Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My classroom

I stumbled across Krissy Venosdale's post "When you have Nothing to Blog About," and was inspired to just write about the mundane.  So, here's my current classroom.

It has a lot of white space.  With an online class, I spend a lot of time at my desk, so a colleague inspired me to put up some of the faces I love seeing around my desk.  I also put up some posters about art to go along with the Humanities class I teach in this room.  By taking this photo, I've just now realized the poster that was on the left side of the Starboard has fallen down and disappeared....

This is the vantage point from my desk.  I have no windows, so my students know well that I've had windows to paradise installed.  Even on the grayest of days, we get to look out the window to a beautiful sunny day.  I really like the maroon walls and cabinets!

Here you can see more art posters, and what looks like a mess on the back cabinet.  This is a series of Humanities projects, actually.  First, on the first day of class, students were to create art.  Nearly all of them worked with modeling clay, and they stay on display for the whole semester.  Also back there is a great quote from Dr. Seuss, "You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself any direction you choose."

On the cabinets is another Humanities project.  Students were to bring a piece of art they felt represented them.

It's clear that I need to put some more on the walls to better reflect the OTHER class that happens here.  There's no way of knowing from the physical space that Economics is learned in this room.

As far as the pods go, it works great in my Economics class, which only has six students.  They collaborate well and are pretty motivated.  In my larger Humanities class, however, it hasn't quite worked the way I'd hoped.  I wanted the chairs whose backs are to us in the last picture to sit on the sides, however, the students have moved the chairs so that they face the back of the room and the custodians leave those chairs there every night.  If I am scheduled to be in this classroom again, I hope to figure out a better room design given the space confines.

Suggestions welcome and appreciated!

Monday, April 15, 2013


A current student is doing a 20% project with a focus on demonstrating how life as a teenager has changed over the years.  As we chatted about her project, she mentioned she wanted to interview her brother as a sort of in between point; he graduated high school in 2009.  I offered to put out some feelers to former students to help her.

They responded quickly and enthusiastically, but it touched my heart when one former student responded, "I still remember thinking differently about visitors after you played that song in class about them being 'everyday people like you and me.'  My activism started right there.  Thank you!"

Wow!  Now, I don't remember the moment that had such an impact on her, I don't recall the song to which she recalls me sharing (I really wonder if it was in fact my teaching partner!).  But, even if she's mis-remembering and I didn't do this, I apparently DID do something right that she would attribute something having such an impact on her to me.  (A quick Google turns up this lyric as a Rage Against the Machine song I *do* remember having shared with them.)

This made me feel so incredible, but of course, my self-deprecation mosquito in the ear has me wondering if that was the enthusiasm of my youth, and if my greatest days of having a real impact are behind me.  And that mosquito is probably at least a little bit right.  BUT, my tired old fogey self keeps trying to be better (even if it rocks the boat and/or isn't liked so much), keeps trying to be innovative, relevant, and helping students gain the skills they will need moving forward.  I just read a post that reflects that others have these same mosquitoes in their ears; ideas that particularly resonate with me
I want to be different in a system of standardization. I want to push learning ahead of achievement. I want to prove that relationships and humility work better than behaviorist systems. I want to be different in the midst of the mainstream.
                                                              -John Spencer, "Please Become a Teacher"

"Different in the midst of the mainstream."  Raging against the machine.  Hey, maybe that's the goal.  To be my natural, trouble-making self.  Eek.