When It’s Time to Change It’s Time to Rearrange: A Principal’s Story with the Help of a Co-op - Digital Promise

When It’s Time to Change It’s Time to Rearrange: A Principal’s Story with the Help of a Co-op

December 12, 2016 | By and

We moved our entire school two years in a row. Relocating the staff, students, materials, furniture, and technology twice in two years forces some good conversations.

  • Do we really need filing cabinets?
  • Should I continue to store my curriculum from 1991?
  • How much of what I use to decorate my room really facilitates learning?
  • Should any person (including the teacher) “own” space in the classroom?

Cajon Valley Union School District is systematically transforming classrooms, but the journey from vision to purchase order is not always in a straight line.

What it was like

Since 2014, the classrooms at Magnolia Elementary reflected a mixture of teacher-led and student-led moments, most using rotation-stations or playlists to incorporate technology. Yet our classrooms still favored teacher desks and bulky tables and chairs. Rooms generally did not change much from day to day. We struggled with a vision “outside of the box”.

What it’s like now

Think “hinges and wheels”. The furniture, layout, and learning resources have multiple configurations. Flexibility in our space is a reflection of flexibility in our thinking. We are still experimenting. We are still rearranging. The classrooms may be different tomorrow. Change is expected and welcomed.

Students are also a much larger part of the conversation. Teachers are engaging students daily about where they want to work and where they might want to move next. This focus on self-management is an important part of the work.

How to help others

Educators Cooperative, Qualcomm, and the Thinkabit Lab helped us see practical, reasonable steps. The vision was clear; we did not need another pep talk. We needed practical wisdom.

  1. Talk about tangibles, not theories. Look at many, many pictures. Talk with partners and teachers who have already begun the journey. They will reassure you, help with tough questions, and give you pointers on what works and might not work. The internet is your friend but only when it leads to concrete actions (this blog post included, of course.)
  2. Think three-dimensionally. Allow individual, small group, and large group workspaces (i.e., cave space, watering hole, campfire spaces). Also think vertically (e.g., seated on the floor, sitting in chairs or stools, standing at counters or tables).
  3. Focus on flexibility and mobility with the goal of keeping kids engaged. Do not try to find the “perfect” layout. Try to find the most flexible. Students will also need to be involved in the process; they have to discover what works for them.
  4. Put the “internet” in the category of “electricity.” Devices come and go. Wearable technology, augmented reality, and virtual reality are coming soon. Flexible space allows the integration of these ideas.

Fear factor

Principals have to listen and build trust. Few topics are as invasive as redesigning the classroom. Principals who give teachers permission to take risks and choose to learn, support, problem-solve, and celebrate with them will be successful. This work is not clean or easy, but it is worth the time and effort.

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