Matthew Kulasiewicz

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This post is part of our summer 2020 series showcasing unique classrooms. Be sure to check out all our teachers who have been selected to see what they’ve done in their rooms.

Describe your classroom set up:

My room has desks in rows that can easily be moved around for group work or station work.

Why did you choose this particular layout?

I’ve been a middle school teacher for 21 years now and found that for me, starting out class with everyone facing the same direction alleviates the time lost getting students’ eyes to be focusing on what I want them to focus on. Plus, I’ve had many students in wheelchairs over the years and this made getting into class so much easier for them. Like I mentioned, we can get the room rearranged in a different configuration in two minutes for activities.

What is your favorite part of your design?

My favorite part of my design is the 12-foot long rustic standing workstation I built for our classroom a few years ago. Desks and chairs aren’t always the most forgiving for the growing bodies of my students and this has given them a way to work and stretch out a bit.

Did anything surprise you about how your students reacted to your classroom (behavior, enjoyment, etc.)?

Last year I built a two-person tall table with wooden stools that is in the back of my classroom. I thought it would be fun to experiment and see if students would want to sign up for a day to sit at the table with a friend if their choice. Every single hour of every single day the first question I get it, “Mr. K, who had the table today?” 🙂

What is the biggest piece of design advice you can provide for someone who is just starting to think “outside of the box” in terms of classroom design?

The best advice I can give about setting up your classroom is that what you have on your walls, the borders of your bulletin boards, or whatever Pinterest/Instagram deluxe room you see that you wish your had will not ever come close to meaning as much as the connection you make with the students you see.

That being said, make your room work for you. My desks start out in rows, which to some may seem old-fashioned, but it works for me and the way I do things with my students. As far as room decorations go… I only add something to my room decor if I can use it as a conversation starter with a student. Think about them first and the rest will fall into place and you’ll find what works for you.

Matthew Kulasiewicz is an 8th-grade US History teacher in Wisconson. You can follow him on Instagram @survivingsocialstudies.

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