People think it is funny when I tell them I get nervous speaking to groups of people. “Aren’t you a teacher?” they ask. “Isn’t your job to speak to groups of people every day?” Well yes, but there is something different about speaking to adults. I have moved on from being a lurker to now participating in the online world through Twitter and other social media. So now I have to learn how to “speak” in front of groups of adults.
I was given the opportunity to present on flexible learning spaces as part of a workshop by the EAL department. They were presenting how to create inclusive environments for all learners. This would be my first big professional presentation, and it was to 105 colleagues and administrators. I like to ease into things, I guess.
I chose to focus on flexible learning environments because I have always encouraged students to take ownership and help create our learning spaces. Giving students agency is a large part of the new Enhanced PYP, so this is a great opportunity to give them voice and choice from the very beginning. Also, I know how uncomfortable those classroom chairs are. I often have to stand up part way through planning meetings because my butt is sore! I got inspired to take my classroom design to the next level from a PD about Conceptual Co-Teaching given by Nikki Bourgeois. At my current school, each classroom has two teachers – one expat and one Chinese – and we co-teach our lessons all day. It is beneficial for so many reasons to have two teachers in the classroom. But it also creates twice as much “teacher stuff” to deal with.
Back to my big break. The presentation was given in the gym, and each grade level sat at tables because there was going to be a lot of curriculum planning. I purposefully set PE equipment around the room to offer a variety of seating options for the teachers. Unfortunately, these were not used by many teachers. Maybe our own schooling made it difficult for us to step outside the box and sit on the mat instead of at a desk. For my slides, I chose a black background with white text so the words would stand out in the large bright gym. I purposefully put very little text on each slide and included a thought-provoking image because I wanted the audience to be engaged in discussions and not reading slides. I wanted the teachers to be purposeful in their design choices, so the presentation was broken into specific aspects to consider.
I believe the presentation went well. For example, one focus on the role and purpose of teacher desks got interesting. Having two teachers in each classroom generally means two teachers desks. I could tell some people were a little uncomfortable when I suggested they not have a teacher desk. I think discomfort in this instance was good, as it got people thinking of what was important in their classrooms. In fact, the presentation went so well that admin decided to remove one teacher desk from each classroom. Furthermore, when I went to look in the storeroom, I couldn’t find certain tables I wanted to create interesting working spaces. “Dude, where’s my table?!” I kept asking. Oh well, I guess having a flexible learning space is all about being flexible. The joke was on me!