3 Good Reasons Classroom Sharing Doesn't Work in Public Education

Updated on July 6, 2020
Madeleine Clays profile image

I have been a public school teacher in the U.S. for almost twenty years. I am passionate about education.

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.

How Can Two Teachers Share a Classroom?

You may be wondering 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 empties 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, whoever is using the room to teach a class may use the desk during that period.

Forcing educators to share classrooms adds a great amount of stress to a job that is already highly demanding.

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 educators 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. 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 rather because classroom sharing adds a tremendous amount of stress to a job that is already very challenging.

Here's how:

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 materials 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 everything.

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!

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

  • 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 phone 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 menbers who use the same space leave 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 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.

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 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 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 educators' supervision.
  • Classroom materials and supplies that are shared among all classes go missing while different staff menbers 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 menbers 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.

Teacher Stress Affects Students

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!

Educator stress inevitably impacts students.
Educator stress inevitably impacts students. | Source

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.

Bully Culture

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.

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

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.

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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    • profile image

      A teacher 

      5 months ago

      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.

    • profile image


      5 months ago

      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.


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