A blank canvas – Part II

This post is in response to a comment I received in relation to my “Blank Canvas” post and and expands on my thoughts in relation to my ideal learning space.

I remember once having this idea that I wanted to start the year with a totally empty classroom.
No furniture. No chairs. No desks. No displays. Nothing.

That together as a learning community, we would talk about how we liked to learn, what resources we needed in order to learn best and what furniture and layout best supported that. Together we would source the items and materials we were after and collectively create a learning community that reflected our needs.

What would begin as a blank canvas would become a masterpiece that we would paint together.


Somewhere in the middle of my dream though, reality set in.

28 students in an open space with nothing seemed like an invitation for chaos…. Or a great place to play game of gang up tiggy.

The principal taking school tours of prospective parents walking past beautifully arranged classrooms; sending out an unofficial message of ‘calm and order’ to only to arrive at my room to see an empty and unprepared space.

The logistics of storing all the furniture that was in the room previously. Where would it go when storage in most schools is already at a premium?

And what if they ‘got it wrong’? Previous attempts at having students ‘design their ideal classroom’ lead to them arranging the desks in rows. Because that’s what a classroom ‘should’ look like (according to American movies and TV Shows). Aren’t I supposed to be ‘professional’ here? Shouldn’t I be the one with the knowledge of learning theory and what works best? Not that I’ve been to hospital, but I can’t imagine going into operating theatre the day before my operation and rearranging the layout of the room based on my needs.

I’ve probably gone to the extreme here and I’m certain somewhere in the middle is a ‘happy medium’. For example, while I arrange the tables in our learning space I don’t believe in having ‘set seating’ arrangements for my students; I’m one for allowing students to choose where they sit.  If someone is annoying them or disturbing their learning, they then have the choice to move and find somewhere else they would like to work. Part of this process centres around choosing ‘good’ locations for learning and what this looks like (ie: not always next to your friend). If this continues to be something students have difficulty with, I will then let students know they need some help to make a good choice and offer 3 of my own suggestions.

Like most changes in education, until perceptions change around what ‘should be’ we continue to do what has always been done. Maybe one day I’ll challenge this perception.

My Ideal Learning Space

Put together a design brief for a new learning space.

I approached this task like stream of consciousness, so I brainstormed all of the items I would like in my ideal learning space. So, in no particular order…

  • Spaces and furniture that reflect the different ways people learn – Quiet spaces, Spaces for performing. Spaces to cook, Spaces to work on my own, with a partner (cafe style), in groups, in front of others, standing up, sitting down, lying down. Spaces that allows me to be in the outdoors.
  • Space for displays. Whiteboards, TV Screens, Monitors, Noticeboards…
  • Space for Storage – concrete materials, models and constructions all take up space and need somewhere to live.
  • Readily available access to a range technology
  • Sustainable – uses renewable energy sources. Supports recycling. environmental friendly design.
  • A workspace for teachers – to be with my colleagues. (I spent a lot of time considering this one.
  • Space for things that are fun – ball pit, a slide, a tree house

Whilst the space is important, the quality of the teaching and the learning inside the space is what really counts.

This post is the ninth in a series as part of the #youredustory challenge. For more information visit their website.


Why teach?

What was the defining moment you decided to be a teacher?

“Blackboard” by Photo by M. Rehemtulla – Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

I just knew.

From the age of about six, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher. I would ‘play school’ at any opportunity. I would mark my pretend roll , write up ‘work’ on my little chalkboard with my toys or any friends being my students. I would mark their work with red ticks and crosses and write encouraging words of feedback on their sheets.

As I got older and experienced different teachers throughout my own education, there were plenty that inspired me.

Had it not have been for some great teachers who something in me; who gave their time freely to support what I wanted to do; who coached, mentored and guided me through the process,  I would not be the person I am today.

It’s my hope that I can provide the same opportunities for my students. That I can pay forward the experiences and the lessons I have learnt.

This post is the seventh in a series as part of the #youredustory challenge. For more information visit their website.