With nearly one month of school left, teachers the world over are all experiencing what is best described as ‘teacher burnout’. Teacher burnout occurs when previously exciting daily lectures and activities that filled the day now turn into mundane and taxing chores. It is difficult to find ways to keep students engaged, entertained and inspired over the course of the year. So in a sense, teacher burnout can be a direct result of ‘student burnout’; when dwindling attention spans and daydreaming win over alertness and attentiveness. So what can teachers do about this? How can you expect a student-centred classroom to run smoothly if the students lack the motivation to heave coal on the learning furnace?
One very underrated aspect of a classroom with respect to efficient classroom management is the classroom design. How a teacher simply organizes the layout of the classroom can have a very diverse effect on the students. This is a great thing to keep in mind for the end of the year to combat teacher burnout. Effective teachers definitely experiment with various arrangements all year round, but the end of the year is a great time to really think outside the box.
Beginning a lesson by having the students arrange the desks in a pattern you ask for is a good way of making them feel like they are contributing to the lesson aside from being the ones who have to pay attention to it. As a teacher, asking students for their help in designing the classroom (traditionally a ‘teacher only’ task) gives them a sense of contribution to the learning that is about to take place. This is a great tactic to stave off teacher burnout by combating student burnout.
Desk arrangements come in many shapes and forms depending on the goal of the lesson. If the class is an assessment class, then the traditional separated columns layout works best. But we now have to ask ourselves, why is this the best layout for tests? A) It discourages talking between classmates. A student can only really influence the person sitting in front of them if the desks are adequately spaced out enough. B) All students face the front of the classroom and it is much easier for the teacher to observe the students. C) It allows enough romo for the teacher to walk through the classroom conveniently.
So through a quick analysis, we can see that classroom arrangement can have a huge effect on the outcome of a lesson. It is hard to think of an arrangement as effective as the one previously mentioned to have during exams or tests. What if, for example, your lesson was on exploring the different parts of cellular respiration? Here we can clearly see that a plain, lecture style class might not cut it. So we want to do away with our traditional separated columns layout. Since the process of cellular respiration has three distinct parts, glycolysis, Krebs Cycle and ETC (electron transport chain), a reasonable starting point would be to set up three groups. If your class is over 15 then set up two sets of three groups. You can move the desks in such a way so that the desks are inward facing but perpendicular to the front of the classroom so the students can all see any instructions clearly that are written on the blackboard at the front. The teacher can then assign groups and group tasks so that they can learn by guided exploration, their specific part of cellular respiration. Group tasks can be delegated by a group leader if you wish to go that route. Near the end of the lesson, the class can convene and each group can share and learn from the other.
In this example, the layout of the classroom fosters the group setup and helps students act as a team through close proximity and a larger working space. And as long as you are creative, the possibilities are plentiful and can help you add the element of surprise in your class during those last few burnout weeks.
The classroom is divided into three equal groups. To spice things up, you can easily create little competitions in this classroom layout.
Jimmy and Amy represent their group as they try to complete a task involving quadratic systems.