Laura and Danielle, our talented design consultants from TMP Architecture, have become like family to us over the past couple of weeks. We have seen them often, and trust their expertise in helping us design the best possible classrooms within our budget. Once again, they came out Thursday night to meet with teachers, and refine their designs, determining priorities to help them stay within the budget. Saturday each teacher met with us and chose the colors and finishes for each different element of their design.
As an observer of the process, I was floored by the number of times teachers said The kids said they want/need... before making any decision. In fact, Cleo knew the top two color preferences down to an exact number. She was able to rattle off exactly how many students preferred blue and how many preferred green. And the numbers were close. Also interesting was the similarity among the teachers' findings. The students preferred blue and green (with the occasional purple splashed in there) across all age groups and school buildings, for example. Students must have choice and feel comfortable, first and foremost. The teachers's needs always came last, and were often cast aside for what is best for students. Several opted to keep their old teacher work area - or lose it altogether - if it meant giving more to their students. This is something only Brenda, Laura, Danielle, and I were able to witness, but I wish our entire community could have heard. "Mine to Ours" is already second nature to the teachers. They practice what they preach.
Teachers honored their students' wishes with steady resolve. "Think Starbucks" was seen in a couple of the high school designs, especially in business classes intended to emulate real work contexts. The need to swivel in one highly interactive class was a non-negotiable, while another had to have puzzle-shaped seating after falling in love with it in pictures. A few teachers even used color to help organize and manage student teams in the classroom. A few strongly advocated for designs that would support the use of Kagan Cooperative Learning knowing they and their school district are full-throttle implementing the structures.
.Another thing that has been very interesting is the number of teachers who have already begun implementing ideas they now have as a result of the process. Teachers have removed and rearranged pieces of furniture and have begun passing some ownership and voice along to students. Some are also reinventing the classroom they currently have to provide more choices for students. For example, Rachael already has students who sit at a bar (also known as low built-in with shelves removed) along a window while working. The teachers noted the students' strong need to connect to nature in class, and Rachael's class has a front row seat.
Before parting ways Thursday meeting, and to help close the second phase of our process, we asked teachers to write a Six Word Memoir to summarize their journey so far. Below are a few of the thoughtful reflections (and mine is to the right).