Living in Perpetual Beta

Sep 27, 2016

Robyn Thiessen

As an experienced educator(over two decades, eeeek!) it would be easy to fall back on tried and tested “old school” ways of teaching and class arrangement. But that is just not me!

In recent years I have shifted my pedagogy from a teacher centered model to a blended learning, student centered model. I have adopted a more inquiry based approach to instruction, done away with report cards and engaged students and parents through documentation of student learning in digital portfolios. I have embraced the growth and maker mindsets and strongly believe in the importance of global connections and preparing students for their future.

During the past few years I have noticed that many of my students have done their best work while laying on the floor, sitting against a wall or snuggled up in a beanbag chair. I began to explore alternate classroom set ups and took the plunge this September. I had many questions running through my head while planning:

What would students do with all their supplies? Would students choose learning spaces based on their needs or the needs of their friends? How would I manage all of these different seating arrangements? How would the lack of overhead lighting effect learning? Would students be respectful of the space? How would we build a sense of community without formal learning spaces? What would parents think? So many wonders!

While we have only been a learning family for 2 weeks, I do have a few observations to help me answer these questions. In order for students to have a place for supplies, I purchased magazine boxes to hold their duotangs/notebooks and pencil boxes are stored in the 4 desks that have been provided for students who would like to work at a desk. My students have displayed both their love of their new space and have demonstrated that they are able to take care of it. They eagerly tidy up and clean up, they are proud to call Room 205 their classroom!

I have had nothing but positive comments from parents! On Meet the Teacher night, one parent told me that parents from his country only dream of classrooms like this for their children because this type of learning environment was reserved for only the elite and wealthy. It was this moment that brought peace to my heart and mind. I had made the right decision.

I still have many questions and not every moment is easy, as many small problems arise over the course of the day but I know that all the hard work and planning were worth it, because I am doing what I know in my heart is best for student learning, even if it means living in perpetual beta!








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