Think of your classroom as home for learners. What would you do to make this possible?

Recently, I came across an account of a school in Minnesota that experimented with stand-up desks in some upper grade classrooms. Based on stand-up workstations in adult workplaces, students can either stand or sit on barstool-height chairs. I imagined how helpful such an approach would have been for me, given how antsy I was in school—and how many of my middle-school students would have enjoyed it. Whenever I offered students options to work away from their desks, many took advantage—sometimes working on the floor—and were usually productive.

Another option few teachers have chosen to create an engaging learning environment is to forsake desks entirely. Instead, they create a non-traditional classroom using chairs, couches, desks, tables, plants, photos, artwork, and low tables. Upon entering, students almost forget they are in school. These rooms can feel structured yet relaxed, open and focused, certainly alive and comfortable. The message asserts that all are welcome—each person including the teacher has a personal space. By not “being school,” it eliminates the habitual expectations of the traditional classroom. How refreshing, instead, to feel invited into conversation, dialogue, and originality—and with high standards.

When we choose to teach from the middle of the room, we stand at the front when we need to. We ask the whole class to pay attention only when necessary. We rearrange spaces to facilitate learning. We integrate the physicality of the room to match the flexibility we expect of our students and ourselves. We invoke a fundamental principle of teaching to facilitate learning in spaces designed to promote our intentions.

 

Praise for Teaching from the Middle of the Room:

I love how it feels as if you are sitting in my living room with me having an important conversation about education. I enjoy and then am challenged to think critically about everything you share, and I love your thinking and pushing around the Big Shift. Thanks for causing me to question and grow!!!!   ~Pamela Penna, Teachers21

For more specific ideas about teaching see Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting students to Learn from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Middle-Room-Frank-Thoms/dp/0615358918.

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