The last two years have forced educators to adapt, rethink and re-imagine the possibilities of education from every angle. A new generation of learners is coming of age. They have had vastly different school experiences than those who came before them.
I believe, however, that in the midst of the challenges we face, we have the opportunity to adapt. In fact, it’s more than an opportunity, it’s an imperative. If we don’t adapt to our changing circumstances, how will we stay relevant to our learners?
While sipping a cappuccino in my favourite coffee shop with a fellow teacher recently, I looked around. I saw some customers chatting or writing in a journal, while others were on their laptops or in business meet-ups discussing a deal.
As a business studies teacher, it dawned on me how much productive activity was taking place in this leisurely room. It inspired me to rethink my physical classroom space, modelled on the blueprint of a ‘hip’ coffee shop.
The challenge? How to transform my classroom into an unconventional, vibey, yet relaxed space without sacrificing educational expectations or outcomes. And how to do this without a budget.
With the help of colleagues and some friends, I brought in a few donated couches, some colourful cushions, a cocktail table and a few high stools. My cousin Byron repurposed boards of Oregon pine to build me a Seattle-styled rustic coffee shop table seating ten.
The result? It’s taken my learners by surprise, and in breaking with the traditional classroom mould, it has the potential to re-invigorate them while facilitating a more nuanced style of teaching and learning. Class and group discussions, short oral presentations, and collaborative work seem to take place more spontaneously.
So far it’s working, but this approach is a risk for all kinds of reasons, including classroom management, loss of control, or lapses in discipline. I think educators need to be open to these calculated risks.
I would be very interested to hear from other readers about their experiences of rethinking their classroom spaces.