It is that time of year again when we are meeting our new classes for the first time, setting up routines and expectations for the coming term. It’s an exciting and important opportunity to establish the expectations for your classes!
With this in mind, it is a great moment to consider the physical environment you work in and ask ‘Is this space helping me do my job?’
Particularly in secondary schools, many teachers find themselves without an assigned, permanent room, teaching classes around the building. Indeed, many of us will teach the same group of students in several different classrooms depending on the demands of the whole school timetable.
"However you relate to your classroom, it should make you feel confident and in control!"
Creating a space that serves you is critical to your ability to present your lessons well and manage students’ behaviour effectively.
So, before the children arrive, you might want to consider the following:
Can you and your children freely move around your classroom? Does it feel welcoming and spacious, or are you dodging bookshelves and cupboards as soon as you walk through the door?
While classrooms have to accommodate the students and all your relevant materials, make sure that entrances are uncluttered and that storage areas are in places that don’t restrict your ability to walk around the classroom.
Even the location of bins can impact on the atmosphere of the classroom – if it is right at the front of the room next to the white board, will this prove a distraction every time a student needs to put something in the bin?
How are the students’ desks organised in your room? Are they in traditional front-facing rows and columns, or are they grouped in peer-facing ‘pods’?
Thinking about the children you are going to be working with, do you need to alter these arrangements?
For example: a horse-shoe arrangement of desks is often a positive set-up for whole-class discussion and interaction, but can also hinder your ability to freely walk around the students, limiting your ownership of the space.
If you have the option to re-arrange classrooms, include colleagues in the deciding a layout that might serve you better or allow for some experimentation in your behaviour management strategies.
"Part of effective behaviour management strategy is your physical presence in relation to students."
Where do you naturally position yourself as a teacher? Do you stay within arm’s reach of your desk or are you more comfortable at the side of the room, directing tasks across the space?
Remaining stuck behind or on your desk may be enabling disruptive behaviour in your lessons. It may be that as the new term starts, you consider how you interact with the space you are in.
If you traditionally keep yourself at the front of the class in a fixed spot, it could be informative for you to experiment with positioning yourself elsewhere during lessons.
Owning the room
A space that is working for you will make your daily routines easier and enable you to focus on the business of teaching.
Giving time to think about your classroom environment may just be that one thing that sends your teaching in a new, improved and energised direction at the start of the year! Enjoy!
About our Community Expert
Paul is an actor and English teacher from Northern Ireland. Alongside his acting career working in theatre, film and television across the UK, he also teaches in primary and secondary schools throughout London.
Paul provides performance coaching to both individual clients and businesses.