I think every teacher has been asked the following question: What does your ideal classroom look like? I know some teachers think about the answer to this question every day. Some answers include an interactive whiteboard, a few computers or tablets – preferably iPads and MacBooks or Chromebooks, and round tables over desks. In a world moving at the speed of an internet connection, teachers love having the most up to date technology and tools for their students. It is a feeling of accomplishment in some ways. When you have the best and most up to date tools for your students, you feel the students’ potential to learn and create are limitless! This might be the case. At what point do we turn our classrooms into rooms that look like Apple stores or flashy media centers with all the latest gizmos and gadgets? Is there such a thing as the ideal classroom? I like to think that my Head of School said it to me the best. After walking around my classroom earlier this year, my Head of School said that I work in a museum, not just a classroom. I agree.
A social studies classroom is one of the most important rooms in a school, aside from the copy room. I may be biased because I work in one. Think back to when you were in school, and what your classrooms looked like. It is pretty standard that a middle/high school language arts classroom has posters from literature, a few quotes from books, and some bookshelves with Catcher in the Rye, Romeo & Juliet, Great Expectations, and others. They have those posters that have the standard definitions and examples of nouns, verbs, adjectives and the other parts of speech. A science classroom almost certainly looks like a lab, with black tables, a few Bunsen burners, and that shower you hoped as a student you would never have to use, but it would be neat to say you had pulled the trigger releasing water and mayhem. The theatre/drama classroom has works from playwrights from all different eras and areas of the world, a few posters from musicals and shows and of course a room full of costumes and props! But what does a social studies classroom look like?
The social studies classroom is different. A social studies classroom is where the past can come alive. A social studies classroom can be a museum. I would like to think that when the students walk into my classroom they think they are entering a slightly modified Smithsonian Museum of American History. How many classrooms have real artifacts in them? Does the science teacher have an actual element in the classroom in a glass case on display (Oxygen does not count)? Does the language arts teacher have an original copy of the book the class is reading? Do math teachers have the abacus given to them by their grandparents that was used to discover some famous math equation? Again, I might be biased of the ideal classroom, but shouldn’t we have more in our classrooms than motivational posters and books? As a social studies teacher (American history to be precise), I cannot begin to express the importance of making the four walls of classroom to be more than just a classroom.
What does the ideal social studies classroom look like? That answer varies based on the teacher and on the content area to which they teach. I think the ideal classroom is “my museum.” The 25 bobble heads of presidents and other leaders in American history, president PEZ dispensers, an actual invitation to Ronald Reagan’s inaugural ball, copies of important works from American history – The Jungle, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, How the Other Half Lives, The Narratives of Frederick Douglass, 2008 & 2012 election magnets and flyers, two minie ball bullets from the Battle of Antietam, one bullet from the Battle of Gettysburg, cardboard cut outs of Presidents Washington, Jackson, TR, & Lincoln, a glass case containing actual hair from President Andrew Jackson, a replica outfit that General George Washington’s would have worn, replica uniforms from the Civil War both Union and Confederate, replica coins and currency during the American Revolution, and a dozen replica flags flown during the Revolutionary War (just to name a few) do illustrate the point my Head of School made when she walked in my classroom this past fall. You work in a museum, not a classroom. I look forward to adding more to the “collection.” So, the next time someone asks you what your ideal classroom, think to yourself what you would want. Then think to yourself, what do you have in your classroom?