Many teachers share classrooms. Some share because they are teaching together as a collaborative pair, some are sharing because of space challenges in the school. As a Special Education teacher, sharing a classroom is pretty inevitable. It’s part of the nature of the best. And most of the time, I don’t really mind. This year, my two-year old school will already be packed to the brim. I am one of the few who have been given their own room by the grace and mercy of those above me (if you are reading this, THANK YOU!). But for many years I shared a room, sometimes more than one. So I was asked the other day to write a post about the tips for sharing a classroom. This is not about team-teaching, but more about sharing the actual room. So, in no particular order, here are 5 things to keep in mind as you share a classroom (or any space, really) with someone else.
1. Know Your Boundaries- I know a person who had to lock her desk drawers when she was outside of the classroom because the teacher that was in there when she wasn’t would rifle through her belongings. It wasn’t as if the other teacher was going through her purse or anything, but she was crossing a boundary that she was not given permission to cross. If you need to borrow a sharpie or a post-it, ask first. Simple as that. If they aren’t there to ask, don’t do it! Never go into their desk or personal space without their permission. (This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised!)
2. Learn the Art of Compromise- Let’s say you have 2 English teachers who share a classroom. Teacher A likes her desks set up in rows, Teacher B believes rows of desks are part of one of the 7 levels of Hell and will only teach her students in groups of 4. One of them has to break. Or does she? Is it possible that you can teach your students to spend the first and last 5 minutes of class re-arranging the desks? Is there a solution that you can both live with, even if neither of you love it? Is that a hassle? Yes. Is it the end of the world? No. Keep some perspective. Compromising isn’t about one person getting what they want and other person left out in the cold. It’s about doing what you can do to both be happy, even if it isn’t your ideal version of what you wanted in the first place. You are adults, and you are teachers. Be flexible and make it work.
3. Equality=Good- Let’s use our lovely English teachers again. There are 3 teacher desks in the classroom. How can we make that equal and fair? Well, let’s give each teacher one desk and use the other as a “tech desk” or for a student center or something teachery. If one of those teachers has more classes in that room than the other, then they can discuss that. But shoving one teacher in the back corner with a desk the size of a TV tray isn’t gonna cut it. Be fair, and be courteous. You know how much space you like to have when you are working on your lesson plans, grading, and writing IEPs? Yeah. The other teacher needs the same.
4. Find the Silver Lining- Ok. I’ve been doing this awhile, and I’ve never heard a teacher say something like, “I can’t wait to cram 32 student desks, 2 teacher desks and one or two wonky file cabinets in a room designed for 20 students if it’s standing room only!” or “Isn’t having no personal space or time to yourself during the school day exactly what keeps you going all year long?” Um, no. It’s not an ideal situation, but it’s not the worst thing to ever happen either. Actually, you could end up gaining a friend out of the experience. And you could actually learn something from the other person. Maybe they have a lesson plan template or an organizational idea that is just what you’ve been looking for. Focusing on the negative is just going to make you feel like you are consistently handed a crap sandwich for lunch every day. But changing your thinking to finding the positives can make all the difference, and you’d be surprised how much that can affect your entire school year (and maybe even your life; finding the positives in life rather than focusing on the negatives is not always easy on this crazy ride, but it makes for a happier journey, right?).
5. Foster your Space-ship- Much like fostering one’s relationship with a spouse or friend is important in the development of that relationship, fostering one’s space-ship is also essential. Check in with each other every now and then. You don’t need a date night, just a 5 minute convo on a Friday afternoon to see if everyone is feeling good about what is going down in the classroom will suffice. Make sure everyone is comfortable in their personal and shared spaces. “Would you mind you making sure the students aren’t going through my desk when they have unstructured time, please? I noticed some of my pens are missing.” Or, “You know, we’re starting a new semester and I’d like to re-arrange the room. What do you think?” Or, “I noticed your space is a little cramped over there. Would it helped if I moved some of the desks out of the way for you?” Or even, “I had the desk by the windows for the first half of the year. Would you like the window seat for the second semester?”
I know what you’re thinking. “Yeah, right! That’ll never happen.” Well, maybe you are right. Or maybe you can make a little effort to make it happen yourself. Afterall, I believe it was Barney (or some other creepy children’s mascot) who said Sharing is Caring. And I believe that is true.
Have you had to share a classroom or develop a space-ship? Have any tips or advice that I haven’t mentioned? I’d love to hear from you!