Cube Reflections and Classroom Isolation
I have a cube!
I thought that tweeting about it would be enough
Have I mentioned how awesome it is to share office/conversation space with fascinating, hilarious math women? Makes every damn day better.—
Andrew Carle (@tieandjeans) August 28, 2012
but then @rdpickle went and actually blogged about her awesome collaboration with Molly. I’m blessed this year to have have a dedicated grown-up desk (first ever!) in the same cube-pod with those two, and their amazing partnership.
I stumbled through my early 20s. In the span of a year, I went from working double shifts in low-rent restaurant kitchens, through corporate tutoring center, computer lab support and finally to teaching a few sections of math in borrowed classrooms. There’s other things to say about the way that wandering route shaped me as an educator, but it certainly cured me of the need for “my own” desk. Having a space that wasn’t filled with fryer grease was luxury enough.
Last year, instead of trying to claim an “extra” space from a classroom (no such thing!), I embraced my nomadic spirit and built a 18x18x40″ rolling cart to serve as home base. For half the year, I planted it squarely in the middle of the 8th grade lounge, and used my Foot Clan training to blend seamlessly into background.
There can be legitimate concerns about my ninja-inspired teaching support, but it certainly furthered my goal to be where I was needed before the need was obvious. This only happens when I can talk to students and teachers at length about anything but tech and teaching. While this was great for my actual job (my productivity skyrocketed last year just by trimming off the loop between “thought of a problem” and “got around to mailing that tech guy” ), it was even better for my teaching soul. Every conversation about teaching craft and classroom practice sustained me through a dozen fights with the print server.
Now my home-base is smack in the middle of these amazing conversations! I’ve started to sense the massive positive footprint of the collaborative spirit fostered by these spaces.
Even though our middle school seems large to me (6 sections per grade!), the teaching faculty is too small and space too precious to create a dedicated space for teachers to plan, collaborate and dream. Our middle school teachers are already isolated by grade level, schedule and subject. They’re the ones in most desperate need of wider conversation, clarifying questions, dissenting opinions, and inter-disciplinary perspective.
This sounds way to precious to be about a cube-farm. But the message of the cubes is that there’s a crucial aspect of teaching practice that needs the input and cooperation of other teachers. To build an amazing classroom, you need strength and support from outside the classroom as well. Modular office furniture might not be the most powerful way to deliver that message, but it’s a start.