Education Letter to the Editor

Physical Classrooms Are Not the Problem

February 07, 2012 1 min read

To the Editor:

The Commentary “Out of the Box: Ending the Tyranny of the Self-Contained Classroom” (Jan. 25, 2012) is another educational essay and pedagogical approach that forgets to consider what young children, in particular, need.

As an elementary school teacher for many years (later a principal and now a higher education administrator), I created a learning environment for my students. In today’s vernacular, it was a “community of learners.”

We were all about being a “school without walls” (popular at that time), an “open classroom,” and I do not denigrate those terms. We lived by them, but within a physically defined space that belonged to the children and me; it was ours to feel comfortable in, ours to be safe in, ours in which to create “out of the box” learning experiences. We “traveled,” we innovated, we individualized, we collaborated, we simulated, we documented, we presented, we moved around a lot. And we did it without any electronic extensions of ourselves.

Today those tools can help young learners create even more learning opportunities, with the help of a caring, innovative teacher, just as I and my colleagues did. The world outside the classroom awaits, and young learners can enter it in stages, with the confidence born of starting “small” in a classroom that keeps expanding.

Tyranny? On the contrary, the author seems to lack imagination and understand very little about true out-of-the-box thinking.

Gillian B. Thorne
Executive Director, Office of Early College Programs
Director, UConn Early College Experience Program
University of Connecticut
Storrs, Conn.

A version of this article appeared in the February 08, 2012 edition of Education Week as Physical Classrooms Are Not the Problem