Environments of Education

We noticed the green mugs first. The handle was the perfect size for a preschooler’s hand, and adorned on each one was a name. Jack. Grace. Ezra. Colby…

Linnea’s preschool felt instantly inviting and cozy on the tour we took over the summer. Plants were on the window shelves, convenient for young hands to water. Pictures were hung closer to the floor than in most homes. There were nooks and crannies scattered throughout the space encouraging youngs ones to explore.

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I want to go to that school, I told Ben and Linnea in the car as we left. More than myself, I was also thinking of my high school students. The ones who have been in school now for over a decade of their life. Do they feel invited, cozy, welcome in the classrooms and hallways?

The first writing assignment of the school year in my high school English classroom was a literacy autobiography…tell me about your history with reading and writing, I asked. And as I read their memories, I kept thinking of my preschool-aged daughter. I thought of her because most of their memories with school began at her current age. Whoa. I had the epiphany. The epiphany that my little girl will one day in high school.

The high schools I have worked at have white walls, fluorescent lights, and curtainless windows. Not that these are necessarily bad, per se, they just don’t conjure up the same kind of feeling one finds when walking into most preschools. And I believe that students–regardless of their age–want to enjoy  and feel at home in the space in which they are learning.

There have been some positives to the high school learning environments in which I have worked:

-My teaching buddy, Mary, decorates her classroom complete with a Christmas tree, tinsel, and lights for her seniors every year.

-Artwork by students have adorned the walls of both schools’ hallways

-I try to make my classroom bright and inspiring…posters, artwork, student artwork, and pictures and books that matter to me so that student share what matter most to them.  (Although, right now it is in a state of end-of-semester messiness…Christmas break, are you here yet?)

-Following Thanskgiving break this year, students and staff were welcomed with  Christmas, warm, white lights twinkling in all the major hallways, overhead lights turned off.

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-And one of my students likes to surprise her classmates with costumes such as this… (I mean, who doesn’t love unicorns?)

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Ultimately, I hope my daughter will feel at home and happy in every school she attends just as she feels now in her Montessori preschool of only 24 students. Because as a parent and a teacher, I can’t shake the notion that environment matters…perhaps even, most of all.

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