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What Your Room Setup Says About You

Friday, August 22, 2014 -- Scott Sterling

Teachers spend a lot of time thinking about their rooms. We’re convinced that the solution to a particular problem or the key to success lies within a particular arrangement. For some problems, we may be right.

You can also tell a lot about the teacher by how their room is set up. Here’s what your room says about you.

Neat, orderly rows

You knew I’d start here. The people on the cutting edge obviously poo-poo this traditional setup, but the truth is that there are some classes in some schools that need this kind of structure. There probably always will be.

That being said, you need to ask yourself if there is anything you can do with your classroom management that can break you out of the mold. Chances are that you need to inject some creativity in your practice. You don’t want to get stale. That’s the first step to burning out.

Small-group tables

Chances are, this was how your favorite class was arranged back when you were in school. You also probably got to sit with your friends, which explains a lot.

Yes, cooperation and collaboration are big parts of the new standards, and they definitely need to be practiced every day periodically. But there might be nothing more awkward in school—the primary realm of awkwardness—than being stuck at a table with random people you don’t know for an entire class. They might make some friendships eventually, but this setup definitely isn’t multi-modal. For the loners and socialites alike, they might dread your class just because of the tables.

Disaster area

There are always a few of these at every school, usually in the gifted and creative classes. They really don’t have a setup. Desks are everywhere. The floor is the custodian’s worst nightmare. You can’t see the walls because of all the posters. This reflects your curriculum, your style, and the brains of you and your students. There’s nothing wrong with that.

In contrast to the last setup, you might be your kids’ favorite class of the day. And as long as you’re having success and the students are achieving at a high level, keep the room exactly as it is. But if you’re slipping, or about to, it will be the first thing your administrator points to.

“It depends”

Frankly, this is the right answer for today’s learning strategies and pedagogy. You shouldn’t have a setup because it changes from class to class, activity to activity. This says that you like to be creative and, frankly, have awesome classroom management. There’s no other way to pull this off.

Sit on the floor for whole group? Let’s all move the desks to one side. Small group time? Into tables we go. Johnny having a bad day and wants to be left alone while he does his assignment? Feel better, John. At the end of the day (because otherwise the custodian will hate you), can you guys move the desks back into small group tables please? Thanks! If the desks don’t move very well, get those little plastic gliders that go on the bottoms of the legs.

The best part? If the kids are acting up, that flexibility can be something that is earned rather than just guaranteed.