Teachers put a lot of time and effort into their classroom. They are keenly aware that the room needs to be conducive to learning, comfort and even acceptance. It needs to be bright enough to be happy, organized enough to be functional, chaotic enough to be creative and reach every type of learning style. The environment sets the tone for a young child’s learning career.
So it would seem like there should be a perfect design and that all classrooms would look the same. That would be a colossal mistake. The personality and temperament of the teacher comes into to play. In fact, many early educators make several changes in the year after they get a better handle on the students needs.
Children come into a classroom and are often looking for something that resonates with them. Do they belong here? Does it feel like a comfortable place? Is there anything here that I can do? Am I safe here?
A very creative early education teacher was working with some students who were considering a career in early childhood education. She had each potential teacher open a classroom door and sit on the floor just inside the doorway. She gave them a notebook and requested that they write a list of words. They couldn’t use sentences, just words to describe their feelings. Later, they gathered and compared notes and classrooms. There were no and wrong or right answers and it showed how differently people really feel about the same presentation of a room. It is enlightening.
There are some important and maybe obvious things that most educators can agree on. If there is a large open spaced in the middle of the room children will run through it. If there is an area that looks cluttered some children with try and organize it and others will clutter it more. If there is a cozy place, nervous children will hide there and social butterflies will congregate there.
Great early education teachers look for a balance to meet the visual, auditory, kinetic, and emotional needs of the students and teacher. Great teachers are willing to make adjustments and mix things up when needed.
Miss Brown sets the tone in her classroom with visual and auditory clues. There is music playing as transitions are made and sometimes during instructional periods. The music is mostly instrumental. She also has a variety of light shows, with lights dimming and all sorts of magical things going on. Sometimes, Miss Brown even plays with the temperature of the room.
There are times when the environment can be quite unsettling. The day the room ran away has a profound effect. It took weeks for all the items to feel safe and appreciated enough to come back into the room. That was a lesson learned.
So what are parents looking for when they visit a classroom? It is hard to say. It is important to ask questions if necessary.
Miss Taylor’s class was very surprised when they came to the classroom where everything was upside down. Signs were posted for parents to read. “Parents, we have a secret. Miss Taylor’s class is working on the letter “u.” The upside down fairy is visiting her room.”
Miss Taylor was dressed as a fairy and it was truly hard to recognize her. The parents got to provide comfort and direction for the child. Would this work in every class? No. Miss Taylor knew her students and it was a great learning experience.
So, as parents and educators, the goal is to work together and create an environment conducive to learning and loving.