I made the right choice. I finished setting up with more than week to go before school starts, and I have had several days to work in my newly-arranged space. I'm finding that I mostly like the set up, and that when I walk in the room, my focus is on the areas where the kids will work and learn, not on my desk space. You can see photos of my finished classroom here.
The area I am most excited about is (as usual) my living room meeting space. I've had these two sofas and rug in my classroom for two years, and I've found that whole class discussions and mini-lessons have a more intimate feel when we meet in this space. Yes, it is a more informal space, but it is a more comfortable space for most kids. In addition to the sofas, I have several bean bags, a couple of stools, and some kids usually choose to sit in the chairs near the space. Sometimes I encourage the kids to sit in a circle so everyone can see everyone else, and sometimes I just let them sit willy-nilly in the space. It really just depends on the nature of the activity we're doing.
Way back when, I never would have believed that a meeting area was necessary in my middle school classroom, but about five years ago I had the opportunity to observe in our elementary buildings. Almost every classroom I went into had a meeting area of some sort. I noticed how at ease the kids felt and how willing they were to participate in discussions and share their thinking. I compared that to the kinds of discussions that were happening in my own classroom, which were often flat with very few students participating. I know that the change I've seen over the past few years can not be chalked up simply to the addition of two ugly couches and one old rug. BUT I truly believe that the fact that I put much more thought into creating a welcoming environment where kids feel safe to take risks has certainly helped.
So what do I think my classroom says about me?
1. I value reading. Books are all over my room, shelved face out, and I talk about books all of the time.
2. I value kids' thinking. Eventually (once there are some kids actually in my room) co-constructed charts and student work will cover the walls and bulletin boards.
3. The main focus of the class is the kids. My desk area is in the back of the room. If there was space in my school to move my desk to an office space, I would move it out of the room completely, but that's not an option at this time.
4. I understand that different kinds of work require different work spaces. I have whole group spaces, small group spaces, and spaces where kids can work alone or in pairs.
I'd love to know if you agree. What does my classroom say about me?