I love coffee. I also love my job. Sometimes, I will go to a coffee shop to work on my job.
I’m a High School English teacher, which means I have a lot of planning, grading, and moderating on my to-do list. I often like to take my work to the local coffee shop (I don’t want to mention any names, but it rhymes with Shmarbucks) and do my work there. It’s not because I can’t do it at home or while I’m at school; it’s more because there is something about being in a café, surrounded by the sweet smell of roasted coffee beans, that puts me into a trance. I will sit at a corner table, unpack my laptop, papers, and colourful pens, and begin an epic three to four hour journey into completing whatever it is that needs to get done. I don’t mind the music they play at the shop, but sometimes I will plug into my own playlist and listen to the soulful sounds of Chet Baker as I wade through a pile of Written Tasks.
I’ve always wanted to create this atmosphere in my own classroom, but I was never quite sure how to do it. I began the 2016-17 school year by creating a tea and coffee corner. I brought in a kettle and a basket full of various teas. I encouraged my students to bring in their own mugs and help themselves to whatever was available in the basket. A few of them took advantage of this, but the idea never took off the way I expected. I figured it was because regardless of my attempt at making a café corner, my classroom was still just that: a classroom.
My dream was to create a learning space that was conducive to learning in a relaxed atmosphere. Our Digital Literacy Coaches (DLC’s) helped to make this dream become a reality.
In one afternoon, Tricia, Keri-Lee, and Dave transformed my classroom into one with more space (how?), more options (what?), and more focus (where?). What was once a space full of rectangular tables and plastic chairs became a space full of individualised learning, mobility, and comfort. The aged and worn posters came off the walls and in their places hung images of coffee-related items that took on an air of literary discourse.
This is just the beginning.
I’ve purchased (fake) plants for each pod area (I don’t have a green thumb), and have created a menu of literary terms to which students can refer when writing their assignments. I’ve also brought in floor cushions to match the decor of the room thus far. I’m not going to do much more right now; there are plans to knock out a wall, put up a window looking into the hallway, and add a bar-height table underneath along with some stools so that students can work “outside” but still be part of the classroom (does this make sense? it makes sense in my head…)
You may be wondering why I would even take up such a task. Who cares what my learning space looks like, amiright? But I disagree. If I feel more comfortable in a space that makes me feel welcome, relaxed, and safe, then wouldn’t my students benefit from the same thing?
If you are also looking to make some changes, you might want to start by watching these very short videos: one on classroom flexibility and one on designing learning spaces that build community. I think you’ll find that there’s just enough information here to make your classroom re-design doable without feeling overwhelming.
What changes are you thinking of making? How will you re-design your learning space? Finally, how important of a role does coffee play in all of this?