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The 12th Century Classroom

Some of my favorite moments teaching have been when we've decided to take class outside. Get away from the desks and technology and simply have a conversation. When the weather's right, I find that I'm able to reach my students in a different way. However (as I'm sure you know) there are drawbacks, even beyond weather. If the class is too big, it's difficult to hear each other. Distractions are enormous.

I feel that there is a need for a space where I could take my class that would be like going outside, but protected and sacred. I'm all for teaching in a 21st century classroom, but I'd also like to spend some time in a classroom with 12th century technology. A Yurt. A simple structure with just meditation pillows where a class could sit together and share a conversation and a cup of tea. It could create the equivalent of having class outside--a place where being thoughtful triumphs over being fast. A place (like our school's chapel) where the silence is as important as the conversation.
The essence of of a good school experience isn't embracing new technology (although that's very important), nor is it really academic content (also very important). Good schools are based on relationships and conversations among teachers and students in which inquiry and independent thinking are esteemed. A classroom designed with 12th Century Asian technology could serve as a sacred(?) space reserved for conversation, exploring ideas, and embracing thoughtfulness. Such spaces are increasingly scarce.
A place where gadgets are turned off and minds are turned on is a place where one can practice attention and focus. No glowing rectangles allowed.
Such a place would be a place that could nurture the less quantifiable elements of our work as teachers. Take students out of the classroom and they're more likely to feel inspired and creative. Again, this would be a place that honors the community of the classroom and where deeper, even quiet, thinking (as seems more common in past centuries) is honored.

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