Dorothy Zemach This was a good time for me to think about my ideal classroom, since I am now preparing to spend

three weeks teaching in Libya without any idea what my classroom might look like. I know that I'll have about 30 students, and that I'll be at a university, but that seems to be about all that I can determine. So with this Thank Tank question, I decided to list (in order of preference, more or less) what I hope I'll find when I get there. “The value, therefore, of this kind of exercise—dreaming of the perfect classroom—is to help you think about what’s important to you and why.” 1) I'd like each student to have a square, flat desk of an adequate size. No sloping surfaces, no strange right- or left-handed configurations. The desks should not be attached to their respective chairs, and they should be easy to move around. I find myself doing a lot of activities that involve flashcards or large sheets of paper or game boards or posters, and small desks that cannot be pushed together are tough to work on. It would be nice, if I have 30 students, to have 36 of these desks and a chair for each one. That way, I can put students into groups and sit with each group in turn, if I choose. 2) The room should be neither too large, which makes the class seem unpopular, nor too small, which makes it difficult for students to move around and move furniture. 3) The room should be a comfortable temperature, perhaps even slightly on the cool side, to keep students from getting sleepy. 4) An adequate number of windows, please, because natural lighting is easier on the eyes. However, we'll need good window shades, should we want to watch a DVD. 5) I want something large to write on, though I'm torn between a traditional blackboard and a whiteboard. Chalk dust is not great for one's lungs; but then neither are the chemicals in whiteboard markers. As long as we're dreaming, then, I'lll take a non-toxic version of either one. Naturally, an adequate supply of either dustless chalk or fresh markers should be available. 6) Let's have a CD player that never skips, located in such a way that I can easily reach it, but no one will ever trip over its cord. It can sit next to the DVD player that plays DVDs from any region. When I taught at the American Language Center in Rabat, Morocco, there were speakers affixed above each door that you could hook your portable cassette player to. They were perfect for playing background music; I find that a little ambient background noise can encourage students to speak up more easily and also to speak more loudly, and thus (often) with better pronunciation. The over-the-door configuration dispersed the sound in a nicer way than having a portable machine on a desktop. So I'll throw in an order for one of those. 7) A laptop computer and projector would be next, and the projector would never say "no signal detected." It should also be safe to leave this laptop in the room at all times, rather than needing to carry it in and out every day.

8) I'd like a little cabinet somewhere in the room that has extra miscellaneous classroom supplies--those things you don't necessarily think to bring to every class but somehow wind up wishing you had, like tape, a stapler, 3 x 5 index cards, scratch paper, paper clips, extra pens and pencils, and colored markers. 9) No matter what subject I'm teaching, I'd like to have a library in one corner with extra reading materials, including things like magazines and short stories. On those occasions when a few students finish an activity very early, there would always be something for them to do. It might even encourage students to come to class early. 10) Though I've only rarely experienced this luxury, I'd like the classroom to be my own, so that I can bring in my own posters and hang student work on the walls. A nice light wall color and a generous section of cork board would help with this. Of course, I've taught in classrooms that didn't have all of these things -- or even any of these things. In a way, this exercise reminded me of a conversation I had recently with an Iranian professor of writing who asked me at a conference what the research said was the perfect number of students to have in a second language writing class. Before I even attempted an answer, I asked him how many students he had in his classes, "One hundred," he said. Well, whatever the correct answer is, I know it's not 100. However, even if this man could have gone back to his institution with some sort of proof that, say, 12 students was the ideal number, it wouldn't have helped him. The question he should have been asking was, "How can I cope with 100 students in a writing class?" since that was his situation. The value, therefore, of this kind of exercise -- dreaming of the perfect classroom -- is to help you think about what's important to you and why. If you identify something as very important, and you don't have it, you might be more likely to strive to find a workaround. Most of us will have to fall back on "If you can't be with the one you love, then love the one you're with," but it's good not to fall into complacency (or despair) and stop working with what we have. Dorothy E. Zemach is an ESL materials writer, editor, and teacher trainer from Oregon. She is a frequent plenary presenter at conferences, a columnist for TESOL’s Essential Teacher magazine, and has written over 15 ESL textbooks, including Sentence Writing,Paragraph Writing,Success With College Writing, and Get Ready For Business(Macmillan) and Writers at Work: The Essay (Cambridge University Press). Current interests include the teaching of writing, EAP, business English, testing, and humor in ESL materials and the profession. >>Back to the top Peter Viney The sky's the Limit? I'm going to be crass and stick entirely to optimizing the physical environment. For its era, it wasn't far off when I was working at Anglo-Continental in England, and around 1972, the classrooms were already being converted to a horseshoe layout for better interaction. By 1974 stereo speakers were installed to improve sound. Every classroom had a

large framed world map and UK map on the walls. We had dry wipe boards rather than blackboards (to save our clothes and lungs from chalk dust) and whatever visual aid sets or wallcharts we wanted. We had language labs, private study listening centres, and a TV room with cameras. The best classroom I have seen integrating electronics in a physical environment was in the Netherlands. Students were seated in a horseshoe arrangement, on swivel chairs. Behind each swivel chair was a language-laboratory console which ran round three sides of the room, so students could do five or ten minutes listening or lab work and swivel back to do class work. Does anyone remember language labs? They worked with most people. Unfortunately about 10% of people were technophobes to a degree where a lab with headphones caused panic and confusion. The flat surface behind each chair - still the Netherlands classroom - also meant students could swivel to write or read something quietly, rather than relying on wobbly palettes. The downside, I have been in two swivel chairs that broke under me, so modern health and safety regulations might ban the swivels. A chiropractor friend tells me that swivel chairs are bad for the back too, instead of moving your back muscles, you swivel and your back stays in a fixed position for too long. Sit on a chair with four legs, is the advice. “I spent years advocating that every classroom should have a TV screen so that video could be incorporated seamlessly into lessons without lugging equipment or moving students around the school.” My best classroom in terms of design was at the Anglo-Mexican Institute in Guadalajara. It was a language school, designed for just language teaching. The classrooms were hexagonal and slotted together like a honeycomb with open areas between them for lesson breaks. The physical shape meant that students could be on five sides with the board on one, naturally forming five sixth of a circle. A circle is said to be the most democratic classroom design, but I don't like chairs arranged in a complete circle, because students next to the teacher can't see well. While a circle is great for discussion, It's poor for the teacher-centred phases of the lesson or video or whiteboard work. The hexagon with the teacher on one wall is the best I've been in. I spent years advocating that every classroom should have a TV screen so that video could be incorporated seamlessly into lessons without lugging equipment or moving students around the school. In the early 90s I believed that the next big course we wrote would have a one or two minute video sequence with every lesson. It didn't happen, and video has stalled. It's used less than it was ten years ago, which is bad (and sad). I haven't™t used an electronic whiteboard, but I have used the lower-tech version, which is a laptop with PowerPoint (or Keynote, the Mac equivalent) and DVD capability connected to a projector. It's weird, but a DVD/hard disc is not actually as good as video tape for language teaching. We experienced this writing the scripts for the Wallace and Gromit series where we had to write new dialogue to fit existing mouth movements in the animation. On DVD, because the compression system works by sampling the differences between frames, it's far more difficult to hit a single frame than it is with video. One of the later VHS machines with a rotary slow-speed forward/rewind control allows you to move the picture a single frame at a time. Nowadays, I'd definitely want a whiteboard, but I'd like a VHS input as well as DVD if that's technically possible.

Then comes size of class. I'd have fifteen chairs (three on each of my five walls) and no more. I started teaching with one teacher to eight students, moved to one to thirty, then one to twentyfour. I've taught one to one, and I used to teach 140 in a room, daily too. The ideal size for me is twelve to fifteen, but sixteen to twenty isn't bad. With more students the degree of personal attention falls markedly. Under twelve? It can work superbly if you're lucky, but the dynamics are often spoiled by one or two personalities or isolated students who don't fit. Once you get over twelve, the group's large enough for people not to feel "outsiders" as they may in smaller, tighter groups. Natural light is vital. The hexagonal classroom wasn't great for this (some sides joined to other rooms). But it had high landscape shape (narrow, horizontal) windows and it was in the heat of central Mexico. I hate being in windowless rooms under fluorescent tubes, it affects student mood, concentration, and vision. So sufficient natural light would have to enter the room to make me happy. The sky is our limit, and I would like to be able to see it. Perhaps like art rooms in schools, it should be north light to avoid glare and bright sunshine. So my ideal would be either a free standing hexagon or one with only two walls joined to others. Artificial light should be with expensive daylight bulbs. Finally, I like a table for the teacher. A small plain, sturdy table, not a desk. Desks are barriers. I stand for the teacher-centred phases, and sit for the discussion /interaction phases. However, sitting on the table is an excellent halfway position (though culturally insensitive in some societies!) because you can see and be seen more clearly than when sitting in a chair, and it's less dominating than standing. I'd want enough space to be in front of the table most of the time. Oh, and one more thing -- a decent ceiling height, so often lacking in smaller language schools in Japan. It gives air and space. Peter Viney is the co-author of IN English:, Survival English / Basic Survival, Handshake, Grapevine, and Streamline. He has written thirteen video courses, and has recently finished work on a major video self-study project. He lives in Poole, UK. Peter and Karen Viney’s website is at www.viney.uk.com >>Back to the top Marc Helgesen Actually a colleague and I got to do just that a few years ago, and we almost missed the chance. Our department’s language lab – which usually sat empty, full of 20-year-old equipment designed for 50-year-old methodology– was scheduled for renovation. The school planned to have the Sony labs guys come in and put in the latest version of the same old, same old. When my co-teacher and I heard about it, we told our department we wanted to transform the room into something we actually needed: a communication room. After all, we have a lot of conversation classes. Just like you wouldn’t dream of asking home economics teachers to teach cooking in a regular lecture hall, we thought we deserved a room designed to facilitate communication.

We started with the desks. Instead of desks facing the front, we arranged them in islands; two students on each side, facing two other students. The four are perpendicular to the front of the room. Students can easily see the teacher at the front of the room. But the idea is that most of the time students will be talking to each other. And there is plenty of space between desks for the teacher and for students to move around. The room just feels much less teacher-centered. We got rid of all those old-style language lab machines that you use to play “pilot to co-pilot”. But, of course we wanted to use media. We put all the things you would expect – internet-linked computers, a decent stereo. DVD/video, video OHP and a projector with a screen at the front, and four large plasma monitors in the four corners of the room, suspended from the ceiling. Learners can watch the screens from nearly anywhere. Again, the front of the room ceases to be the focal point. Naturally, we carpeted the room. OK, we had to fudge a bit on this part. We told the school that, since it is a communication room and lots of people would be talking at the same time, we needed carpeting to absorb sound. Which is true. But what we didn’t tell the school was that we really wanted to make it a “no shoes” room, just to make the atmosphere more relaxing. And after it was up and running, I noticed that when the weather is warm only about 25% of the students bother putting on slippers. Most of us are in stocking feet or barefoot. We chose a blue carpet (the color in these photos is not great), based on information from The Owner's Manual for the Brain which suggests blue slows the pulse and lowers blood pressure and is conducive to studying, deep thinking, and concentration. We consciously tried to build in relaxation. Relaxed learners learn more. We wanted to transform the room into something we actually needed: a communication

room. We left about three meters of open space in both the front and back of the room. It makes physical movement activities easier, something kinesthetic learners like myself love (click here and download Let’s get physical, a pdf of ELT warm-up activities.). The next thing was art on the walls. I’ve always found it strange how bare the walls of most university classrooms are. If you went to someone’s house and there was nothing on the walls, you’d start to think, “Hmm. Strange. Psychotic, maybe?” But our classrooms, which are supposed to be centers of inspiration and creativity, commonly lack the human touch that art brings. We started with travel posters and now have delightful Tanzanian tinga tinga paintings, Maori art, and Papua New Guinean masks adorning the walls. The school was pretty skeptical when we wanted to put in a coffee/tea bar. We wanted nothing fancy, just a hot water pot and coffee and tea. But the students sure appreciate it and it goes a long way to make the room feel different than all their other classrooms. So do the aroma therapy burners and the zabuton mats in the corner – if you and your friends prefer to do that group work on the floor, fine. Posters we change regularly with affirmations are useful, too. Affirmations lead to positive self-fulfilling prophesies. On a shelf in the corner of the room is what I think of as “the joy of sets”. We have class sets of colored pencils, magic markers, scissors, dice, ohajiki (like flat marbles), and sets of other things. Teachers of kids will think, “What’s so special about that?” Very true. But in a university, it is really unusual. (Actually, if we want to talk unusual I could get into the stuffed animals, the yoga mats. etc, but you get the idea.). I do know that I am extremely lucky to have a classroom like this. But I wanted to share it with you. This is not some radical educational experiment. It is a classroom in a rather conservative Japanese university. And “the sky’s the limit” was never an issue here. The classroom was a whole lot cheaper to build that the school had planned. And it went from being rarely used to have many teachers specifically requesting it. So, if we could do that here, who knows what you can make happen at your school? And, in something I consider indicative of the success of this room actually designed for what we do, during lunchtime and those rare time slots when it isn’t being used for a class, students take it over to hang out. It’s their space.

Marc Helgesen is professor at Miyagi Gakuin Women's University, Sendai and adjunct at Teachers College Columbia University MA TESOL Program - Tokyo. He is an author of over 100 articles, books, and textbooks including the English Firsthand series and has lead teacher development workshops on five continents. >>Back to the top Curtis Kelly

This month’s question is: “What things would you change about your classroom if the sky were the limit?” I guess we are being asked to do a little environmental engineering to raise the learning potential? A year ago I would have suggested putting the desks in a circle, using natural instead of artificial lighting, or replacing the PCs with Macs; but after a year of listening to Brain Science podcasts, I knew the answer instantly: I’d take all the desks out, and… are you ready? … put in beds. That’s right, beds. Some things we’ve discovered in the last ten years make it clear that the current dearth of learning comes from physiological deficits, including the biggest, baddest, learning disability of them all: sleep deprivation. We have long known that sleep has an impact on cognitive function – learners that stay up all night lose everything they learned the day before – but the general public still misconstrues sleep as an option. Counselors might be telling students that an hour of sleep is worth more than an hour of study, but as Dr. Ralph Pascualy points out, most people still think that not getting enough sleep is merely a matter of “toughing it out.” Even if we get lots of sleep, eat well, get along with our parents, and do everything else leading to mental fitness, sitting long hours in the classroom pretty much cancels it. It is not. We now pretty much know that the first night of sleep is when learning goes from shortterm into long-term memory. People tend to think of sleep as down time, but if you could take a peek at your brain while you are asleep, you’d be surprised. For most of the sleep cycle, you’d see neurons cracking away far more furiously than when you were awake. During the slow-wave phase of sleep, your brain replays everything you learned during the day, over and over again, locking in new connections through an amazing process of genetic change. And there’s more: in the following nights, your brain reorganizes this new learning to integrate it into your existing knowledge. We learned from the late HM that memories roam for 11 years before finding homes, but even after one sleepful week, we move from just knowing to understanding. And even more: we also solve problems in our sleep. In one study, students were given math problems with a hidden shortcut for solving them. Three times more students figured the shortcut out after 8 hours of sleep than those in the non-sleep group. No sleep, no learning. And drastically. An all-A student who gets a little less than seven hours sleep on weeknights and a little more than seven on weekends will drop from the top 10% of her class to the bottom 10% of those who do get sleep. With a few all-nighters, she’ll start showing the same symptoms as someone with Alzheimer’s. Dr. John Medina, author of Brain Rules, puts it simply: “Sleep loss means mind loss.” Are your students getting more than seven hours of sleep? With cell phones, Web surfing, and the teen-normal hormone-regulated shift towards owlishness, probably not. When I ask my students how much sleep they get, six hours is the most common answer. Unfortunately, the data shows that only six hours of sleep for five nights straight leads to 60% loss in performance. That is SIX-AUGHT, ladies and gents! In terms of impact, no graded reader or info gap can even come close.

Nor should we underestimate naps, which contrary to popular belief, are not a side effect of insufficient sleep. NASA found that pilots who napped for 26 minutes performed 34% better afterwards, and other studies have found boosts like these last up to six hours. So, beds it is… Um. Wait a minute. Some hands have popped up in the back. You, sir. (inaudible) I understand your point. What we really need to do is to get them to sleep more at home. . . Ma’am? (higher inaudible) Yes. You’re right. My beds-in-classrooms solution prevents the deterioration of learning potential; it does not augment it, but please, I’m not done yet. There is one more thing I am putting in my classroom: treadmills! Even if we get lots of sleep, eat well, get along with our parents, and do everything else leading to mental fitness, sitting long hours in the classroom pretty much cancels it. It is not what we are built for. As Read Montague puts it, our brains “evolved on legs, and that makes all the difference.” For millions of years our ancestors walked 1020 kilometers a day. These strapping athletes actively worked the environment to survive, while those who just sat passively got eaten. It makes sense then, that our brains evolved to work optimally when moving, not when sitting, and science has found just that. Most of it has to do with blood flow. Our brains burn up blood-supplied glucose at ten times the rate of other body parts, and pump out glutamate and other deadly toxins. As long as our blood keeps pumping through, these neuron busters get carried away in the oxygen, but if not, they accumulate. Cognitive function suffers and we age prematurely. But there is more. When we exercise, our brain also releases neurotransmitter mood shapers like dopamine, norepiniphrine, and serotonin. Even just a little exercise gives learners better focus, higher motivation, more confidence, and less impulsiveness, in other words, the Holy Grail of classroom behavior. And more: with exercise, our brains release neurotropins, like BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor), at two or three times the normal level (and marijuana-like cabbinoids too). Harvard’s John Ratey calls BDNF “Miracle Growth” (a kind of fertilizer) for the brain. This chemical helps everything related to brain growth happen, including the increase of stem cells that become new neurons. Exercise is, by far, the single most powerful way to maintain and increase the brain’s plasticity, which means the ability to learn and change. A recent study with 5000 children over three years found that 30 minutes of exercise, twice a day, led to higher grades across the board, especially for girls, and especially in the subject area of . . . brace yourself . . . math, which is tied in directly to executive function. Or consider the case of Mikey, a 10 year-old who took Ritalin to control his severe attention disorder, ADHD.

One day, he went to the school principal – actually, his Mom– and got permission to do daily exercise instead. He swam his way to recovery, and then, on to fourteen Olympic Gold Medals. His name? Michael Phelps. It does not take a lot of exercise to make oneself smarter. Even short walks help; even couch potatoes who fidget do better. So how are we using these new discoveries to improve education? We are not really; in fact, just the opposite. We are cutting PE classes and recess times, buying buses to haul students, and plopping our kids down in front of computers at home. This is neither human nor humane. As John Medina writes: “I am convinced that integrating exercise into those eight hours at work or school will not make us smarter. It will only make us normal.” So that’s it, my fellow educators; beds and treadmills to make happier, healthier learners who all score in the top 10%. Curtis Kelly (EDD) is a specialist in adult education, writing and speaking instruction, and brainbased learning. He has given over 250 presentations and written 17 books, including the Writing from Within and the Active Skills for Communication series. >>Back to the top Chris Hunt Hmm, if the sky were the limit – what an odd phrase. Why limit ourselves to the sky? What about other dimensions, diversions, directions? I really like the sound of what Marc and his colleagues were able to create, and I think Curtis’s idea of replacing desks with beds and treadmills is a blast, but I guess my heart’s desire would be to get rid of the classroom altogether. The notion that learning can and should be organised into chunks of time in an enclosed space is more than antiquated, it is oppressive. As John Taylor Gatto wrote in Dumbing Us Down : “Was it possible I had been hired not to enlarge children’s power, but to diminish it? That seemed crazy on the face of it, but slowly I began to realize that the bells and confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of the national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to prevent children from learning how to think and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior.” If I am to have a classroom then I would like it to be a respite from the regimes that so many children seem resigned to. So, I guess, rather than having a classroom I would like a resource centre. There would be books and games, soft toys and software, computers and musical instruments, cooking and sports facilities, workshops with tools, gardens, wilderness, and time. Time to explore, time to create,

time to relate, and time to do nothing at all. What a fantasy! I operate out of a two-room trailer home sandwiched in a tiny car park between two houses. The nearest park is the haunt of tramps and flashers. Children’s schedules are so tight that quite often there is only a single hour on a single day of the week that they can use for learning English. The world is a madhouse we have locked ourselves into and we have lost the key. My theme song in these columns is choice. If I am to have a classroom then I would like it to be a respite from the regimes that so many children seem resigned to. I want my space to be a place where children can exercise a little free will. I also want to help them realise that if they want to learn something that means giving it more time than the 40 to 60 minute blocks their schedules dictate. This means having materials available for them to use at home. It means having materials available that they will want to use at home. It may be impossible to do without the classroom physically, but one can do it mentally. According to Wikipedia the American Society for Training and Development maintain that more than 40% of corporate training now takes place online and not in a classroom. I wonder if we will ever see the day when over 40% of schools are organised without grades, without grading, without fixed lessons, and without classrooms. I wonder. Chris (Hunt) works with his wife in a trailer home. The school can be seen here.His website is available at www.wisehat.com >>Back to the top Chuck Sandy Although I have my favorite classrooms, I have learned over the years that the search for the perfect room is a pointless quest. Even in the best rooms there is always some feature that has to be worked around, and like a renter in a less than ideal home, you do what you can to cozy up the place and make it a comfortable nest for you and your students. Yet even then, the fix is nothing that should be considered permanent. A classroom that’s been nudged into a cozy home by one group of students very often doesn’t quite suit the next group that comes along -- and so the process begins again. New students move in and recreate the space all over again. This is because a classroom, no matter how seemingly just right it may be, is just a physical space until inhabited by a group of learners and their teacher. Only then does it come alive and it does so in different ways with different groups at different times. Even the best of classrooms is just a room without students in it. What makes a classroom ideal is not what’s in it, but who’s in it and how they feel when they’re in it

To see a bit of what I mean, go visit your favorite classroom at night after everyone’s gone. Walk into the room, sit down, and listen. What you’ll find is that there is nowhere on earth quite as quiet and empty as an empty classroom. If you sit long enough, though, memory will invoke the voices of students, the sounds of learning, and images of classes long gone. Yet, without these memories, no matter how ideal the room may be, you’ll find that without anyone in it, it’s just a room unworthy of special comment. An empty classroom, even one with the best possible features, is just dead static space -- a memorial to classes and students now elsewhere, a place that hoards silence in anticipation of classes and students to come. What makes a classroom ideal is not what’s in it, but who’s in it and how they feel when they’re in it. Without any prompting at all, I asked a group of my students to brainstorm features of their favorite and least favorite classrooms. Only rarely were physical features mentioned. Obviously I could have steered the discussion in that direction, but what rolled out naturally was so interesting that I just let it happen. Here are the top ten responses in the order they were given: In my favorite classroom … I get to sit with my friends. there’s a lot of group work. we get to talk about interesting stuff. it’s warm and sunny. there’s space to spread out. everyone laughs a lot and has fun. the teacher is cool and never yells. the teacher listens to me. I feel excited and I learn a lot. I’m happy being there. In my least favorite classroom … the mood is not good. I feel nervous. the teacher talks all the time. the teacher is always telling us why we should listen and how we should act. the seats are hard and it’s cold. there’s no place for my stuff. there’s nothing to look at. we use computers all the time but in a boring way. I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do. It has nothing to do with my life.

I don’t have any friends there. Interestingly, I conducted this brainstorming activity in the best room I have, but no one mentioned any of its superb features or technological enhancements. No one mentioned the lovely small seminar rooms we have. No one mentioned the beautiful multimedia center except in a negative sense. Except for decent seating, storage space, and comfortable temperatures no one mentioned the physical aspects of classrooms at all. The student focus was on what happened in the classrooms and how they felt about that. This is an essential point. In the eyes of most students, the ideal classroom is not some well-designed wired space inside a school, but instead can be any place where they feel welcome, challenged, connected, and happy. Still, most schools view facilities in a top-down institutional way, building new buildings and facilities without much regard for the people who will be using them. This reminds me of an anonymous quote I came across some time ago, about how designing classrooms and school buildings without thinking about what goes on inside them is like rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic. Never mind that the ship’s going to go down. Enjoy the band. Schools that misdirect their focus in this way are likely to sink in these troubled times. Yet, building continues. Of course it’s important to have well-lit and comfortable learning facilities that are temperature controlled, safe, and clean. It’s also nice to have classrooms that are connected to the wider world via the various forms of both established and emerging technologies. Still, such rooms are just rooms unless the real focus is on supporting teachers whose focus is on making students feel connected to each other, engaged in what they are learning, and comfortable enough to take the risks that learning requires. This is the kind of teacher my grandmother was and the kind of teacher I aspire to be. My grandmother taught in a one-room schoolhouse in the early part of the last century. I have a photo of that schoolhouse room right here and whenever I look at it am always amazed at its lack of anything comfortable. It had no heat except for a woodstove. Students wrote on slate tablets, and sat on hard wooden benches next to classmates ranging in age from six to sixteen. There were no non-essentials, hardly even enough textbooks to go around. Sill, many of the students who graduated from that little schoolhouse kept in touch with my grandmother their entire lives and looked back fondly and thankfully on the rich and caring foundational

education they received there. Once when talking to my then 98 –year-old grandmother about this she said, “it doesn’t matter where you teach, you know, or even what you teach. The secret is to make sure that all your students feel loved, especially the unlovable ones. If you can do that, they can learn anything, anywhere.” It can happen in a one-room school, in a room in a drafty old teahouse, or in a completely wired learning environment at the most up-to-date university. It doesn’t matter where. It only matters that it does -- and this is what we should work at making possible. If the sky was the limit, and it is, I would focus less on classrooms and redirect resources earmarked for building projects on faculty development and student enrichment. Only then would providing classroom amenities and luxuries make real sense. Until then, the deckchairs get rearranged and the band plays on.

Chuck Sandy is a teacher, teacher trainer, ELT author, essayist and poet who has most recently coauthored the Active Skills for Communication series with Curtis Kelly. He also recently completed work on a second edition of his popular upper-intermediate level series Passages Second Edition with Jack Richards, and is coauthor (with Jack Richards and Carlos Baribsan) of the junior / senior high school level series Connect. He is a frequent presenter at conferences and schools around the world where he most often speaks about the joys of project work and the need for materials and practices that promote critical thinking. Visit Chuck (and Curtis) on their Facebook page

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