I used to dream of having my own classroom… complete with storage for supplies and a sink for clean up. A place I could call my own and make my own decisions about. A teaching space where I could leave things set up, knowing the room would be exactly how I left it when I returned.
Over the years, I’ve taught Art in public and private school settings, charter schools and homeschool co-ops, summer camps and afterschool programs, for ages kindergarten through adult. Yet I’ve never had that elusive fully-equipped classroom I could call my own.
And I’ve decided that’s really okay…. and maybe even a good thing!
When you share a classroom, you have a genuine “stakeholder” who probably cares as much about the space as you do. While you will need to forfeit having total control, two heads are still almost always better than one.
Using a shared space also creates physical limitations and parameters within which all your decisions about your classroom and your teaching are made. It may be human nature to push back against limitations placed on us, but just as giving parameters in assignments benefits our students, parameters can benefit us as teachers, too.
So if you find yourself sharing a teaching space, here’s how you can make it work for you instead of against you:
- Have a positive attitude. Rather than assuming that sharing a classroom is going to be a problem, expect the best! Lean into it with a great attitude and always be looking for the good in it.
- Reach out to the other teacher (or teachers!), realizing that they, too, would probably prefer to have their own space. Ask what would make the space work better for them. Offer to help!
- Communicate early and often! If an issue pops up, address it before tension builds and it becomes a bigger deal. Leave a note or text a compliment when you see something positive from the other teacher’s class, so you’re not only communicating when there’s a problem. Leave an occasional treat or small gift, just for fun.
- Problem solve together. Brainstorm ideas. Share what you’re thinking about a particular issue and ask, “What ideas do you have?” Let the other teacher know you’re in this together.
- Be grateful that your room is getting so much use, because that means more kids are getting to do art! Remind yourself that having a classroom of any kind means you have a J-O-B, so be grateful for that, too! There’s no situation that can’t be improved by gratitude.