2018-2019 Year End Reflection – Learning Environment / Classroom Decoration

2018-2019 is over.

Time to REFLECT!

Ferndale Middle School implemented Opportunity Culture MultiClassroom Leaders for Math, ELA and Science (my subject specialty).  Thanks also to Public Impact for being a part of this implementation as well.  I was able to assist 10 science/social studies teachers in our building by co-planning, co-teaching, modeling, observing, coaching, and more as a MultiClassroom Leader II.  I was also able to impact the ~750 scholars in our building.  Big jump from the 100 I worked with while my classroom at Allen Jay Prep. There were several challenges throughout the year, but let’s break it down …

What we did … Learning Environment / Classroom Decoration.

When I stepped foot onto the campus of Allen Jay Middle: A Preparatory Academy, I was challenged to create a learning environment that wow’d my scholars.  My first year was pretty lame, ha!  I learned quite a bit from those scholars and through self reflection and check out versions 2.0 & 3.0 below.  2.0 comes from 2015-2016 when I taught 6th Grade Math/Science.  3.0 comes from 2016-2018 when I taught 8th grade Science.

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And if you’re wondering, “is that the same ceiling in two different rooms?”  The answer would be YEP!  Back in 2016 myself and some colleagues / family assisted in one of the largest puzzles ever.  Check out version 4.0 from this past school year at Ferndale Middle School with a little before & after.

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What I’ve been doing for the past four years of my educational career is trying to create an inviting and amazing place to learn.  Scholars, staff, visitors and myself loved our learning environments!  I chose to BE the example.  At the start of the year, scholars and staff came by my room and “Marvel”ed at the transformation.  I chose to SET the standard.

Check out some examples from this past year at Ferndale Middle.  Proud of our staff for bringing their classrooms to life!

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Why we did … Learning Environment / Classroom Decoration.

We reviewed this article from Edutopia throughout the year.  The site connects research studies to the “Dos and Don’ts” of our topic.  Their list was the norm we aspired to throughout the year to meet the needs of our scholars.
  • Display student work. Students not only feel a greater sense of responsibility for their learning but are also more likely to remember the material (Barrett et al., 2015).
  • Feature inspiring role models. Putting up images—and short stories or quotes—featuring heroes and leaders can help students gain a greater sense of belonging and aspiration, especially when their backgrounds and interests are represented. Strive for inclusion, but avoid token or stereotypical representations—they can be damaging to students’ self-esteem (Cheryan et al., 2014).
  • Avoid clutter. Keep at least 20 percent of your wall space clear, and leave ample space between displays so they don’t look disorganized. Resist the temptation to keep adding decorations—it’s better to swap them out than to keep adding more (Barrett et al., 2015).
  • Visual aids—like anchor charts, maps, and diagrams—are OK. Posters that reinforce a lesson, rather than distract from it, can boost student learning. But don’t forget to take down ones that are no longer helpful (Carney & Levin, 2002Bui & McDaniel, 2015).
  • Avoid displays of student scores or grades. Many teachers use data walls to motivate students, and while they can work for high performers, they can backfire for struggling students, leading to feelings of shame and demoralization (Marsh et al., 2014).
  • Let in natural light. Don’t cover up your windows with decorations unless you have a problem with glare or outside distractions. Students who are exposed to more natural light in their classrooms outperform peers who get less natural light in math and reading (Cheryan et al., 2014). If you don’t have windows, making sure the room is well lit can boost achievement (Barrett et al., 2015).
  • Balance wall colors. You don’t have to stick with four white walls—try having a single feature wall painted a bright color, with the rest being muted (Barrett et al., 2015).

How we did … Learning Environment / Classroom Decoration.

We challenged teachers to utilize their rooms in new and inviting ways.  I believe that the biggest challenge we faced was consistency.  Maintaining an epic location takes buy-in and support from all stakeholders.  Staff have to set the example and show scholars what goes into keeping a room inviting and clean.  Scholars can support the vision and hard work of the staff member.  Middle schoolers are a bit on the messy side, but that’s what learning is.  It is taking us from the messy to the magnificent.  The second challenge we grew in was interactivity.  We wanted our rooms to be a showcase for our scholars.  What amazing creations could we share with their peers and with visitors?

Check out some examples from our staff from this past year …

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Results from … Learning Environment / Classroom Decoration.

GROWTH!  Scholars & Teachers utilized their learning environment / classroom decoration to maintain connection to the learning process & scholar personal interest.  We believe this lead to high scholar engagement compared to 2017-2018.  The data below shows a substantial decrease in Level 1’s with growth in Levels 2-5.  Our scholars were inspired by teachers to perform their best because we gave them our best all year long.

Data Comparision

If you or your school are interested in knowing more, then feel free to comment below or reach out to me personally.  Thanks for tuning in!

YAMAS AND NIYAMAS – 03.10.15 (Svadhyaya – Projections)

I began my public education career as a middle grades science teacher almost twelve years ago.  I started with vis-a-vis wet erase markers and an overhead projector.

Now that I’ve dated myself a bit, there is no difference in the technological advances of today.  Classrooms have become equipped with Promethean ActivBoards or SMART Boards (and other competitor variations).  The concept remains the same.  The content that is on the transparency or in the computer is projected from one place to another.  Participants study the material and prepare for an assessment of some sort.  What is in is sent out, what is sent out is taken in.

Let’s apply this concept to ourselves.  What is in is sent out.  Svadhyaya asks us to take time to self-study, self-reflect.  Math, science, language arts, social studies and school in general is relatively straight forward in what is inside.  We can open a textbook and have a pretty idea the content that is inside.  We are quite the amazing variable.  We can look at each other and make inferences about the past, the present and the future.  However, we will never know a complete story.  We will never know each other completely.

What is in is sent out.  Therefore, we are asked to look inward and see our content, our character.  If we see hate and anger and bitterness in the world, then are those a part of us?  Where did they come from?  Why are they there?  If we see love and beauty and joy in the world, then are those a part of us?  Where did they come from?  Why are they there?  The projections that we see in our world cannot come from the outside in.  They come from the inside out.  Before we move quickly to judge the actions of the world around us, let’s first ask … what is inside us?

Svadhyaya – Projections

Do this experiment now:  without thinking, quickly write down the first five things that come to your mind that describe the world as you see it.

Every comment that you have used to describe the world will tell you more about yourself than about the world.  Every comment you make about the world, about another person, about an event, about life, is a projection of yourself and a clue to your interior landscape.  The world is your autobiography.

The world and others simply reflect back to us what we are seeing, not what is there.  It is as if wherever we look, there are only mirrors that show us pictures of ourselves.

“We cannot love or hate something about another person or the world unless it is already inside of us first.”

The world changes to fit the story you are telling.

As you begin to steadfastly pay attention to what you are saying to yourself about the moment, the other person, yourself, and life, you will get clues about the “boxes” you have wrapped yourself in that create you own little universe.  All of these utterances are projections of the parts of yourself you love, don’t love, can see, don’t want to see, or accept or can’t yet accept.

Book – “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele (BUY IT!!!)