Sunday, August 16, 2009

Building a Classroom that Works

Setting up an engaging classroom environment may sound like one of those tasks akin to rearranging your living room. In some ways, it is remarkably similar, evaluating factors such as lighting, air temperature, traffic flow, physical dimensions of space/fitting in the furniture, noise level, and optimal viewing of any screens. In others ways it can be much more complicated, as a classroom is a relatively small space for 20-30 students to spend 6 hours each day, engaged in learning through listening, speaking, writing, reading and many other activities. This year, many teachers like myself are anticipating an increase in enrolled students and must make accommodations. One of the strategies that helped me most in envisioning the best use of my space was to take before and "in progress" classroom layout photos.
As I reviewed my progress in setting up my classroom, I have decided to change a few things, moving furniture to optimize students' ability to view the teaching walls, moving computer desks up to the wall to increase space for student movement, and hanging signs to clearly label the various activity and curricular areas of the classroom. I am also working on designing some sort of paper holder for student chairs so that I can eliminate my wire racks that have worked well but take up flow/floor space.
What are the key factors that affect your classroom layout? How will you fit in more students (if necessary) without compromising comfort and efficiency?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Using an Interactive Journal to Build Relationship

As I spent the last 2 days in training for the Teacher Education Collaborative at San Jose State, I realized once again the great importance of the work that we do in education. Over and over presenters reminded faculty associates (mentor teachers) of the importance of transparency. How, I began pondering, can I be sure to involve my intern in my thought processes, sharing the rationale for all that I do in my classroom? One way that we have decided to share our thinking is through an interactive journal, a place where we can both record ideas and respond to each other. Here are a few items I plan to include as we begin the journal together.
  • Encouragement: I plan to use the journal to validate emotions such as anxiety of being a newcomer to the classroom.
  • Humor: Sharing funny snippets of observations/kidwatching will surely convey memorable lessons of our time together. Humor broadens the mind, relaxing each person.
  • Rationale: Giving my intern a forum to ask my rationale for certain procedures, lesson plans, parent communications etc. will make my teaching transparent and comprehensible.
  • Opportunities: to ask/answer any questions.
  • Goal Setting: I will use the journal to work with my intern to set SMART goals. I will also convey my own goals and be more accountable for them.
  • Observations/Insights: We can use the journal to record observations and insights each day. These can provide information for our weekly formal collaborative time.
  • Building on Strengths: The journal is a perfect opportunity to express appreciation and awareness of each other's strengths.
  • Increase Clear Communication: Having a dedicated place to jump off and communicate will help both of us remember all of the issues we want to discuss later in person.
I am excited about the challenge and opportunity to mentor my intern this year! How else would you use an interactive journal in a mentoring relationship?