There’s been a lot of talk lately about the best way to furnish a school. What would you do with an unlimited budget?
Last night when that was asked of me, I got a little passionate. I really don’t think it matters. At all. Yes, it might be nice to have the flashy new furniture, like these $400 seats that Steelcase makes for the digital and collaborative learning environment, but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter.
It’s easy these days to throw thousands of dollars into classroom furniture, but is that thousands of dollars really going to have thousands of dollars worth of benefit for your kids? Is it really going to change the way that you teach?
Although I work at a private school, we’re located in an old public school campus that’s falling apart. My sink leaks. My classroom has a distinctly old smell. Windows have swear words buffed out of them. My back counters are an ugly, seventies orange. But I don’t think any of that really matters.
Classroom structure is about what you do with the people within it.
No matter where I teach, I can make it work. We can sit on the floor. We can step outside. We can stand up. We can sit on desks.
To me, it’s more about building the community that’s not afraid to step outside that box. It’s about building a community of learners who’s willing to gather in different spaces and in different ways based on the problem we’re trying to solve.
Yeah, I might need to dress differently so that I can crouch or sit on the floor or walk across the soccer field, but that’s a small price to pay for teaching my students that learning can happen anywhere.
I think schools are getting a little distracted by the shiny nature of all of this “21st century classroom” furniture. But I can’t help but wonder, “What are we sacrificing to have this pretty furniture?”
Honestly, I think part of this is the public vs. private school mentality. Although I work at a private school, our pockets aren’t full of money. So the $10,000+ it would cost to furnish a classroom means sacrificing something else. And there are a lot of other things I’d rather do with that money. I’d rather give everyone a raise, so that we can better afford to live in the expensive Bay Area. I’d rather build a recording studio to even further improve the quality of movies my students are making. I’d rather give our families more financial aid, so that they can participate in our community. I’d rather take my students on awesome field trips so that they can further experience the things we’re learning.
So, yes, that furniture looks shiny, and it’d be great to have it in my classroom. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to me. My people matter to me, and learning matters to me, and I can love people and teach people anywhere.