White Space

This is a post about good design. I am going to preface it with saying that now I have taught as a substitute, I think teachers are the most amazing people on the face of this planet. Oh my goodness it is hard work.  Day in and day out they are engaging and molding the minds of the future and at the same time class room sizes get larger and test scores dictate whether they keep their jobs. I have to say I love being a sub because I get to waltz in for the day and leave when the kids go home. Even when the day is done teachers are still working. They are grading papers and creating lesson plans. It is much longer then an eight hour day. I think anyone who wants to critique teachers and our education system needs to spend a day teaching. Just a day to see what it is like.

As I said though, this is a post about design. These days kids from all ends of the spectrum, from borderline autistic to behavioral disorders, are in the same classroom. It is very challenging and I have been lucky because every time I have taught I have had an aide in the classroom. Most schools, and most teachers, don't have that luxury.

Every classroom I have walked into has been a cacophony of design. There is stuff on the floor, wrapping up the walls and onto the ceiling. There is only a small square of whiteboard available to use for teaching. There are large post it notes of information stuck all over the walls. There are peeling bits of grammar rules that are so high up I don't know how anyone can see them. Tables are covered in books, paper and games. There are school supplies laying everywhere. Each classroom I walk into I straighten up. I can't help myself because the clutter starts to get to me.

The reason I mention this is because good design involves white space. A place for the eye to rest. There needs to be symmetry, which we are inherently drawn to. Colors are typically chosen to complement each other and to support the emotion that the space is trying to evoke. It is easy to recognize bad design because it unsettles us and makes us feel a bit... off. Good design makes us want to stay awhile, maybe curl up on the couch and read a book. Unfortunately, the classrooms today do not do that. They are a hodgepodge mix of colors, images, words, symbols and stuff.

We are a nation of stuff. We now have storage units for our storage units. We need to take a lesson from Coco Chanel who said, "Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off". I think we need to apply the same thought to our accessories as to our home, and by extension our classrooms. We need to create space for learning and a space for kids to rest their eyes and maybe day dream a little.

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