A classroom is just a space, be it a hut of happiness or a shed of silence, a hall of hard work or a field of dreams.
So how much does the environment affect your students’ outcomes? Are the displays made up of keywords, model work, AOs or important quotations? Are they on plastic covered display boards or simply an incomplete alphabet spray painted across the inside of a tent? Are they for the students’ benefit, or does it make the teacher happier if they spend their days in a multi-coloured rainbow of a room? Is the classroom the glitter that makes the students sparkle and shine, or simply the cherry topping on the teacher’s well planned cup-cake lessons?
I write this blog after wondering whether our wonderful new classroom in Dunkirk will change the students learning experiences for the better. I think that it will.
No-one can deny the excitement that Edlumino’s teachers felt and the impact that was made when a Belgian school donated desks and chairs to our old tent, or the increase in the number of students who arrived early to school when we finally had a log burner and chimney put in.
So, now we have a floor and walls, windows and doors the world of teaching and learning is our oyster. I cannot explain the joy that we felt as we put our precious books into the brand new stock cupboard, as we piled the stationary cupboard high, with so many of your generous donations. Teachers love a cupboard. They love their own space, we are all territorial types deep down.
And, oh how I grinned, and even felt my black-coal heart dance a little, as I sorted laminate sheets into neat piles and passed them to Ginny, who labelled dividers and organised them into our brand new filing cabinet.
We beamed as we created files for each of our students, excitedly filling them with their exercise books and workbooks, with a teacher sheet to track what previous volunteers had done and what they could do next to ensure that our Hurdish learners keep on learning lots. I have no doubt that although the data drops and marking fads are grinding some of our UK based colleagues down a little of late, that now we have the ability to track and monitor effectively that it will have a very positive impact. Our classroom is organised, so our students learning can be organised too. Everything in that classroom is simple, effective and done because it will help our students to learn better, faster, more effectively. Not for someone to check up or hold us accountable, for we do that ourselves. Our expectations are high, of ourselves and of the kiddies.
We have a real, proper classroom now, complete with windows and doors and lights; we even have our feeder classroom opposite, on the other side of their astroturf playground.
We have books and pens and whiteboards and no longer need to worry about mud nor wind destroying the tasks. Our students need not shiver not get wet when it rains. This is progress. We are fully resourced, and have a link to our updated wish list on the Edlumino.org website, so please do keep us topped up on the things that we most need.
Thanks to the generosity of some we have all the pens and rulers and glue-sticks and pencils that we could hope for in our new classroom. But what we really need, the most coveted, and rare resources of all, are teachers. We have volunteers for the holidays but are in desperate need of qualified teachers, be you progressive or traditionalist or a bit in between like me, part time or retired or just in between work, who could commit to a day or two each week during term time, or who could join the team in term time for a block of time, be it just a few weeks.
The children in camp are wonderful and bright, they laugh and engage and they keep trying until they get it. Our new classroom is dry and well stocked. But just as a tent without a teacher to teach the children is just a tent, a room without a teacher is not a classroom. It is just a room. A nice room, but just a room.
If you can help us to grow our space into a stimulating successful educational environment, and be the pedagogical golddust that will make our learners truly shine, please register your interest on the Edlumino website. These lovely, hardworking, funny and sweet children could really do with a few more teachers.
Natalie Scott is a qualified English teacher, currently teaching in a school in Hertfordshire. To read more from her reflections on teaching and education go to https://nataliehscott.wordpress.com and follow her on twitter @nataliehscott