kitchen table math, the sequel: Cells and bells

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cells and bells

That's a new one on me.

Cells and bells.

Meaning: old-timey school buildings with old-timey teacher-dominated classrooms (sage on the stage) and old-timey bells:
A building alone does not create a school culture. But research shows that school buildings can affect students' morale and academic performance. Now, school officials are moving away from the "cells and bells" design marked by long, locker-lined hallways of windowless classrooms, and toward more open, flexible buildings aimed at creating a sense of community and collaboration.

Such new designs tie together a shift to a more technology-driven, collaborative, student-centered approach to education with an effort to improve students' safety, engagement, and community.

[snip]

Increasingly, the spaces themselves are designed to foster student connection. Traditional cafeterias in some schools have been replaced with more café-like areas where students might work and eat at the same time. Windows are opened to improve daytime lighting and indoor-air quality. Hallways are broadened and lockers removed to reduce clutter and chaos.

Many newer buildings also are "more learning-focused, less teacher-focused," says Craig Mason, an architect with the DLR Group, based in Overland Park, Kan. Some school buildings include breakout spaces for students to meet in small groups, or have windows specifically so a group can work outside while still being supervised.

Schools' Design Can Play Role in Safety, Student Engagement
By Jaclyn Zubrzycki
Published in Print: January 10, 2013, as Building Toward a Positive Climate
I'm asking myself: what would Gordon say?

School buildings are being intentionally designed to foster peer orientation? To minimize teacher influence?

OK, fine. One more reason to vote down bond propositions.

Meanwhile, how come the ed establishment has a lock on slogans that rhyme?
  • guide on the side
  • sage on the stage
  • chalk and talk
  • drill and kill
  • cells and bells
I need a rhyme.


37 comments:

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

I'm glad to see that the windowless classroom fad is ending. I think it started in the late 70s or early 80s, and resulted in some of the most unpleasant buildings around, with no natural light. Classrooms should have windows, so that the brighter students have something to look at while the rest of the class is doing stuff they learned years earlier.

Catherine Johnson said...

I'm laughing

I've never seen a school building without windows -- except for C's Jesuit high school, which has zillions of classrooms with no windows. That's part of its charm, oddly enough. They built an expensive new 3rd floor flooded with light that nobody likes!

Of course I agree in general that rooms should have windows ---- !

Catherine Johnson said...

I'm laughing

I've never seen a school building without windows -- except for C's Jesuit high school, which has zillions of classrooms with no windows. That's part of its charm, oddly enough. They built an expensive new 3rd floor flooded with light that nobody likes!

Of course I agree in general that rooms should have windows ---- !

Jean said...

Is this going to be the open classroom-without-walls concept AGAIN? For like the 4th time in 35 years? Because there's a reason rooms have walls.

I watched the video just now and I don't quite understand how some of these things are supposed to be innovative and amazing. Open common areas? Don't most schools have quads? Large cafeterias that can be used for other purposes too--you mean multi-purpose rooms?

I think open windows are good. I like the idea of 'cafe-style' areas for working and eating (large noisy cafeterias are unpleasant). The little glass-walled group-study rooms are nice--we have them in the CC library where I work.

It's interesting to me that they use rhymed phrases as a pejorative. If you can rhyme it, it's bad. "Sage on the stage" is code for "you don't even have to think about this--dismiss it, it's bad." Never mind all the great teachers you remember who did lectures and discussions, never mind that you yourself often enjoy good lectures, or that TED lectures are hugely popular. It rhymes, so you don't have to think about it.

momof4 said...

Peer influence is already too much. The ed establishment needs to grow up, BE adults and ACT like adults.

I commented above about the open-classrooms - unmitigated disaster - and second the comment about windows. My two youngest attended a HS essentially without windows (XC cafeteria - and admin offices, naturally), to the point that it had the reputation that it had been designed by a firm which usually designed prisons. Awful. OTOH, what was a lovely, local-stone,traditional, square HS with big windows is gorgeous (now a museum/performing art center).

I think HS quads are closely connected to local climate; not a big thing in the snow belt.

My kids all loved the style exemplified by those slogans - and hated the fads.

Glen said...

Daycare design, crayola curriculum. How's that for a slogan?

Genevieve said...

My school district is finally renovating the last of the open classroom schools from the seventies so that classrooms have permanent walls. Before this classes used shelves, curtains, whatever was available to subdivide the space.

If it didn't work before, why is it going to work now?

That being said, the most miserable class I ever had was in an inner classroom without walls for pre-Calc. It didn't help that the ceiling tiles were falling down. Windows are nice.

Catherine Johnson said...

Daycare design, crayola curriculum. How's that for a slogan?

Doesn't quite have the ring of Chalk and Talk, but it's a start!

Catherine Johnson said...

There are a couple of other two-word rhymes in education, aren't there? I feel like I'm forgetting some.

Oh!

Drill and kill!

How could I forget that one!

Catherine Johnson said...

I just added it to the list, but I feel I'm still missing some others....

Catherine Johnson said...

Before this classes used shelves, curtains, whatever was available to subdivide the space.

If it didn't work before, why is it going to work now?


Because now, apparently, we aren't going to have any teachers at all.

Just peer leadership and collaboration.

Catherine Johnson said...

The video suggests to me that 'Open Spaces' is the Googleization of K-12 in terms of architecture, not just curriculum.

If you look at photos of Google interiors, I think you see the fantasy.

Jean said...

"I think HS quads are closely connected to local climate; not a big thing in the snow belt."

Oh. And there we see the problem with living in California your whole life--of course all the high schools I've ever seen have windows and open areas. They're not even built for rain, much less snow. Does that mean that what school designers are really looking to do is copy CA high schools? I can imagine some problems with that.

My husband was subjected to an open-plan classroom in the late 70s. 70+ 1st-graders and 3 teachers in one giant room--you can imagine the horror. In the K-8 school I went to, the new 7-8 building had open-plan classrooms that were going to be the future. They were an awful failure and it was years before it could be fixed. Why do people who love open-plan fads never think about noise?

Catherine Johnson said...

Here's a great set of photos.

Jen said...

Hey, here they managed to take a beautiful old building and turn it into a prison-style building! It wasn't new construction, they just basically encased the old school in the 70s.

http://www.city-data.com/forum/pittsburgh/1631461-peabody-high-school-building-obama-h-2.html

Scroll down on this page, first you'll see a google maps shot of it now (and it really doesn't do justice to HOW ugly it is). Then scroll at bit further to see it in its glory days.

To make it even worse, they saved the three pillars and put them up as "decoration" on one bricked over side of the school.

Going into that building is like going to a matinee during the summer. You come out blinking and confused, unable to discern how much time has passed and how much the world has changed while you were in your sensory deprivation chamber!

Karen W said...

The Director of the Iowa Dept of Ed liked to talk about moving away from "blame and shame" NCLB accountability.

C T said...

For you:
Basics outside the Matrix
Accelerate and congratulate

TerriW said...

Safety?

I'm not sure what to make of that in light of all the stories saying that in the event of a mass school shooting, teachers herd their kids into rooms then shut and lock their doors.

Anonymous said...

Schools are generally awful. I disliked school thoroughly, and so did my son.

But the part that does not cease to amaze me is how "reformers" always try to fix school by throwing out the parts that work and keeping the parts that don't work.

The result will be schools that students hate but that don't teach them anything either.

Grace said...

Rhymes:

What goes on in public schools:
Hover and discover

What homeschoolers do with their kids:
Abduct and instruct

(I’m taking a mental break as I’m spending hours copying old geometry tests for my kid to use as a study aid because the teacher didn't have time to convert the old tests to PDFs and post to the school website.)

Catherine Johnson said...

Grace - did you come up with those yourself????

I'm in the wrong business.

You need to be the writer!

Those are fabulous!

BLAME AND SHAME ---- I LOVE IT!

Anonymous said...

Working hard to amuse Catherine. Open schools model =

Gather and blather

Anonymous said...

Drill and ....skill!

Anonymous said...

flail and fail

lgm said...

what happens when students didn't study science well enough and start counting on fingers for things that one normally uses mental math for:
under stress, we regress

Crimson Wife said...

I'd forgotten how much I absolutely *HATE* bells until I heard one at the elementary school where my youngest child has her special ed preschool class. There has got to be a way to alert students and teachers to the beginning and the ending of the day (or class period in a high school) in a less jarring manner.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for wider hallways. And sufficient time between class to get from one room to another. I remember in high school it was nearly impossible to get from here to there, but if we were late the teacher would waste five or six minutes of class time swearing THEY could do it.

Yeah, because when they'd walked from the basement to the top floor with a stopwatch, the halls were empty, not at 150% capacity.

Anonymous said...

But, to continue, lack of lockers is awful. NYC high schools rarely have lockers, and it just adds to "clutter and chaos" when you have to carry your coat and all your books everywhere.

Anonymous said...

And here I thought that this was a modification of the snark about Catholic mass: "Smells and bells."

Catherine Johnson said...

Yeah, because when they'd walked from the basement to the top floor with a stopwatch, the halls were empty, not at 150% capacity.

I'm laughing!

Catherine Johnson said...

NYC high schools rarely have lockers

They don't have lockers???

I didn't know that

Lockers were a HUGE problem in the middle school, not because they didn't have them but because many (most) of the lockers were miles away from the classes & kids couldn't get to them (or, I think, were too afraid to go to their lockers because then they might be late...)

The result was chronic "binder explosions" in the halls and on the stairs.

The few aides in the building would rush to help the child collect all his papers ....

I know this because I sat in on one middle school site committee meeting where an aide gave a GRAPHIC description of binder explosions in the halls.

(One of the parents was pushing the issue of bells....but I can't remember what the issues was precisely. Perhaps the time kids had to transition??)

One of the teachers present said that students were 'choosing' not to go to their lockers (and choosing to be too afraid to do so...) so it was their fault if they were having binder explosions.

That of course was another provocation to me.

10-year olds are 'choosing' to be afraid to go to their lockers and the resultant binder explosions are their fault?

Remind me again how much I'm paying in property taxes for fear and exploding binders....

Catherine Johnson said...

I'm collecting all the poems!

Jen said...

Middle school and lockers. I remember that. Yup. Our school solved it by saying that they could only go to their lockers in the morning, before/after lunch, and at the end of the day.

Of course, there were kids that really could never get it all together. But it made sure that the parents "couldn't" complain, because they had a little bit of extra time around lunch to switch from morning to afternoon "stuff."

With my oldest, they actually tried to work with and train the kids how to go back and forth, how to follow your schedule, had them come in a day early for a practice, etc.

That disappeared before second kid. By then, they just hollered and hollered at the kids.

Catherine Johnson said...

oh, Jen

That is so upsetting.

Takes me back, too.

Our middle school -- per pupil funding $30K, I MUST ADD -- did have one locker training session with the kids ----- but they didn't check to see if all the kids had learned how to do it.

It turned out that C's locker was jammed; there wasn't any way for him to get his stuff back out. That afternoon he stood in front of his locker crying for 45 minutes before a passing teacher finally took pity on him and helped him out.

He was 10.

Catherine Johnson said...

The next day his friend tried to deal with the locker for him, but couldn't master it.

Then our neighbors dispatched their son, who was one year older, to try to deal with it --- and he couldn't, either.

Meanwhile C, who was a super-conscientious child and very nervous about middle school and the whole lot of it, was getting more and more anxious and upset.

Catherine Johnson said...

Not finding out whether students have learned what you taught has immediate consequences when it comes to lockers.

Catherine Johnson said...

Anonymous - GATHER AND BLATHER!!!!

I JUST BURST OUT LAUGHING!