I started teaching with the Nonthaburi English Teachers' Project in 2006. As a floating teacher for 2 years, I never ever had a room of my own. I had no place to rest, to work on my lesson plans or to make visual aids. As a newcomer to the school, I was stationed in the school library. Every time I taught, I had to go up and down three flights of stairs from Monday to Friday, 20 hours a week, carrying my lap top, dual speakers, teaching materials and other paraphernalia. When I was eventually given my own room, I was no longer hopping from one room to another to teach. Instead, students came to my room to study with me.
When I transferred to another school, I was like a squatter again. Due to lack of rooms, I was assigned the museum room with all manner of artifacts and implements of antiquity that never uttered a word to break the silence. The museum room was rather small and I just couldn't hold classes there. When the school director improved the museum room, I was then told to teach in the library. For a while it was okay but when the library was converted to a multi-media room, I was moved again - this time to the school clinic.
After years of waiting and wanting, I was finally given a room which was a vast improvement on the previous ones. The room was more spacious but only half of it was allocated to me. In gratitude, I came up with a room truly conducive room to learning. I started designing, structuring, beautifying, fixing the things around, putting up bulletin boards and displays, and utilizing every corner of the room as show areas for teaching materials and students' works.
Using all my resources, including recycled materials, a little imagination, and creativity, I made it attractive to entice students to hang around before and after classes, talk to me and practice their English, help change the date of the date board, erase the writings on the board, help me clean the room, empty the trash can, read the newly posted bulletin board, look at my visual displays, play games, do puzzles and paint.
It was an ideal room. It had a tiled floor, two electric wall-fans and two windows. The space was comfortable enough for about 15 students. Having no chairs and tables, my students were somehow at ease learning just like in a regular classroom. The only difference was that they sat on the floor.
Students had learned to appreciate the beauty in my room. On Mother's Day, Father's Day, Valentine's Day, Christmas, or Children's Day, students would get some ideas from the decorations they could see around them. Impressed by what I did with my room, the school director declared it an English speaking zone. It was very useful because it made the class quieter and the students were conscious of what to say and they practiced their English. To help them a little bit, I displayed a lot of basic expressions around the room.
I consider my classroom to be an extension of my house. After lunch, I can lock the door and take a little nap. Or I can watch my favorite movies and news broadcasts from The Philippiness. It's so different from the days of old when I didn't have a room and I had to bear the heat and noise of the library or the clinic or other 'makeshift classrooms'.
If I were you, always try and request your own English room. You can do a lot of good things during your free time if you have a room of your own. Students can hang around while waiting for the flag ceremony or whiling away their time after lunch. Otherwise you can showcase students' work, structure bulletin boards, talk to your students and provide a wholesome English environment. Don't put it off. Do it the next time you report for work.