Madeleine Clays is a public school teacher who shared classrooms with other teachers for several years.
Shortage of Classrooms
Did you know that having their own classroom has become a commodity for many American teachers today?
In many public schools across the U.S., classroom sharing has become the norm in recent years. It occurs when educators utilize the same room at different times throughout the day to teach in schools where there's a shortage of space.
Rather than purchase trailers or build additional wings in their buildings, many districts ask their teachers to share their rooms. It’s perceived as a cost-effective alternative and as a way to maximize available space within the building.
While it may appear to be financially cost-effective for schools to ask their educators to share classrooms, there is indeed a high price tag attached to this approach.
Why Classroom Sharing Is a Bad Idea in Public Education
1. Teachers prefer their own space.
2. Students' needs are disregarded.
3. It creates a bully culture in schools.
How Can Two Teachers Share a Classroom?
You may wonder how educators can possibly use the same room to teach their students. Teachers vacate their classroom during their plan time and during times of the day when they are co-teaching elsewhere. This frees up their room for another teacher and class.
Sometimes two educators even have their personal desks stationed in the same room. If there's only one teacher desk, it's shared among the educators who use the room to teach.
1. Educators Need Their Own Space
As somebody who shared classrooms for several years and also taught in schools where this practice was quite common, I will be very blunt:
Teachers are much happier when they have their own classroom.
This is not due to selfishness or greed, but because classroom sharing adds a tremendous amount of stress to a job that is already very challenging.
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Things Go Missing
- Important items may go missing from a teacher’s desk. I have had several educators leave my room with very important material from my desk. One of them was a curriculum manual which I needed to teach my next class!
- Classroom decor and supplies are often rearranged or go missing. I have returned to my room to find posters torn off my walls and student supplies misplaced.
Technology Is Disabled
- Sometimes printer, smart board, and other important devices are found disconnected when an educator returns to her room, or the settings for these devices have been altered. This means the teacher has to take class time to reconnect them.
The Room Is Left Unclean
- Staff and students who use the room don’t always clean up before they leave. Trash is left inside desks, on the floor, and even on bookcases. I shared my room with an educator who would reward her students with food and candy daily. I would find crumbs and candy wrappers all over students' desks regularly when I returned to the room.
- Trash is sometimes left on teachers' desks. I have found candy wrappers, soiled tissues and other trash on the surface of my desk multiple times after another staff member has used my desk and room. Yuck!
Student Desks Are Rearranged
- Educators often rely heavily on specific desk arrangements as part of their behavior management. When desks have been shuffled around, the teacher must take extra time to rearrange them.
Educators Are Displaced From Their Room During Their Plan Time
- Teachers need a quiet environment where they can concentrate during their plan time, with all of their materials at their fingertips. It's very inconvenient for them to have to leave their room during their plan time.
- When educators are forced to vacate their classroom during their plan time, they often don't have another quiet place to work, free of distractions, within the building.
- Important and confidential phone calls can't be made by educators during their plan time when their room is unavailable, so they must make these calls after school or outside of their contract hours. This especially poses a problem for staff who have family commitments or second jobs.
Teachers Feel Disrespected
- When teachers don’t have their own classroom, they feel disregarded and unimportant. This is especially the case when other staff members who use the same space leave the room a mess.
- Educators like to set up and decorate their classrooms according to their personal preferences, and they can't do that when they don’t have their own space.
Stress Runs High
- Classroom sharing causes a great amount of stress for teachers based on the items outlined above. Unfortunately, when educators are stressed, students inevitably sense this and are impacted by it.
Classroom sharing is especially stressful for educators who are introverts and have a greater need for quiet time to recharge their batteries. In fact, introverted teachers are at a much higher risk of burning out and resigning when they don't have any personal space all day.
2. Students' Needs Are Ignored
Just as teachers need their space, students do also.
Students often have a designated location in the room where they leave their materials, such as a shelf where they keep their binders or writing journals. This way they can easily access them daily when they show up for class, and the teacher has them at her fingertips to review their work throughout the week.
When several different educators use the same room to teach throughout the week, it is not uncommon for the following to occur:
Students' Materials Are Tampered With
- Students steal, damage or destroy students’ belongings (from another class) that are kept in the room.
- Student desks are vandalized. It's often difficult to pinpoint the culprit, as multiple students use the same desk throughout the day under different educators' supervision.
- Classroom materials and supplies that are shared among all classes go missing while different staff members use the room.
Students Can't Discuss Concerns With Their Teachers
- It's hard for students to locate a teacher they need to talk to throughout the day, because she doesn't have her own designated location.
- With more than one educator in a room, there isn't a quiet and confidential environment for students to talk to a specific teacher about personal or academic concerns.
Instruction Is Interrupted
- Other staff members who utilize the room show up at random times to pick up their materials while another class is already going on in the room, thereby disrupting the flow of the class lesson. Not only is instruction interrupted, but sometimes this also leads to behavior problems as well.
3. Classroom Sharing Leads to Bullying
Teachers Bully Teachers
Unfortunately, classroom sharing often leads to bullying among educators. Sometimes it's subtle and sometimes it's not.
When teachers find their classrooms a mess, they normally address this diplomatically with colleagues who use the same room for their classes. Unfortunately, this is not always well received by their colleagues and causes them to have resentful feelings and to leave the room even messier than before.
Some teachers are angry that they have to share their room to begin with. They may disable technology or hide important materials in the room before the other educator arrives.
These nasty attitudes among teachers inevitably create a hostile culture in the school. Students pick up on these negative vibes and it impacts the way they treat one another. Bullying breeds bullying.
The Cost of Classroom Sharing is Too High
Sadly, having their own classroom has become a luxury for many educators in U.S. public schools.
Based on my first-hand experiences with room sharing and the toll I have seen it take on my colleagues and on me, I have little doubt that this approach has led to the increase in teacher resignation rates in public schools across America.
School districts must make it a priority to purchase trailers or to build more classrooms for their teachers. The amount of stress room sharing creates for educators and students is simply too high a price to pay for any amount of dollars school districts may save.
In the long run, the financial cost of losing educators and hiring new ones far exceeds that of giving teachers and students the space they need and deserve. Our teachers and students deserve no less.
© 2019 Madeleine Clays
A teacher on January 15, 2020:
I share a classroom with 4 other teachers. There is no space. Three of the four teachers do not respect the agreed upon norms originally set up in the beginning of the year. There is often a parade of students and teachers in and out of the room. There is no respect for the class that actually going on. Right now we are testing and the testing sign on the door is being ignored. It's exhausting to have to remind grown ups to follow the rules.
Someone on January 11, 2020:
Biggest problem when you share is when the teacher normally in the room just stays there the entire class period. I have four observations every two days now because they want to stay in the room.