Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Inspiring Spaces. Deserving Faces by Amy Fadeji

What does your classroom say about the learning that takes place within the four walls of your room? Is learning dull? Bright? Cluttered? Organized? Exciting? Full of compliance? Are students seen as only individuals or is teamwork a priority in your room? Has your “teacher desk” turned into a “teacher corner”?

 Yikes. Over the past year and a half, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time working with staff members to create intentional inspiring spaces on campus. Why? We see them every day: deserving faces.

 Our students deserve to learn in places that are fun to be in, that make them excited about learning, and that foster creativity. Spaces that that inspire, not require. Think about your favorite coffee shop, wine bar, or another neat space where you find yourself wanting to spend time simply because of the environment and space. For me, comfy seating is a must, and great music, laughter and cheerful decor go a long way too.

 Last year, one of the 3rd grade teachers at Penngrove came to me and shared that she wanted new desks because hers were too big. Being the supportive principal that I strive to be, I invited our Chief Business Officer (CBO) to campus to take a look at the classroom and see if we could purchase some different desks.

When that attempt went nowhere, I pretty much told Ms. O’Neil, “Sorry, just do the best you can.” About a week later Ms. O’Neil came to me and said, “Amy I HAVE to get rid of these desks, they are getting in the way of learning for my students.” That was all I needed to hear. I was all in.

Within a week, Ms. O’Neil transformed her classroom. A fun trip to IKEA, a little bribery with her fiance and my husband, a couple of Winter Break “vacation days” and we were in business! Desks were replaced with tables. White board paint filled the room. A variety of seating options scattered for student choice. A table for Chromebooks. Fun carpets. Less “stuff." Less teacher. More students. 

After the transformation in Room 7, little spaces all over campus began to change. A teacher “storage room” was turned into the “5th grade lounge.” An old book room suddenly had a couch, bean bag chairs, twinkling lights, and became the hip hangout for 6th graders. Special reading corners and nooks popped up overnight. And all because our staff was reflecting on inspiring spaces and deserving faces.

For anyone ready to wrestle with this exciting adventure, these guiding questions may be helpful:
What vibe/feeling do you want to create for the students in your classroom? 
What does your classroom say about you? What do you value? 
If students were given the choice, would they come to your class each day? Would they want to be with you? In your room? 
Far too often, we fill our walls with too much stuff, just because it is what we have always done. Consider simplifying. Fewer distractions. Less clutter. Not as many bulletin boards. Allow yourself to create a blank slate. A clean canvas. Re-think your space and make a few simple changes that create a happier learning and working environment for all. After all, everyone is worthy of inspiring spaces. Especially deserving faces.

 You can learn more about inspiring faces at an upcoming Future Ready Summit near you! We'll be in Orange County on June 20th and in the Tri-State area Nov. 7th.

Amy Fadeji is the principal of Penngrove Elementary in Petaluma, California. In her third year as principal, she has found herself reaching out to educators across the country to build a growing network of innovative and inspiring colleagues. After attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and later the University of Southern Mississippi, Amy taught second and third grades for seven years in Mobile, Alabama and San Anselmo, California before launching her career in administration. Amy is passionate about supporting teachers, modeling and encouraging risk-taking, and collaborating with other educators around the country. You can follow Amy on Twitter (@mrsfadeji) or read her latest blog post at mrsfadeji.blogspot.com.


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