The ups and downs of our classrooms

For me, the perfect classroom has:

  1. long, solid desks in a semi-circle facing the front, enough room for everyone to spread out their work
  2. capacity for about double the number of students in the class
  3. ample chalkboards (or whiteboards), preferably that shift to reveal more
  4. an electronic console controlling the audio system and ceiling-mounted projector
  5. reliable internet connection
  6. concrete architectural features
  7. good lighting, preferably not too bright
  8. a big window with a view of the outdoors
  9. dark hardwood elements (e.g. floors or desk)
  10. close proximity to my office

Every year there’s a pasodoble between the university’s Office of Space Management (our classroom selectors based on requested capacity) and the teachers (considerators of convenience and ideals) for our eventual assigned classrooms. Perfection eludes us, but we try for what we can work with.  Even in less than ideal conditions, the longer you work with yours, the more you adapt. With my current two rooms, neither blows my mind, but neither is heinous either. The way I look at them is in ups and downs.

Wednesday room. Wetmore Hall, Room 54F.  Basement level.

Ups: I’ve got the design features I like (concrete, big window–but not to outdoors). There’s a mini-console (bottom right) that’s connected to a ceiling mounted projector and a pretty good number of chalkboards. It’s so useful to be able to project things–and one thing I’ve learnt: don’t bother with the screen, just project right onto the blackboard so you can write overtop. Also, the wheely chairs do come in handy when you want groups to move around the room. Finally, this room is just a short hallway walk from my office, the photocopier, bookshelves, etc. during breaktime should I need something.

Downs: The wheely chairs.  With their folding, half desks, writing is more challenging that it should be.  Books constantly drop to the floor and no one can have coffees without them being (spilt) on the floor.  Another down? Unreliable wifi. So irritating. Sure, we’ve all taught without internet and some of us before it was ever available in schools, but come on, it’s almost 2013, having the option to call up a video or a website at will is now barbaric for Canada.

Overall wishlist score: 5.5/10

Thursday room. Bahen Centre for Info Technology, Room 2179.

Ups: It’s got my favourite semi-circle desks with lots of room to spread out–awesome for individual writing. This gives it a certain university feel, which appeals to my students who don’t want to feel as though they are ESL students. It’s got a good number of blackboards that shift up and down (though I’ve still not figured out how exactly they work–I always end up with my boards in the wrong order). Lights are bright and there’s lovely dark wood.

Downs: Again, there’s no reliable internet or even any projector (despite being in a building that has ‘technology’ in its name). I take it back, no projectors is what’s barbaric at the tertiary level. It’s also about a 10-min walk from my office, which forces me to carry a projector, wheely extension cord and laptop to and from in a shopping bag (cue sore shoulders and back).  It can be a bit difficult to do any sort of work in more than pairs, but I try to avoid the need on Thursdays.

Overall wishlist score: 6/10

So Thursday just edges out Wednesday’s room.  If I could only combine the best from both, I’d have the perfect room.  Sure, I know I’m basing all my complaints on the fact that I’m used to teaching in this context. In the grand scheme of things, I realise I don’t teach in dirt; it could be much, much worse.  But why not aim for the ideal? For more ideas on rooms, check out out Adam Simpson’s new series, “Dealing with the physical aspects of the classroom,” which thus far discusses prologuing questions to consider about room dynamics and physical arrangement.

My wishlist for you:

Tell everyone what your perfect classroom looks like and consists of. Post photos of your actual classrooms.  What do you think of them? What are the ups and the downs? What scores do you give them?  

View participants and their classrooms below

Vicky Loras (@vickyloras) – The Ideal Classroom
Adam Simpson (@yearinthelifeof) – Dealing with the physical aspects of the classroom: The curious case of G062 & G045
Christopher Wilson (@MrChrisJWilson) – My perfect classroom

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27 Responses to What classroom is perfect?

  1. Tyson Seburn says:

    Btw, if you post your classrooms on your blogs, please link back here so I can come see! :)

  2. Adam Simpson says:

    That’s what you get for taking time off from a blog series and hosting the ESL blog carnival: someone else comes along and writes a much better post before I have a chance to! Fantastic post here, Tyson; almost exactly the one I was planning to write. Still, it will be interesting to see if we have common problems and what solutions we come up with :-)

  3. Great idea Tyson. I wrote a similar post last year and put a picture of my classroom in that one. I’ll get a picture of my new classrooms and put them up asap. Can’t wait to see everyone else classrooms.

  4. How about a laptop for each student with Internet access? I’ve seen it in action and it seems pretty cool. First thing I notice is that everyone participates.

    • Tyson Seburn says:

      It’s almost like another computer lab, eh? ;) Most of my students have laptops (or some sort of mobile device) already. In my case, my Thursday room is really the only one that accommodates it as it has desk space. Having a class set of laptops, otherwise, goes a bit beyond the budgetary confines available.

  5. Tyson Seburn says:

    From Lorna Page ‏@initialTT of Lincoln University: Beanbag chair room!
    http://www.thisislincolnshire.co.uk/Class-action-provide-better-learning-space/story-11211362-detail/story.html

    A couple of good points near the bottom:

    Fast paced innovative sessions should not be confined to the traditional tired lecture hall and rather be in less formal environments according to the report.

    Media Technology student Dan Temple, 20, from Gainsborough said: “I go to university to learn, not to lie down on a bean bag. I’m not sure how this would benefit my learning as I wouldn’t even have a table to lean on.”

  6. baiba says:

    Hi Tyson,
    For me, the worst thing would be a classroom without windows. Fortunately, no classroom in my school is windowless. I’d feel claustrophobic there.

    What would you do if you had 15 double-desks and no room for arranging them in a circle or other way except rows? That is my pain. I’d like to reorganize my room….but I can’t, physically.
    I have a good broadband internet connection in my school, a PC with an OHP, a whiteboard and IWB if I need it. iPads or laptops are a wish for the future…

    • Tyson Seburn says:

      Interestingly enough, Baiba, neither of my classrooms have windows to the outdoors. Even though that is on my wishlist, I’m less bothered by the lack thereof than I thought I would be. Though one is in a basement, the big window between classrooms lets in some of the natural light provided by the ample windows in the hallway; the other is on the 2nd floor of a beautiful building, but with the good lighting and other features I like, I can overlook this.

      I rarely rearrange my desks, to be honest. I like the fixed semi-circle design personally. If students can work with partners easily enough, that tends to work for me.

  7. […] from across the pond, Tyson Seburn, has already critiqued his classrooms in the blog post ‘What classroom is perfect?’ He has also prepared a checklist of things he looks for in a classroom, which I hope he […]

  8. […] What classroom is perfect? | 4C in ELT […]

  9. Ann Loseva says:

    I would so much like to contribute to this blog challenge, but it will be a horrible blow to the reputation of one of the most respectable universities in Russia. Foreign students will stop applying. I will be fired.
    So I’d better stay in the dark, and read other posts, chuckle knowingly at what people are calling “the downs”, and dream about me on such premises one day..))

    Great idea, Tyson!

    • Tyson Seburn says:

      Really? Just for showing the truth in a blog post? Wow, you must have major influence or things must be overly strict. If conditions are so bad that the university requires reality not be shown to the public because they will sway students from coming, won’t students be sorely disappointed and voice their opinions to the public after they get there?

      • Ann Loseva says:

        Of course I was exaggerating))
        I can tell you that Russian students in most cases are prepared to see such conditions and in most cases just make jokes about this, “keep calm/ sarcastic and carry on” studying. It reminds me of our national character trait – to put up with what’s offered. Of course, grumbling a lot and blaming authorities.
        It’s just a sad story that the main building and the older faculties are Soviet, and unfortunately for them – enormous. Can’t imagine how much money needs to be invested to completely renovate their halls and rooms. The new buildings are modern and surely have all facilities.

        • Tyson Seburn says:

          EXAGGERATOR! ;) Can’t say I know sometimes. I hear ya regarding renovations. University of Toronto, where I work, has always been a very old skool institution, so it’s taking very long to update all the classrooms throughout the campus with anything more than OHP. It’s the richer colleges within (currently like mine, New College) that are able to afford drastic renovations, but they still take several years to accomplish. Other colleges are seriously crystalised from the Anne of Green Gables era.

  10. Barbara T. says:

    My ideal classroom would have of the same elements as yours Tyson;
    – ample chalkboards/whiteboards
    – reliable internet connection
    – electronic console
    – large windows facing the outdoors
    – good lighting but not too bright
    But when it comes to the furniture, I love a classroom with small enough desks to move around and configure groups and shapes. It comes in handy when doing simulations and group work. I also prefer a classroom that has excellent climate control (not too hot or too cold), and has good air quality. It is always better for students to pay attention to their lesson rather than their physical discomfort. :)

  11. Tyson,
    Sorry for the delay in replying. It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about it – I certainly have! I finally reached the conclusion that the reason I’m having trouble sitting down and writing what my perfect classroom would be is that I’m still so grateful that it ISN’T perfect, as I explained in my post here:
    http://visualisingideas.edublogs.org/2012/08/20/impolite-relief-it-wasnt-mine/
    I hoped to hide my classroom away as much as possible but I actually have the new vice principal coming to visit soon. I hope I won’t regret it next year (though she is a very nice person). Will keep you posted!
    Naomi

  12. […] Check out Tyson’s original article. /* Share this:TwitterFacebookPinterestGoogle +1StumbleUponLinkedIn In Challenge […]

  13. […] from across the pond, Tyson Seburn, has already critiqued his classrooms in the blog post ‘What classroom is perfect?’ He has also prepared a checklist of things he looks for in a classroom, which I hope he […]

  14. […] the classroom: The curious case of G062). I’d also recommend the posts written by Tyson Seburn (What classroom is perfect?) and Vicky Loras (The Ideal Classroom – My Post for Tyson Seburn’s Blog Challenge). This […]

  15. […] Check out Tyson’s original article. […]

  16. […] A couple of days ago, Tyson Seburn wrote about his experiences in his teaching environment in his post What classroom is perfect? […]

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