Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My space.

I spend fourteen seventy-five minute periods each week in one battered portable classroom, that's happily not going anywhere. I say that because last year, every other movable classroom was actually rounded up and moved down to one of the 'playing fields'. These relocated rooms are too far from toilets and running water for my preferences. The whole set up is often referred to as Siberia, as in, shit I've got an extra in Siberia. One has to allow a good five minutes to get down to Siberia if one is teaching down there. And in our sequestered days, counted out in minutes, that can really add to one's load.

I wanted to write about my work space: what's good about it; what stinks, literally.

My portable classroom is actually half of a double set, with offices and poky storerooms in the middle. As I said, it's battered. I've been teaching exclusively in this room for about six years now. The walls of my room are dirty off white. The room was painted in 2004 because some thoughtful maintenance person found some tins of paint somewhere and my room was next in line for a spruce up. But that paint has flaked off where students rock back against the walls on their green plastic chairs. They also kick them occasionally, as one does I suppose. I've also stopped one student idly picking the paint off the wall with her long finger-nails.

The carpet in my home away from home is putrid grey-brown and pocked with ground-in Blu Tak and chewing gum. There's an unsettling whiff of urine about the room; human not cat. It's concerning. The carpet is allegedly cleaned annually, yet the stench remains. Hope it's not me.

The desks, which I've arranged in an educationally unsound - according to the zeitgeist at our school - horseshoe shape, have brown hacked and scraped wood-grain laminex tops. They're gouged and scrawled upon, despite my regular efforts with methylated spirit and elbow grease. The problem is that other teachers use this space for the six periods that I'm not in there, and they have less of an anal retention problem than I. The desks are also of two different heights, so the whole effect is higgledy-piggledy crap.

My office adjoins my classroom. The office is little more than an overstuffed small rectangular box. All my office furniture is mismatched throw out stuff, appropriated during renovations of other areas of the school. There's a hole in the ceiling that allows access to the occasional wasp. Bit of fun on a hot day. The windows also admit the afternoon sun. No blinds. No air-con. If it's over 25, the office becomes stifling; unuseable.

Even so, I like it.

It's handy having one's office attached to one's classroom. None of that lugging of materials to various locations. I've also got a lockable storeroom for my bike. Very convenient.

I'm working towards the positives - and they far outweigh the negatives - of this space.

Lots of other rooms in the school have been modernised to be open spaces, not unlike fishbowls. In these fresh rooms, the new colourful tables must be grouped in 'islands' to facilitate better teaching and learning. ('Prin class', as they like to be known, get shirty when you move the desks to fit a lecture style of teaching.) In these rooms, the teacher doesn't have his or her own desk because today's teacher should be moving amongst the students, engaging them. Fair enough, but sometimes one needs to allow the students quiet time to actually get on with their own work, without the teacher bothering them, especially in a creative writing or senior English class. (I don't like people watching over my shoulder when I'm trying to write.)

So my room, with its broken mismatched blinds, and politically incorrect desk arrangement, has escaped the desk police. Apart from students and a couple of teachers, no one comes near my learning space. This means I'm missing out on the refurbishments that seem to have happened elsewhere in the school, but at the same time, I'm left alone to do my own teaching thing. Which is good because I know what I'm doing and I do it well.

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