As a teacher, my classroom was no different than most.
I’d cover the walls with paper and information everywhere – vocabulary word walls, student projects, inspirational posters – we would hang work from the ceiling. I even had a few lessons that would have us marking up the floors with tape. No surface left untouched.
Then there was the stuff. EVERYWHERE.
The markers, scissors, glue and other student supplies.
Textbooks, calculators, protractors.
Curriculum documents, a binder for everything, and the boxes and files from the teacher that used the room before me that was nice enough to leave behind.
By design, many classrooms can make an episode of ‘Hoarding: Buried Alive’ look tame.
Over the years, as my family has grown and we moved into a smaller house, we’ve been slowly adopting a much more ‘minimalist’ philosophy into our home and how we live.
But nothing was more minimalist than when I taught abroad at an American school in Durango, Mexico. The high school classes were all held in a 100-year-old Victorian-style home that was next to the rest of the school.
There was a fantastic little taco place just across the street.
My classroom was an upstairs bedroom that was just across the hall from the main bath in the house, complete with a clawfoot tub. There was no heating or air (it got cold in the winter!). The house was so old that during one afternoon, part of the ceiling collapsed in the ‘parlor’ classroom just below mine while students and a teacher were in it. There were a few minor cuts and bruises; it could have been much worse!
In fact, the school’s Principal never got around to actually assigning classrooms to teachers before school started, so after the first bell rang on the first day of class, the students started asking the teachers where they should go. So we each all just ran to a room in the house as quickly as we could, and that was that. The point here, there was no time for me to setup my classroom. I couldn’t think about where to arrange desks or how to create an inviting learning space.
I shared this ‘classroom’ with two other teachers. I had no supplies. No technology. No curriculum documents.
I had actually brought a few of my favorite inspirational posters with me from my US classroom, but we weren’t able to staple into the old plastered walls.
And you know what?
We survived, the students learned, and everything worked out just fine.
That was the last year the school used this old house. A much more modern facility has since been constructed.
Can Classrooms Be Distracting?
While touring schools on a trip to Israel in 2015, one of our stops was at a school that collaborated with a local architect to design a classroom specifically for students with ADHD.
The goal was to minimize distractions and create an environment that helped students focus.
It is fair to say this classroom accomplished its goal, though I may argue the bouncy ball chairs could be distracting in their own way.
There are more photos and information on this unique classroom here.
Can classrooms be too full of distractions? There is probably some happy medium in there somewhere that provides for an inviting space with materials that are readily available, but that won’t leave you feeling buried alive.