Thursday, October 1, 2009

Open classrooms

The State held a common inservice yesterday. I traveled about an hour and a half to get to the school and was frankly shocked at how depressing the place was. A single floor and faced with dark mottled stone, in a gloomy little hole in the trees. Graffiti on the parking lot, poorly painted over by the maintenance crew. "Great," I said to myself. "Maybe the inside is an improvement."

Nope. One big-assed room 300 by 200 or so, columns every twenty five feet, eight-foot ceiling with fluorescent lights every other panel. Yup, an open classroom design. The "classrooms" were areas defined by file cabinets, spare mobile blackboards and those office cubicle walls that you love to hate, anchored by the aforementioned columns. Nothing goes to the ceiling and sound travels. Really, really easily.

The theme for the day's inservice was "Tranformation." You'd think that someone would think to transform this place. My room might be an echo chamber, but at least I don't effect anyone else. These poor bastards have to speak quietly so as not to disturb the class next door. Tests are a challenge because there's never silence. Chemistry labs smell up the whole building, while the students' reaction to the frog dissection (Ewwww) is heard everywhere. Show a film and the kids next door are peering through the space between the dividers to watch.

I've heard of literacy across the curriculum, but this is going too far.

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