1973 - when I started asking questions, like, "Why are we all dressed so funny?"

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Furniture. Or "Saint Ikea, Pray for Us!"

American society at times seems to hinge upon the thesis that buying stuff is "transformative" and necessary for self-realization, so I hate to aid and abet that point of view. However. However, there is something to be said about classroom space.

By space I mean the physical dimensions of the classroom and the arrangement of furniture and its types. Take the typical seat-desk combo found in many schools:
Exhibit A
Sleek, sturdy but of single purpose. Note the fusion of table top and chair (the wire basket underneath is well-intentioned but becomes merely a place that good lose things or place their trash). With this unity of table and chair, there can be no separation. The unit is heavy, unstackable and expansive.

Here is a better alternative: 
Exhibit B
I have come across only one classroom that uses these but they are in service! Notice the adjustable height for starters. Then check out the space saving design (nothing extends beyond the length of the "feet"). Granted, the military hospital green is little dull, but that is far out-weighed by its practicality:

  • Need space in the center of the room? Stack 'em! 
  • Need a way to section off space in the classroom? Arrange 'em! 
  • Need traditional "rows and columns" for a test? Just do it! 
Why is this important? 

Limitations are manifold in teaching. A simple thing like getting students into the right space for learning ought not to be an obstacle. Exhibit A is filled with peril. Exhibit B allows for creativity and flexibility. 

A dude like John Dewey did not have the limitation of reality when he theorized and laboratorized about education. He could tailor make students and their numbers to suit his purposes. He could cherry pick the raw material and be an artist without the constraints we proletarian teachers face. Alas, I need every edge I can get with a classroom of 40 kids. 

Shared Inquiry Discussion

SID is possible with even 40 students and here's how: Rotate 3 groups of students this way: (1) Inner Circle, (2) Outer Circle, Style feedback, (3) Outer Circle, Content feedback.

It needs some fleshing out but problem is solved in the numbers department. 

I have looked closely at every classroom I've subbed in and asked myself, "Could I run a Socratic seminar in here?" For the vast majority of classrooms the answer has been "Not without a big change in the physical layout!"  Next slide:
Image result for classroom high school packed
Exhibit C
Notice this poor teacher. Not only is he shackled with a man-leash but he must feel a bit claustrophobic. There is no space to move. Nowhere to move the furniture, either. 

"Fulcrum, meet Lever. Lever, Fulcrum."  Enough said. The future belongs to the slim and trim table labeled Exhibit B.

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