Thursday, September 29, 2011

Space to think...

Space to think, vital space, head space.

This is it, they can't damn this flow. The English course, an Indian summer, there we were, sitting on the grass, the concrete walls of the institution, vaguely irrelevant. It was impossible to feel anything other than free. The students were standing, others walking, some lounging, chatting, reflecting on their personal projects.

I am sitting on a sofa at home, drinking coffee, writing this. Is this my work? Not sure what it is, but it appears necessary.

Yesterday I went to pick up my daughter at the creche. I looked around at the play space. Lovely bright colours, hand painting on the walls, boxes full of toys, little kids moving freely, busily building their real, imaginary worlds.

I rushed off this evening to the parent teacher meeting at my son's school. I sat facing uncomfortably front at an adult designed child-sized desk. I gazed anxiously at the lists of homework, the shelved exercise books and the high set windows.  Outside, the kids were kneeling on the playground tarmac, playing with their Bayblades.

I got my finger stuck in a metallic chair once. The more that I struggled, the more that it swelled up and made its release unlikely. It was in a German class with the man who would successfully convince me that German was not for me. I remember nothing more about his class.

With a lot of tugging, a sizeable pat of butter and no little pain, I was freed. From that day on, I was the undesirable element.

One afternoon, to my considerable pleasure, he excluded me from his class.  I went off to my study and ate toast. Perhaps the best piece of toast I ever remember eating.

Dormitory, library, lavatory.
Sleeping in a room with thirteen co-detainees left little space for privacy. Showering was communal, baths shared, adolescent angst barely hid. Escape was a common subject of discussion at my school. Tales were told of the three boys who managed to get as far as Preston. We only got as far as Blackpool ice-rink. We bribed the monitors.  I didn't like ice-skating, I couldn't care less.

Peace, on week days, was a lavatory cubicle.  Sundays,  I squatted a corner of the library behind the magazine rack. In times of stress, I continue to find comfort in plastic bound glossies and anonymous silence.

Four walls and a door
Let's just close the door, so nobody can hear what I have to say.

Why do we insist on sitting people down on chairs to learn? How much do other people's spaces condition our behaviour? Would we want other people to choose our furniture for us?  Why do prisons and some schools have high-set windows? What has learning got to do with facing front? Aren't we missing something if we only look in one direction? What is it about libraries and comfort? Should the bell at the end of the school day be a release?

Banksy mural 
Photo PaternitéPas d'utilisation commercialePas de modification Certains droits réservés par walker cleavelands 


  1. C'est drôle parce que je viens juste de parcourir un "design for educator workbook" dont le sujet était comment rendre l'espace de ma classe à la fois plus intime, pour favoriser la réflexion individuelle, et plus "collaboratif". Le processus du design thinking est intéressant mais j'en retiens surtout la dimension évolutive, par essai erreur, et la possibilité bien sûr de faire réfléchir les élèves à leurs espaces de travail: qu'est ce qui pourrait m'aider à travailler, à apprendre, comment me sentir bien ici? Pour moi les murs etles espaces de l'école contraignent nos corps, mais surtout nos esprits.
    Les élèves devraient designer leur école. L'investir en imaginaire et en émotionnel, en expérience. Et pourquoi pas la construire eux-mêmes.

  2. Bonjour Elodie
    La question d'espaces d'apprentissages me passionne. Voici quelques ressources que je collectionne:

    Je m'intéresse dans la co-création d'espaces et depuis trois ans nous travaillons dans des espaces ouvertes à plusieurs en équipes flexibles de 2 ou 3 plutôt qu'un enseignant dans une petite boîte.