Why Classroom Sharing Is a Really Bad Idea in Public Education

Updated on November 29, 2019
Madeleine Clays profile image

Madeleine Clays has been a public school teacher in the U.S. for almost twenty years. She is passionate about education.

Shortage of Classrooms

Classroom sharing has become increasingly popular in public schools across the U.S. in recent years. It occurs when teachers utilize the same room at different times throughout the day to teach in schools where there is 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.

How Can Two Teachers Share a Classroom?

You may be wondering how teachers 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 empties up their room for another teacher and class.

Sometimes two teachers even have their personal desks stationed in the same room. If there's only one teacher desk, whoever is using the room to teach a class may use the desk during that period.

Classroom sharing adds an unnecessary and inordinate amount of stress to a job that is already highly challenging. Is it any wonder teacher resignation rates are at an all-time high?

Classroom sharing creates unnecessary stress for teachers and students.
Classroom sharing creates unnecessary stress for teachers and students. | Source

While it may appear to be financially cost-effective for schools to ask their teachers to share classrooms, there is indeed a high price tag attached to this approach.

Here are 3 reasons classroom sharing is a very bad idea in public education:

1. Teachers prefer their own space.

2. Students' needs are disregarded.

3. It creates a bully school culture.

1. Teachers 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 rather because classroom sharing adds a tremendous amount of stress to a job that is already highly demanding.

Here's how:

Things Go Missing

  • Important items may go missing from a teacher’s desk. I have had several teachers inadvertently walk away with very important material from my desk. One of them was my teacher curriculum manual and I had to literally chase the teacher down for it because I needed it to teach my next class!
  • Classroom decor and supplies often are rearranged or go missing. I have returned to my room to find posters torn off my walls and materials misplaced.

Technology Is Disabled

  • Sometimes printer, smart board, and other important devices are found disconnected when another teacher enters the room, or the settings for these devices have been altered. This means the teacher may have to take class time to reconnect everything daily.

The Room Is Left Unclean

  • Teachers 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 had a teacher use my room who would reward her students with food and candy daily. I would find crumbs and candy wrappers all over student desks when I returned to my 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 teacher has used my desk and room. Yuck!

It’s very hard to concentrate at our desk during our plan time when there’s another class going on in our room.
It’s very hard to concentrate at our desk during our plan time when there’s another class going on in our room. | Source

Student Desks Are Rearranged

  • Teachers 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.

Teachers 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 is very inconvenient to have to leave your room during your plan time.
  • When teachers are forced to vacate their classroom during their plan time, they often don't have a quiet place to work, free of distractions.
  • Important and confidential phone calls often can't be made during a teacher’s planning time because her room is unavailable to her, so she must make these phone calls after school or outside of her contract hours when she has a confidential environment.

Teachers Feel Disrespected

  • When teachers don’t have their own classroom, they feel disregarded and unimportant. They feel even more so when another teacher who uses the same room shows disregard by leaving the room a mess.
  • Educators like to set up and decorate their classroom according to their personal preferences, and they can't do that when they don’t have their own room.

Stress Runs High

  • Classroom sharing causes a great amount of stress for teachers based on the items outlined above. Unfortunately, when teachers are stressed, students inevitably sense this and are impacted by it.

Classroom sharing is especially stressful for teachers who are introverts or who have a greater need for quiet time in the day to recharge their batteries. In fact, introverted teachers are at much higher risk of burning out and resigning when they don't have any personal space all day.

Students need their own space, too.
Students need their own space, too. | Source

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 teachers 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 other students’ belongings that have been left in the room.
  • Vandalism on student desks – It's often difficult to pinpoint the culprit, as multiple students use the same desk throughout the day under different teachers' supervision.
  • Classroom materials and supplies that are shared among all classes go missing while different teachers use the room.

Students Can't Discuss Concerns With Teachers

  • It's hard for students to find a teacher they may need to talk to throughout the day, because she doesn't have her own designated location.
  • With more than one teacher in a room, there often isn't a quiet and confidential environment for students to talk to a specific teacher about personal or academic concerns.

Instruction Is Interrupted

  • Other teachers 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.

The Price We Are Paying

When schools deny teachers their own space by forcing them to share classrooms, they add a great amount of stress to a job that is already highly demanding. Teacher stress impacts students on every level. It affects their academic performance, emotional well being, behavior, and even their motivation to come to school. If we want to support our students, we must first support our teachers!

Teacher stress inevitably impacts students.
Teacher stress inevitably impacts students. | Source

3. Classroom Sharing Leads to Bullying

Teachers Bully Teachers

Unfortunately, classroom sharing often leads to bullying among teachers. Sometimes it's subtle and sometimes it's not.

When teachers find their classrooms a mess, they normally address this diplomatically with other teachers who use the same room for their classes. Unfortunately, this is not always well received by the other teachers 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 with other teachers to begin with. They may disable technology or hide important materials in the room before the other teacher arrives.

Bully Culture

These hostile 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.

Have you shared a classroom with another teacher?

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In many districts, having your own classroom as a teacher is a commodity.
In many districts, having your own classroom as a teacher is a commodity. | Source

Final Thoughts

Having their own classroom has become a commodity for teachers in many U.S. public schools today.

Based on my first-hand experiences with classroom sharing and the toll I have seen it take on my colleagues, 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 classroom sharing causes for teachers and students is simply too high a price to pay for the dollars we are saving in cramming teachers into the same rooms.

In the long run, the financial cost of losing teachers and hiring new ones exceeds that of giving teachers and students the space they need and deserve.

Overcrowded Schools

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Madeleine Clays

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