The days before September 1st – school start for primary and secundary education in Belgium – you can view many photos of teachers who have their class completely in order. Proud they post their ’empty’ classroom. What is striking is that many classrooms have a very classic and outdated arrangement. I am talking about the three rows of banks instead of groups. Some classrooms are so small that they all look a little pinched.
I myself once taught in a classroom where the banks almost stood together, side by side. I had just one cabinet, a small blackboard and no space for computers. Admittedly, those years were an emergency solution, but it left an impression on every student. Space is as important as silence.
Space is not the only issue. In increasingly difficult circumstances, teachers have to ‘push’ more material into the pupil’s brains. It is said that our education is deteriorating. I’ve heard this decades ago as well but did we change our ways of teaching?
In the 21st century, the level of education is not measured by the height of the mountain of facts that pupils can cram in their head and can slavishly reproduce on a test. In the first place, the level will be measured by the depth with which students understand knowledge, apply responsibly and critically, work purposefully, creatively and connect to human values. (No parrots in the class, Kris Van Den Branden in De Standaard, University of Leuven)
Hope is coming. There is an emerging group of teachers who dare to use classroom space as a tool to help what students learn to transpose to crucial skills and knowledge needed in the ‘outside world’. Their classroom is a rich learning environment that is at the service of the students and learning. Those teachers dare to deviate from the teaching periods of 25 or 50 minutes. These settings are used to divide the day as easy as possible not from the pupil’s perspective. They also understand that the brain needs rest instead of being under constant pressure all day long. They allow short 5 minute breaks. Sure it’s a challenging perspective but it’s motivating.
There is one more encompassing aspect that helps students stay motivated to learn, and it’s their relationship. (Hans-Peter Becker)
Be part of the unstoppable evolution of sustainable education and start small in your own classroom for the future of learning is you. Spread the word and talk to colleagues. Inspire them. Free yourself from the straitjacket of the daily routine. The only thing that can be extinct on this planet are conservative schools where children grouped by date of birth must absorb and reproduce content between 4 walls. Spread the word that we must abandon conformity and never ever treat every child alike again.
Every child has the right to unequal education. (Martin Valcke, University of Ghent)
Demolish the walls literally and figuratively. Make the impossible possible and mobilize knowledge and skills. You can do it so do it! You owe it to every student.
About the Author
Karel Overlaet is a family man, Business Development Manager, creator of bingel (European market leading e-learning platform), a passion for personalised learning, e-learning, gamification, future of learning, learning algorithms, learning analytics, owner of Medianaut, chairman Varen voor Autisme vzw (npo), nautical journalist and photographer, passionate about RIBs. firstname.lastname@example.org – Berchem – Belgium