Wednesday, July 23, 2014

You Gotta Make a Mess to Make Progress

Time for a remodeling update!!  For those new readers, we are remodeling 15 classrooms, our Multi-Purpose Room (performance and gathering space), Art Department and several academic centers.  In a classic portrayal of "you gotta make a mess to make progress"... we've definitely been making a mess!

Main Hallway

Classrooms were taken down to studs and cement.  New electrical wiring, new HDMI and ethernet, new HVAC, new ceiling grid, tiles, flooring are installed or about to be installed.  Materials are staged in the hallway for installation.  Projectors, screens, TV's and desktops will be moved with furniture in later weeks.

We are reaching the precarious stage where it looks like we are behind schedule.  We aren't... but appearances belie realities.  It's a time of frustration with the mess, weariness with the random power outages/alarms and panic that the Fall Semester is rapidly approaching and the chairs haven't been delivered.
As with all disruption... the propensity for "what if..." could out pace the vision.  Here is where faith lives.

I've written before on the symbolic and material meanings of physical space. Classrooms hold symbolic value (right or wrong) in American culture as the entry point of equality.  Education is the vehicle to success and prosperity... the classroom is portrayed as the idyllic innocence of childhood and the path to success.  And yet, just like libraries, classrooms have material functions to provide... testing, discussion, writing, lecture, viewing, reading... all those activities that are a part of "education".  I have to wonder:

  • Can learning happen without chairs? 
  • Can success occur if the paint isn't dry?  
  • Can discussion happen without a projector? 

 I would argue YES to all the above.  Physical space can influence, inspire and enhance... but ultimately relationship, human relationship, is what binds us and facilitates growth.

But this is a post about renovating classroom space!  So... living within individual symbolic and material context, our old excuses to validate stasis are becoming obsolete. Furniture doesn't have to stay in neat rows to symbolize orderly teaching.  Students can project and share from personal devices - sharing their findings from their personal location.  This shifts the material practice to student-centered activities and away from teacher-centered lecture.  Suddenly we find ourselves with limitless possibility... on the cutting edge (if not bleeding edge) of educational practice to support student learning.  Exciting and daunting at the same time because our symbolic and material expectations of school are intentionally unsteady.

It's a little messy around here.  This amount of physical disruption is going to cause some dissonance.  The work of redefining the symbolic and material understanding of the classroom is a time for relationship -  listening, dialogue and patience... and maybe some Windex and ibuprofen.  Classes begin here August 12th... Prayers are welcome.  Visitors are welcome in October or so when the paint is dry.