Somehow I’ve always been one of those students who both dreads the beginning of a new school year while paradoxically begging for it to finally come. I haven’t changed much as a teacher, and the school year is fast approaching like a train I cannot decide if I want to ride or to hit me. In preparation for the coming year, I have been wandering around the building I’ll be teaching in and ogling the classrooms through the tiny squares of window in the door. As I’ve been peeking into the various rooms either occupied–in which case the teacher and students glare at me–or not–in which case I would longingly put a hand on the window like a cat locked out of its home.
All this room-peeking has got me thinking though: what would my ideal classroom actually look like? I’ve found reasons to love and hate each room I’ve been given, so I’m left wondering what it would take for me to purely love my room.
The walls, naturally, would be cold, gray, stone, unbroken by windows. The floor would match. I want my room to have the aesthetic of a dungeon and the color scheme only a dog could describe. There might be chains on the wall or there might not. I haven’t settled on the decorations yet. I want my classroom to be an efficient space, and I’ve always found colors and windows and daylight and hope distracting.
Desks are a frivolity which distract from the awesome potential of the floor. I’ve often wondered why schools buy desks–designated flat spaces for students to work–when there is a perfectly serviceable floor below them. Why do students need desks when the floor can function just as well or better as a writing surface. Maybe schools get a good deal on chairs and feel like they need some justification for forcing their students to sit in them, so they buy desks. My classroom would be bonanza of money-saving potential. In a school where each desk costs over $400–I actually found this out–I would be saving my university thousands. Teacher of the year award here I come.
Naturally, the ceiling would be a two-way-mirror. But wouldn’t that let in the sunlight, you ask, concerned that I might be making a stone oven in which I could slow roast my students. For the concerned parents and future students, I would like to relieve your concerns. The ceiling would, of course, not lead to the outside world. I would never deliberately expose my students to sunlight. Instead, it would also serve as the floor of my office so I might sit in the quiet comfort of my own room while my students diligently work below. To communicate instructions, I would have speakers installed in the walls and floor to broadcast my lessons. The inspiration for this architectural wonder is none of than Michel Foucault’s “Panopticon,” a theoretical building in which the occupants may be constantly surveyed by a single watchman. The scholars in the audience might raise the critique that the Panopticon was meant to be a prison, and to that I say, “Yeah, but mine will be different because sometimes I make jokes.”