The Learning Environment

When you look at your classroom, what comes to mind? Is it well-equipped, with 21st century technology at your fingertips? Is it spacious and well-lit? Does it have a constant comfortable temperature? I have to answer “no” to all of these questions when I think about my classroom.
When I open the door to my classroom in the morning, a wave of stifling air comes out because the heat has been on all night. Then I have to open a window because there is no way any normal person could work in there. Once the room is cooled down to a comfortable temperature, the heat comes on again; so I continue to play the open-window-or-too-hot game throughout the day. This always surprises me because my school district complains that they can’t afford to upkeep our building, yet the heat in the building is set to “stifling” all the time and is supposedly monitored via computer.
The access to technology is quite limited in my classroom as well. I have numerous extension cords, surge protectors, and looong Ethernet cables snaking through my room with the potential to cause serious harm to someone. All so I can share the school’s video projector and ELMO with 5 other teachers. At least there are enough computers for every student, even though they are scattered through several different rooms.
Getting my students to feel good about their school is difficult when the school still looks like it did back in 1939 when it was built. I constantly struggle inside because on the one hand I’m being told that my students are important and we need to prepare them for the 21st century, but I see that my building isn’t really being taken care of and certainly isn’t being upgraded for 21st century technology.
Even with all of the frustrating things about the building where I work, my colleagues and I are still very creative and can work with students to move them forward in their education. One teacher I work with focused a history lesson on the building by having students research when and why it was built. One student even found out that at one time there was a Norman Rockwell painting hanging in the lobby. Students took pictures of various fixtures and features then they compared them to pictures taken back in the 1940’s and 50’s. In the past I have done a historical unit on the building’s architecture and the original owner of the building. We discovered that one of the building’s foundation stones contain several personal items that once belonged to the original owner. Even though our resources are limited, and money is tight, creativity is free.

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