Sunday, September 21, 2008

Classroom redecoration

Virtually all the classrooms at RU consist of tablet desks arranged into front-facing rows. I've never loved this layout, but it's worked okay; my classes are still relaxed, smallish, and discussion-based. More to the point, it hadn't occurred to me to tinker with what God and the institution gave me.

I came to discover, though, that most of my colleagues do rearrange their classrooms, usually into a circle. At first this struck me as a tremendous hassle and waste of time--and circles are also a little too kumbayah or AA-meeting for my taste--but I couldn't deny that I'd rather teach to a room where most of my students could see each other.

So this semester I decided to experiment: I had my students move their desks into two concentric semi-circles, leaving me, as before, perched atop the instructor's desk. Since I have more desks than students--and since I'm fussy and anal-retentive--I do have to arrive five minutes early and sling some desks around myself to produce an arrangement I'm happy with, but in the cozy little room where I teach two classes back-to-back it's not a big deal, and the improved discussion dynamic is worth it.

My night class, however, is a problem: I have 28 students in a narrow, deep room with some 60 desks, and it's almost impossible to fit them into an orderly shape without leaving extra desks marooned in the middle of the room. The first few weeks I kept pushing desks around, trying to solve this geometrical puzzle, and making brisk fun of myself in the process. "God!" I'd say to my students. "I hate this! These extra desks totally stress me out!"

They'd laugh and try to help--but the room just didn't seem to permit the arrangement I wanted.

Then this past week I arrived early to find eight or ten students already seated in a small, tidy horseshoe with an abbreviated semi-circle just behind it. "Oh!" I exclaimed. "That's beautiful!"

Then I noticed that fifteen or twenty extra desks had been stacked up along the back wall, out of the way. "Wait," I said. "Did you guys do all this?"

They nodded, with smiles I couldn't interpret--but I have a hunch they decided that it's easier, all around, just to humor the crazy lady.


What Now? said...

One of the pluses to having my office = my classroom (and there are some minuses as well) is that the room is arranged *exactly* the way I like it and never changes unless I want it changed. This totally appeals to the control freak in me. I have the tables in a nice horseshoe so that everyone can see everyone else (easy, given that my largest class is 17) and I can still walk around the room or perch in front.

I'm glad your students are now saving you the hassle of room arranging!

life_of_a_fool said...

that's awesome! And hilarious. :)

Renaissance Girl said...

Funny. I have in many ways the opposite problem: a largeish class of 25 with a shallow, wide room. So lots of short columns. I hate it. I am totally going to steal your crescent/ horseshoe idea. Bonus: it won't make them think they have to humor me because I'm crazy; they already think that.