I have taught in a variety of classrooms.  Urban. Rural. A special education push-in, also known as class within a class.  A regular classroom where I had a cluster of identified gifted students.  A gifted education pull out program.  Each of these experiences has helped me become a better teacher.  Doesn’t everything we do?  The things I believe now? They are not the same as the things I used to believe.  Every kid I’ve taught has left an impact on me.     What if I could take everything I’ve learned, every experience I’ve had, and build the kind of regular, self-contained classroom I truly believe in?

My Very First Class

The Learning Space: It’d be open, inviting, warm.  Colorful. Calming. Creative.  Variety of seating. Cozy nooks. Rugs. Pillows. Interesting things displayed. Thought provoking books and objects all over. Did I mention colorful?  Music would be playing softly. The lighting would be natural light and fun lamps.  There’d be no assigned spaces, it’d be our space.

The Curriculum:  Every single standard would be woven into big meaty units.  There’d be no “science time” or “reading time.” It’d all be learning time.  The units would be cross-curricular and start with an essential question. The kind of big, meaty question that drives thinking.  The learning would be differentiated naturally as kids worked at a pace that’s right for them.   The textbooks would be in the hallway, on a bookshelf, as a resource. The projects would ensure that kids collaborate, share, and become a strong team.  Our focus would never be on collecting work and doing things, it’d be on deep thinking, creating projects for real-world experiences, and questioning.

The Grades: I wouldn’t have them.  We’d have lots of assessments: discussions, observations, projects.  We’d track standards for mastery.  The focus would be on learning and growing, not on making good grades.  Every kid would have a self-created digital portfolio to show their growth.  A portfolio that they would choose artifacts for, reflect in, and share in a discussion with me in our weekly meetings.  Kids that mastered already? They’d move on.  Kids that were struggling? They’d get more support in that area.

The Technology: Tablets, ipads, desktop machines, laptops, a projector, a couple of ipod touches, microphones, digital cameras, a color printer.  Technology would not be an event, it’d be just part of our day.  Kids would learn new tech skills from each other and we’d have a menu of tools available for their choosing.   There’d be digital storytelling, creating websites, blogging, Skype presentations and discussions, publishing writing, and so much more.   Kids could use the technology to research and explore topics as deeply as they’d like or need to, to create, and as a venue to share their learning with the world.

I’d love to have that kind of classroom.