… at least not right away. Why not? Because I want my students to have a say in a collaborative fashion that tailors to their needs based on what we have. In essence, I wish to set my students with a blank canvas for success known as ‘their’ classroom. I want my students to come first, not the needs I assume I have to make THEIR space work.
My classroom is big and I adore it and more importantly, my students adore it. I have many conventional features such as blackboards, desks, and a carpet that is perhaps the favourite part of the room for my grade 7 & 8s. The ‘conventional’ classroom features by no means makes the room conventional.
My students have always had a say in the room’s function. However this year, I am taking it a step further. The first day of school will be a blank slate and this blank slate room will be an open oasis for students to make the space their own.
Nothing will be up on my walls but for one small board at the classroom’s entry (explained further in this post). The desks will be together in one spot, the supplies and books in a corner, and what was once a teacher’s desk will simply be a desk. Sure, students may feel a bit strange walking into what appears to be a completely vacant room, but my hope is that I will spark some form of ownership for learning within my students to make the room scream of student voice and the joy of learning.
The inspiration for this? There is no one key inspiration but several motivational factors have contributed to this teaching overhaul that will be my upcoming school year but a few train of thoughts have come to mind.
For the past few years, I have been involved with Ontario’s Students as Researchers portfolio. This experience has allowed me to see just how far student voice can go in making changes for the better where education is concerned. Recently, I became part of my board’s Deep Learning Pedagogy ‘activators’ group wherein we are exploring how to effectively apply Deep Learning Pedagogy into classrooms. This pedagogical practice not only supports student voice but also promotes authentic skills that can be applied to ANY part of a student’s life. The final trigger came from reading a post by Matthew Morris on why he is ridding of his teacher desk. All of this made me realize that though I think I walk the walk of student voice, there is far more that I can do to break down some barriers and challenge the status quo on putting students in the driver’s seat of the learning.
So what am I going to do? Well, it should be known that I teach several classes and have a grade 7 homeroom making this vision possible. Seeing multiple classes over six, fifty minute periods makes this plan a tad easier to implement.
The first day will start with team building and community games as well as a means to have students their voice. At present, the idea is as follows:
- A twitter wall will be ready with handles set up as soon as students walk in with the #dreamyear” (In French of course)
- White board markers, chalk, chromebooks & ipads, and butcher paper will be found throughout the room
- The use of the above will be designed to lay the classroom room out, state what students think is needed, to learn of their strengths, to learn of their technological awesomeness (including Google Classrooms/Drive exploration), classroom contract ideas, and a few other ideas that have yet to fully come to life.
- My role would be to facilitate the learning and circulate around the room over the 50 minute period or so to remind students that this is THEIR learning and THEIR voice DOES matter.
The goal of the first day would be to introduce students, in a somewhat quiet way, to the 6c’s of Deep Learning Pedagogy.
- Critical Thinking
- Character Education
Connecting Deep Learning Pedagogy to student voice and the first day of school seems, to this educator, to make sense. We want students to view success in a variety of capacities and to recognize school as a place of authentic learning filled will transferable skill sets, not memorization.
It is with hope, that throughout the first week of school, my students and I will collectively design a classroom that works for their learning needs and to begin to create the sense of community that respects the space as a learning commons for all.
Though there is more work to do on this ‘first day’, more so ‘first week’ back plan, I am excited to have this starting point filled with the 6Cs and hearing students chatter about their future year.