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!

YOGA FOR DEPRESSION – 11.20.14 (The Holding Environment)

Most of our thoughts never get to see the glimmer of the sun or the depth of the moon.  They stay hidden inside us.  We all have parts of us that we believe have been, are or could be burdens on others.  Those thoughts keep our thoughts held deep within us.  Caged.  And in that cage develops frustration, anger, resentment and a list of other emotions.  Our thoughts simply need an environment that is safe enough to handle them with care.  Where is that place?

For me (and I hope you), it resides on my mat.  It is a place where I can go and release.  There are not a lot of words.  There is a lot of movement.  The connection between the brain and the body is so significant throughout our lives.  We were not cognizant enough in our infancy to understand this.  We took in the world through our physical body.  The experience of touch was so important to our development.  The experience of life from that point forward began to turn inward.  However, none of us were trained as to the importance of our mental health.  We were not cognizant enough in our youth to find this appealing.  As the years grow on us, the amount the brain has to deal with increases.  There must be an outlet.  There must be a place for the brain to release.  For me (and I hope you), it resides on my mat.

I hope that your practice continues to grow.  My 200 hour training through YogaFit allowed me to learn new asanas (poses), the philosophy of Yoga, the Yamas, Niyamas, Sutras, Mantras, Mudras and so on.  One of the deepest understandings that I took away from my training was how the present is the moment.  I am free to grasp and develop my world based on my reactions to the now.  So I decided to let my mat become a place where I can let out the bad, grotesque, dark, and disgusting.  And when I remove those things, I have made more room for light, love, compassion, and gratitude.  Let your mat be a safe place to do your physical practice and your emotional practice.  The brain and the body need one another in a beautiful symbiotic relationship.  Watch that relationship blossom through your practice.

The Holding Environment

Psychologists call this a “holding environment.”  It’s the place we feel safe enough to do emotional work.  In the context of a Yoga class, you want to be free to experience what is most authentic about yourself, without the risk of feeling judged.

A “holding environment” can take the form of a relationship with a therapist, a Yoga class, or even a community of living friends.  “No one will go to the depths of terror alone,” says Lama Palden Drolma.  “The experience of not trusting the universe arises in our families so that by having a loving presence in our sangha (community) or therapy, someone to hold the space while we’re in turmoil, we begin again to trust the world.”  How do we learn to trust when the neural patterns that establish the template for our relationships throughout our lives were formed in the limbic (feeling) brain based on the kind of care we received early in life?  “When a limbic connection (important relationship) has established a neural pattern,” say the authors of A General Theory of Love, “it takes a limbic connection to revise it.”  Reading self-help books does not alter neural pathways.  We must experience the change in our bodies and in the limbic soup where our attachments were first formed.

BOOK – “Yoga for Depression” by Amy Weintraub (BUY IT!)