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Blog: Thursday, October 10th, 2019

Classrooms Then and Now

By Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

Some of you may have heard some version of the statement that "Classrooms have not changed much since they were first conceived in the 18th century." Invariably, the person making the argument would show a faded (black and white) picture of a classroom with rows of students in desks bisected by the teacher's desk at the front of the class (Do you ever notice that the kids in those pictures were never smiling)? And while there is some basic truth to the fact that for many years this basic design went unchanged, I think it is also fair to say that if you walked into one of our schools today, these learning spaces look nothing like classrooms from the previous era. This is particularly true at the elementary level, with the exception of the rectangular dimension.

My most recent visits to the Abby Family elementary schools confirm it. I have attached some examples from Godson Elementary as proof. Students are as likely to sit in a chair now as they are a couch, stool, kinetic ball, beanbag or the floor. They sit in various groupings and will be carefully placed all over the room.What's more, the configuration will be different next month. 

They sit at desks, tables at multiple heights, and can use erasable markers right on the surface of some of them. The teacher's desk is augmented by the rainbow table and several other spots, depending on the type of instruction underway (and it is rarely in the centre-front of the room).

Most have differential lighting. There will be a spot that is bright and others where it is dim. There will be a quiet corner. The chalkboard is long gone, and we have whiteboards (in some classrooms, the entire wall is made of whiteboards allowing all the students to get up and show their work). There is a television and/or a document camera. Some students are working with technology, and others are not. This is not your daddy's classroom.

We can attribute these welcomed changes to many factors, but I think I can simplify it by saying that our curriculum has opened the door to more experiential learning. We now know that the neurodiversity in our classrooms require that we make our learning spaces more hospitable to the learning needs of our children. The proliferation of knowledge and practice about social-emotional learning has simply caused us to rethink that stereotypical space. The next time someone makes a claim and produces that old picture, I invite you to correct the misperception.

By Dr. Kevin Godden
Dr. Kevin Godden
Dr. Kevin Godden

By Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

Kevin has been the Superintendent of Schools for the Abbotsford School District since July 2011, overseeing some 19,000 students and 2,500 employees. Kevin is committed to student success in all forms and envisions a school district that can nimbly respond to the ever changing needs and interests of its students.