What schools look and feel like now

Where is this classroom and what do you notice about it? Is it a place where learning can effectively take place?

The answer to the first part of the first  question is Chicago Illinois in the U.S.A. and this is one of a number of photographs taken by teachers and students in response to Slate Magazine‘s “Through Your Lens” Competition, where they asked for photographs of schools showing the good things and the bad that people wanted to focus their cameras on.

I really liked the commentaries that went with the photos. In the case of the picture above the commentary was:

Covering the Mistakes: This is an example of how the majority of our classrooms look, paint falling off the walls and teachers trying to cover them with students’ art.—Wendy, Chicago.

I can hear Wendy's voice in her commentary and her voice is saying that this just isn't good enough because
I have to sit in this room and study for a number of hours of my week and then I am expected to pass the tests that you
 have set for me (interestingly she lives in Barack Obama's home town and the old stomping ground of Arne Duncan!!)
The rest of the photographs show overcrowded stairwells and bathrooms (toilets) that have doors that are never shut
creating embarrassment  for the students and a feeling that they cannot be trusted. There are though   some positive photographs,
my favourite is this:The commentary on this picture is: 
Hide Out: On your  first day of school, you put your hand print on the wall of the  "hideout,"
a room where students of all classes relax between classes.  Hundreds of hand prints from years of graduated students decorate
the  walls. The chalkboard shows our commitment to education. It is blank so  as to inspire creativity.—Hannah, Omaha, Neb.

Slate magazine is also about to begin a "hived project" in which they are inviting contributions towards a description of "A New
American Classroom". To read about this see the article 

My School Looks Like This

By Linda Perlstein

Hopefully a large number of students will feel encouraged to submit their designs about the kinds of classrooms that they want to spend their time in and hopefully they, or at least their children will be able to study in an environment truly “fit for learning”.

Coming as I do from the U.K. I would love to see the “Through Your Lens” and “Future Classroom Design” ideas here. I feel that we have many of the same problems with outdated school buildings as is the case in the U.S.A. (our Government recently scrapped the “Building Schools For the Future” Programme which has meant many futuristic designs for more appropriate learning spaces has had to be dropped!)

Maybe we can make the “classroom of the future” an international collaboration.

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