2/3 and above as many early primary classrooms have not used desks for years and lessons/instruction take place at the carpet.
- Use small tables. Large tables actually take away from flexible seating as they present only one or two options for students. With smaller tables, you can put them together or move them apart as needed. If you are buying tables, you can also get tables that can be raised or lowered based on the need to stand or sit.
- Offer comfortable areas. When starting small (in elementary/middle), for quiet reading, students may enjoy a bean bag chair or a bucket chair. Be clear with students the purpose of these areas so that when there is instruction or individual or small group work occurring, these are not used.
- Offer seating options (stools, standing desks). You need not change your whole classroom to offer some seating options for students who may benefit from self-reg tools. Start with a few stools and some standing desks (or small, tall tables) to and see if student learning and achievement benefits from this. If we have evidence of increased success for an individual with a certain tool from past years/teachers, please embrace this as to go back to a standard chair may make the learning more difficult for the student. We can build on evidence from past success/struggles.
- Fail small*. One of the most common mistakes I have made is making significant (large) changes and waiting too long to see if it is working. If you have a clear understanding of the purpose and the strategies, use the defined success markers to see if what you are doing is effective. After a short time (weeks or 2 months), check to see how the strategy is working. If it is working… keep going, if it is not, stop and pivot. I have tried and observed classroom design that actually hindered learning so it is important to know the impact of the strategy. *HT to Simon Breakspear for helping me with this.
Chris Wejr reflects on his experiences in reviewing flexible learning spaces. This includes the reasons to re-design, as well as a series of thoughts associated with the process of re-imagining.
About half of Google’s workers are contractors who don’t receive the same benefits as direct employees
So often we talk about technology doing the banal work, however this perspective often overlooks the army of workers doing banal jobs that make this possible.