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TOY Stories Blog: We Are Family – Thoughts on Teaching in an Open Space Classroom

By Dana Jo Reinhardt


Open space school design gained popularity in the United States during the 1970s with the hopes of recreating the wholesome “one room” school house.  The idea was to allow students, with a variety of skill levels, to learn in ways that suited their individual differences by allowing for them to be overseen by several teachers throughout the day. The design would allow for student-centered learning and teachers to work collaboratively with lesson planning and team teaching.

The argument against open space schools is that they are more like “cubical farms” with “walls” being created with filing cabinets, cubbies and other moveable structures. Students, with or without attention issues, can become distracted by the noise level.  Some say this environment can create poor academic performance.

As a teacher who works in an open space classroom, I can see the benefits for my students and myself as a teacher.

My students, having been in an open classroom since first grade, (Kindergarten is enclosed), are masters at controlling their noise levels and transitioning between activities and lessons can be seamless.  I also credit many of my triumphs as a teacher to my colleagues, whom I have learned from over the years, by listening to them as they teach over the “walls” of my classroom.

For some, the concept of an open space classroom seems overbearing and distracting. For me, it feels like one big happy family!

Dana Jo Reinhardt, a teacher at George’s Creek Elementary School, served as Allegany County Teacher of the Year for 2014-15.