How we can create the best classroom environments in SHS


Sideview of Margaret Locke's Creative Writing class. Photo taken by Lara Decastecker.

Lara Decastecker, Contributing Writer

When people go to school, they should ask themselves a very important question: Is this the best learning environment Solon can possibly have? I know that you don’t always want to be at school, and I know you might think the white walls might make it look like we’re in a hospital. Undeniably, there’s also stress, worries and expectations looming over your head. Nonetheless, we should try to make the best out of it! Success all starts with how we participate everyday.

First off, attention should be placed on the aspects in our classroom right now, like it’s setup. The way desks are placed can be extremely impactful to the structure of someone’s education. I personally dislike rows with a passion if it’s a group-based class with little lecturing.

SHS English Teacher Margaret Locke, is an avid supporter of the “horseshoe” (desks in a semicircle, two to three rows thick) for multiple reasons, one being the sense of community it creates.

“Students do the best when they’re not just listening to me talk, but listening to each other and seeing the ideas their peers have,” Locke said.

Her desk structure fosters more participation and makes it more comfortable for students who can’t see as well or simply want to be in the first row. Since my eyesight isn’t the best (and I sometimes choose not to wear my glasses, it’s a thing), it’s really a helpful opportunity. Also, a teacher can walk around in front of the class and capture their students attention in an engaging manner. In addition, students are able to easily pair up because of group centered structures.

“The ‘U’ allows me to have little pods of teams” said another SHS English Teacher, Laura Fitch. “[The students] are able to turn their desks [around] and meet with one another without much difficulty.”

Also, while Cynthia Kyler, a Math teacher at SHS doesn’t use a horseshoe, she takes on a similar approach when she doesn’t have students in their usual teams.

“Sometimes I put them in pairs so there’s more focus,” Kyler said.

In pairs, students are across from each other, and while some teachers might think that this could be distracting, it provides more of an inclusive environment.

On the topic of inclusivity, the lighting can contribute. Depending on whether a classroom has windows or not, its fluorescent lights are necessary, but intolerant. The addition of ambient light, however, can be more pleasing for the eye.

“I finally brought in a lamp so it’s a little less harsh, “ Fitch said.

Now, teachers are beginning to jump onto the bandwagon of bringing in softer lights to stimulate a more enjoyable environment, even though there’s still a component that ultimately overshadows comfortability.

“Lighting really depends on the activity you are doing,” Locke said. “If I have a test and I really want my students to stay alert, I’m gonna leave the lights on.”

Student participation is also highly affected by the temperature in a classroom. Some teachers have fans or are lucky to have air conditioning. In the past year, the art wing introduced air conditioning so that now they can regulate their classrooms. Beforehand, it was steaming hot. The heat caused students to not be engaged or at their full potential. Now, the problem of overheating continues still during warm weather when the air conditioning can’t get to all parts of the room.

“Very low gage.. If it’s too stuffy in here, you can just see it,” Fitch said. “ [The students are] closing their eyes, [have] sweaty faces, [are] more lethargic.”

If it’s too cold on the other hand, it’s a completely different issue. This occurs mostly during winter, causing some people to fall into a habit of bringing blankets to school. I mean, I’ve been guilty of such.

“I think it’s distracting… because of the way the air conditioning is, there’s certain parts of the room that get colder more quickly,” Fitch said.

Overall, the temperature problem has a simpler solution than getting perfect air conditioning in every single classroom. We students have to be responsible and dress for our classes. Well, it’s different in every classroom. Hm nevermind. Wear layers?

Now onto decorations, decorations, and more decorations. Colors, figure heads, posters. All fun stuff, really. Every teacher has their own preference for their classroom, and the more decorations on the walls (and on the ceilings in some), the more welcoming a classroom seems to be.

“I hear a lot of discussions on what I’m putting on my bullet board this year or what different posters we are ordering,” Fitch said.

Decorations definitely create a more personable environment for the student and the teacher.

“So [the place is] just not sterile, I always decorate my space,” Kyler said. “I decorate at home, I decorate here, not like over the top or anything.”

Otherwise, you might feel trapped by blaring white walls in classes where there’s nothing.

Furthermore, a touchy topic that is often overlooked or forgotten is the notion of cheating in a classroom. In a way, there’s a certain way around it, and it doesn’t involve the components of a classroom almost at all.

Since a lot of the cheating happens outside of the classroom, Locke believes that there’s not much you can do with the structure of one. Also, handing out different versions and simply being diligent about being watchful are the most effective strategies in her opinion.

In addition, cheating will only bring bad karma. Don’t be that kind of nice to your friends. It’s just not worth it to try folks.

“I really believe that if kids are cheating that they’re not doing anything good for themselves,” Kyler said. “Eventually it’s going to catch up to [them] and they’re going to get into a program and have no idea what they’re doing.”

Teachers and administration are doing everything they can do, so that department deserve the credit they get. Still, students can speak up if you have a concern. Even though most of this knowledge might be quite obvious to you, the voice of the students is make a lot of changes here at SHS. When we wanted air conditioning in the art wing, we got it because a high percentage of us asked for it. I believe that we don’t have to be interior designers to have an opinion and someday, perhaps make a difference.