Today was the first day that our school was open to staff members, and my teaching partner and I were both in the classroom at around 7:00 this morning getting things organized. For a variety of reasons, this was the first year that I’ve ever set up the classroom with somebody else, right from the very beginning. What an incredible experience!
We worked non-stop in the room for eight hours today, and we had such rich dialogue throughout the process. All of our conversations connected back to children.
- How might students use the different materials?
- How are we making materials accessible to them?
- How might we create micro-environments in the classrooms: with quieter and louder, and brighter and darker areas? What value might this have for students?
- Are we putting out too many materials? Not enough? Are they open-ended enough? What are some loose part options? What might be best considering our students, and their strengths and needs (based on what we already know)?
What was amazing though is that not only did we have this discussion with each other, but also with the other two educators on the Kindergarten team. Our classrooms connect, and at different times throughout the day, we moved between the rooms, helping each other decide …
- what to throw away.
- what to keep.
- what to put out.
- what to store.
We also started talking about how the our classroom environment considerations align with the finalized Kindergarten Program document, and what other changes we may want to consider. (This is a discussion that we plan on continuing tomorrow.) While we all realize that the environment will continue to change with the help of the children, we want our initial set-up to feel calm and welcoming, and it was terrific how we could do this as a team.
Today’s set-up experience made me realize that while I often speak about the value of collaboration, I’m used to making many decisions on my own. I may reach out to other educators via social media (especially Twitter), but even so, these same kinds of rich conversations don’t seem to happen in 140 characters. I know that having a strong team is really important in a Kindergarten classroom, but I realized today, how valuable this partnership is from the start: in the initial classroom design. The fact that our school is small enough for these team discussions to extend easily beyond our classroom to the Kindergarten educators right next door, is even more powerful.
It’s the challenging questions, the variety of opinions, and the rich dialogue that helps all of us improve. How do you collaborate with others in classroom design, and what impact do you see this having on the learning environment? The Kindergarten model — with two educators working together and sharing a classroom — is definitely ideal for this kind of collaboration. That said, as I walked around the school today, I loved seeing so many teachers connecting with others in their classrooms and in the hallways. They were exchanging ideas and asking for feedback. I wonder if this happens more easily in a small school. What do you think? What’s needed for this kind of collaboration to happen everywhere? I would love to hear more about your experiences. Today really made me think about what’s possible.