Several years ago, I met a teacher who taught at a High Tech High in San Diego. She told me that a glass office overlooked her classroom. That night, I dreamt that I had won an Oprah classroom makeover. It was one of those show-up-on-your-doorstep surprises, although in this case I was teaching 30 sophomores when a wrecking ball crane suddenly knocked out the outer wall of our classroom. Oprah and her crew filed in and told me they would construct a spiral staircase leading to my glass office. It was a Cinderella fairy tale, yet I woke up giddy, thinking for a moment that I really had won a renovated classroom.
I told Amy about the dream. We laughed at my silliness, and then thought… Hey, why not try to win a classroom makeover? We contacted Trading Spaces to propose that they film a classroom makeover edition. We got a response saying the pitch was a good idea; however, film crews never showed up on our doorsteps like fairy godmother Oprah had.
Years later, my classroom still looks like … well, like a typical classroom. Actually, it’s about twice the size of a typical classroom. I have 15 computers in the room, as well as a sink and a full-length mirror (the girls do lipstick and hair checks between classes). In truth, I am blessed to have this space.
Out of curiosity, today I visited the HTH website to find out more about the schools’ award-winning designs. The website states, “Visitors to any High Tech High remark that it looks and feels more like a high-performance workplace than a school. With beautiful textures and colors, lofty ceilings, comfortable furniture, informal meeting areas, and lots of interior and exterior windows, our facilities communicate a high level of trust and respect for the work of teachers and students. Visitors are struck by the effect on students of all ages, who can be seen interacting with adults in collegial, respectful, and engaged ways.” Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? I wish we felt that inspired by the atmosphere here in Room 115!
I have tried different ways to make the space more appealing. I added an overly comfortable couch. The desks no longer march in rows. Two students painted a “To Kill a Mockingbird” mural on the wall. Student work decorates the bulletin boards. A colorful blocked rug from Target and paper lanterns from IKEA have come and gone. I’m looking for innovative, inexpensive ways to make the space more inviting to teen readers and writers. Any ideas?
That’s not to say fairy tale endings don’t come true. A fourth grade teacher in our district, Marci Paulsen, recently attended the MACUL 2011 conference in Detroit. While there, she won a $20,000 complete interactive classroom of the future from AVI-SPL, featuring a SMART Board 680 and stand, SMART document camera, SMART Response, SMART Slate, Chief® CoPilot™, InFocus interactive projector, and more. Marci won this in a random drawing after watching a brief presentation at the company’s booth.
Marci said she and some of her teaching friends – Gwinn teachers Magan Lantagne (my daughter’s 6th grade teacher who also incorporates a lot of technology in her classroom), Tricia Miilu, and Lori Woodring – were eating at Jimmy John’s when they got the call. “We were very excited,” Marci said, “jumping around and screaming…the employees at Jimmy John’s were wondering what was going on!”
She and her friends also won an interactive presentation device for first place in an “Interpretation of the Conference” photo contest. The photo’s clever caption? “We found this gentleman frozen in ‘time’ at Grand Circus Park Station. We decided to catch him up on ‘the times’ with 21st century teaching and learning.”
Marci already enjoys using technology in the classroom, including a data projector, a document camera, and many websites to enhance her lessons. She also has used a Promethean interactive whiteboard.
She looks forward to receiving the new equipment in late summer, and having her classroom become even more interactive.
“The slate will allow the students to stay in their seats and yet be performing tasks at the front of the room,” she said. “I have been searching for more lessons that will incorporate the SMART board technologies. I can’t wait to get going!”
So, what part of the prize will she value most?
“I believe the most important prize will be the instruction that I will receive from the AVI personnel,” Marci said. “Next year will definitely be an exciting new adventure for my students and myself!”
And me? I’m just going to keep on wishing and dreaming, and maybe do a little spring cleaning, perhaps adding a bouquet of Daffodils to my desk — you know, the one that definitely is not hovering above the students in an ethereal glass box.