Monday, June 21, 2010

I’ve been thinking about money and school, and realistically, how would more money change my teaching, my classroom, and of course, ultimately, the learning of my students.

Some of the more miniscule items – paper, pencil, art supplies – really wouldn’t change anything other than the amount of money that comes from my own pocket. As a matter of fact, having an unlimited supply of materials might actually lead to making students more dependent on me supplying it, resulting in their own lack of independence and personal responsibility for coming to class prepared. Still, it would be great to not have to worry about assigning posters, or colored coded graphs, or expecting students to have index cards for note taking. Having all the materials available would allow for more flexibility in many ways.

The big stuff is where I see money making the biggest impact in my classroom. I would first buy new tables and chairs for my classroom instead of the mismatched, broken legged wobbly ones I have now. How sad is that?

Would that change how I teach and how my students learn? Maybe not… However, when students come to school in buildings that are out of date, it gives them a feeling that they are not valued in our society. They see the difference in other places they go and how decrepit the school building and its furnishing are, and they, albeit it unconsciously, understand the prioritizing of public funding and the many discrepancies.

If we could open school buildings that look inviting, with kid-friendly structures, large classrooms, fresh paint, adequate furnishings, students would not feel despair when they enter our halls.

In my own classroom, given money, I could create a learning environment more welcoming, with a variety of seating options. The hard plastic and metal chairs I have now hardly lend themselves to a comfortable resting spot for anyone for 60 minutes, much less for an active growing adolescent. I would give them beanbags, rocking chairs, and other more kid friendly choices. Not only would these be comfier seating choices, the constant interruption of them scraping across the floor would be eliminated.

Beyond the chairs and tables, my classroom could have a neater and tidier appearance, with matching bookcases, storage space in closed cupboards, white boards with plenty of markers and erasers and cleaner. Instead a conglomeration of mismatched homemade tables on which to put things, my room could look like a classroom with real furniture! My walls would be painted with stripes of bright colors, instead of the boring drab off-white.

I could have new laptops, with logical power sources, instead of crisscrossing extension cords and powerstrips, duct taped hither and thon. The laptops would ALL work, always! I could have a SmartBoard to share websites and notes with students. I could have some sort of student response system, to engage them electronically, each student responsible for giving answers, in a safe, non-threatening manner!

Nooks and crannies for reading, art projects, and other creative ventures would beckon students to their corners, intriguing minds to create and produce, think and innovate.

There would some sort of reliable temperature control, keeping us on an even keel, instead of the highs and lows from 55° to 95° we experience now.

I would create spots for student storage within the classroom, places to keep portfolios, supplies, and even personal belongings.

A comfortable place to view videos would be there as well, almost an actual media center, where students could curl up and watch the occasional video I show in luxury, instead of craning around the heads of other students, straining to hear the words from the cheap reject speakers.

All that sounds wonderful ….. but in actuality, would it change my teaching? Would it change the learning of my students? I’m not so sure. But it is kind of like winning the lottery. You always read that winners aren’t any happier once they’ve won the BIG BUCKS, as is often creates a new set of problems. But I always think, give ME those problems!

Give me the magical classroom budget, the perfect setting, and let me see if it COULD make an impact on student learning. Let me just give it a shot?

Outside the physical nature of my classroom, with more educational funding, I would create a learning environment where teachers have time to work together, create together, and support each other's endeavors. This time would be built into the actual school day.

Time for teachers to really look at student work and assess it, then provide feedback to students and parents would be built into the school schedule as well. I would eliminate multiple choice tests, and have teachers using more meaningful tools to analyze student progress.

I would create learning communities made up of teachers, adminstrators, and parents, all working together to design learning goals for students in our school. Then I would work to help students take these goals and chart their own course of study, finding ways to meet these goals.

I would have my school be a community center, offering after-school support, programs, academic support, athletic programs, food programs, medical care, whatever our student body needs. We would support the whole child, completely.

School would no longer be an 8-3 venture, but a lifestyle for our community........

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