Then we took time to walk around our existing space to imagine what we wanted it to look like. One large wall will be knocked down and 4 large internal sliding doors will be removed, opening up the space into one large central room with 3 large bays, 2 smaller bays, 2 cloak rooms and 1 withdrawal office coming off it. We decided that each large bay should be the home for either reading, writing or maths. This will allow us to centralize our resources into that space and use the large floor to ceiling display wall to show curriculum related progressions. We decided to knock out some windows between two spaces and make a breakfast bar look through space instead. We decided that the larger central space would support integrated inquiry and developmental play resources. We even identified an area to turn into a "cave". We also decided to develop the outside space that runs behind the block into an outdoor learning space, with water play, sand play and gardening.
At the heart of all this talk about spaces though is a realization that modern learning spaces are negotiated spaces, flexible spaces and collaborative spaces. They are about empowering students as self-motivated, self-regulted learners, which is a big order for five year olds brand new to school. Our understanding of how we will move around and use these spaces is still rather nebulous. We have a few (very few yet firm) parameters from SMT. We have been told that all teachers need to collaborate strongly together both in planning and teaching. Teachers and students are expected to use all the learning spaces flexibly and not to claim any one space as their zone. We know that while we will each have a homeroom list of students, in practice all students will be pooled and taught by different teachers according to identified learning needs.
I am excited by the upcoming journey and also a little bit scared. The other day I dreamt of a beautiful collaborative learning environment with all students engaged, but when I woke up I realized that all the children in the dream were ten years old. Five year olds will be altogether different. It is great though to have this new professional journey to undertake. Open plan classrooms of the 70's were in most part a failure. Now we are breaking down the walls again, but this time it is supported by pedagogical practices such as Inquiry, Assessment for Learning (AFL) and The Thinking Curriculum. Additionally, we have technological resources to support more flexible and integrated approaches to learning.
This blog has floundered for lack of focus as I have made the transition from teaching in an international school in China to teaching back home in New Zealand after an 18 year absence. Part of this was due to only having a fixed-term contract of 6 months. It is hard to dig deep into professional inquiry when employment is not stable. Now, however, I have a permanent teaching contract starting in 2015. To focus this blog, my professional inquiry will be centered around the development of successful teaching and learning in a Modern Learning Environment (MLE) for Early Years (EY) students. Hopefully, I will be able to connect with professionals around the globe engaging in a similar journey if discovery.