Let’s start with an old-fashioned bromide: good teachers set clear goals, enforce high standards of behavior, and wisely manage their class time. It may be the 21st century, and much has changed in the classroom, but those aspirations still make sense.
And the most precious resources educators require are the time and space to plan their work, improve their skills and manage their classes effectively.
Our Learning Environments team members constantly research what we can do to develop new solutions to support our teachers. Here are a couple of design concepts we’ve offered recently.
Spaces where teachers can think and plan are often hard to find at school, much less places to get a real break or some down time. The old Teachers’ Lounge or Workroom with tables, chairs and a coffee pot hasn’t changed much, but we think it can evolve into a more restful space where educators can escape, relax for a bit and find space to think. The new Lounge might include comfortable lounge seating, plenty of room to spread out, and a variety of space types for different activities, including individual focus spaces.
Creating a gallery of artwork, adding wall murals, décor, some O2 generating plants and even bulletin boards for inspiration and sharing teaching tidbits can make the space more engaging and restorative. Mobile screens, seating and tables can enable ad hoc planning sessions, and yes, make sure to include all the appliances necessary to deliver enough coffee and nutritious snacks.
Technology also presents new opportunities. Teachers who want a quick refresh on lesson plans or an inspirational boost, can access individual or group displays to listen/watch programming, while training rooms and digital libraries can offer easy access to knowledge and planning tools.
Improving Classroom Behavior
There’s no doubt that positive classroom behavior encourages focused learning and reduces teacher anxiety. So, what types of space design can support good behavior? The broader adoption of calming rooms or wellness areas has made an impact, giving students a place to take a break when they’re feeling overwhelmed, removing that energy and emotion from the classroom. Soft lighting, comfortable furniture, and access to nature in a quiet space can calm the nerves of all users, both students and teachers.
As it turns out, comfort is key. If classroom furniture isn’t comfortable, students are more easily distracted and more likely to cause disruption. Flexible ergonomic chairs support the body’s organic movement and different sitting positions, making students more comfortable and encouraging increased focus. In the classroom space, more mobile and flexible furniture offers educators the opportunity to create multiple learning environments to keep students engaged, meet varied curriculum needs and continue to increase student engagement.
Class Management Tools
Teachers are bombarded with class management tips, from developing behavioral standards and establishing working relationships with students, to anticipating student behavior. Planning classroom spaces to better support teachers who are suffering the highest burnout of any profession comes down to offering a simple way to support any classroom space need. The classroom set-up you see at 9 a.m. might look completely different at 9:15 a.m. – and not from chaos. The quick changes come from teachers and students tailoring their environments to support active teaching and learning strategies. Light, flexible classroom furniture designed for comfort and task support, combined with fun and colorful building block forms can offer enormous adaptability and put greater control of the day back into teachers’ hands.
Despite all the challenges, many talented teachers nationally remain committed to helping their students and lifting their communities, and they need all the support we can offer. Our Learning Environments team is committed to continuous improvement for classroom spaces and is always available to answer questions or consult on design solutions.