Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Room With A Table

To state the obvious: not all classrooms are created equal. Students may have strong feelings about their classrooms (types and arrangement chairs, writing surfaces, boards, screens; sight lines, acoustics, lighting etc.), and professors do as well. And although there are certainly rooms that are better than others, what works well for one class might not work well for another so any one classroom might be good or not good depending on the class/professor.

Several times in my teaching career, I have requested and been initially assigned a "good" classroom (one that works well for the class I am going to teach), only to be reassigned at the last minute to a "not good" classroom. To the casual observer, the differences in these rooms may be quite subtle, so I may seem like an unreasonable complainer when I object, but a room with chairs in rows is very different from a room with chairs around a table. A room that is a 12-second walk from my office is very different from a room that is a 12-minute walk from my office. A room with projection equipment is very different from a room with no projection equipment, and a room with a giant touch-screen TV is very different from a room without.. and so on.

You may have guessed that a classroom reassignment happened to me recently, and your guess would be correct. Another annoying thing about this late reassignment is that I had spent some time over the summer specifically preparing teaching activities for the room to which I had been originally assigned. Much of this time was wasted because my actual classroom does not (and cannot) have the same features as the original room.

A classroom re/assignment is not a neutral thing; just because a certain room will fit the number of students enrolled in the class does not mean that the class will "fit" in that room.

But I don't want to be (too) cranky so early in the new academic year. I am disgruntled about this particular issue but overall quite excited about teaching one of my favorite courses.


9 comments:

Alex said...

I once had to justify running a computational methods class in a room with computers.

I think the math department is inventing new types of negative numbers to describe the collective IQ of a university.

olympiasepiriot said...

I'd have thought that due to your recent 'elevation' you might have more say in these matters. Perks of privilege?

Pity. I can sympathise with the frustration.

Female Science Professor said...

I should say that I have, in the past year, had interactions with the office that manages classroom spaces in the university and the people in charge of this are really impressive. They have comprehensive knowledge of existing classrooms and excellent ideas for improving them. It's just that the system is so huge and in some cases a room reassignment is not done by a human, and the humans who could/should be checking these things may not know what the consequences are, even if we would like to think that they do/would at a university. Hence my situation and my frustration this year.

Anonymous said...

Be cranky--NOW! Before all your other re-assigned colleagues beat you to it. These issues are key, not trivial.

Mark P

Female Science Professor said...

Well, I definitely complained when I realized I had been reassigned. I was angry about the reassignment and I was angry that I had not been told about it. I was out of the country at the time, so had to do all my complaining by email. I found out about the room change by chance when looking something up for a student on the university course-listings webpage. When I complained, I was offered a series of alternatives. After some investigation and discussion, I chose from among my unsatisfactory options. The one thing I was able to do is to make it clear that the relevant staff person in my department (that is, the one with knowledge of room changes) should have alerted me of the change and must in the future inform faculty of any changes as soon as the changes are made. Perhaps if I had been made aware of the room change earlier, I could have had better options.

Anonymous said...

Last year I was assigned to teach in a classroom in the student gymnasium. 1) I'm in engineering and 2) this is a 20 minute trip away (including a bus ride to make it there that fast). Magically, when I complained they found a room in the engineering building next to mine (2minute walk). You would think that would have been the first option for an engineering course, right??

Happy teaching!

Anonymous said...

Agreed, this is one of the most annoying things about teaching. I spent a long time last spring choosing my fall classroom, but was booted from it a couple of weeks ago when the dean's office decided it needed to be remodeled into something else. Luckily, I was notified before anything happened and was able to choose a different room. I didn't have very many options at that point, but although the new room is one I haven't used before, at first glance it seems to be a good one. I'll find out next week!

Anonymous said...

I can SOOOOO relate to this!!

Anonymous said...

You're absolutely right, classrooms matter a lot more than non-profs probably think. I'm lucky in that while my institution has a host of failings (as do all),the one thing they've done right is to devote the funds so that essentially all classrooms have the essentials in terms of projectors, white boards, computers etc. I also get to teach all my classes in the building my office is in.....