The Enduring Centrality of the Classroom

By January 8, 2015 October 20th, 2018 2 Comments

I recently read a simple but provocative statement: “classrooms remain our most vital teaching sites.”

Given the digital revolution currently underway in and out of schools, it’s heartening to think that the classroom, that defined space where people gather with the shared mission to learn from and teach one another, is still central to education.

For almost the entirety of my education to date, going to class was synonymous with walking up a flight of stairs or down a corridor to a room with walls, tables, chairs, and other people.

Today, though, this dynamic gathering is not necessarily one that happens in three dimensions. I interviewed a prospective student today who is currently being homeschooled and takes all of his classes online. I can’t quite believe it, but I, too, am about to begin an online course — at Teachers College — on, of all subjects, online education in K-12 schools.

I know that I will learn a lot in this course because I’ve seen the syllabus and it looks extremely well laid out. But I don’t know is what it will feel like to take my instruction virtually. Will I receive the information differently, and engage with my classmates and teacher, the same as if we were together in one physical space?  Will I connect with the material the same way that I usually do without being close enough to intuit who my professor is through the little things she undoubtedly does to distinguish herself as she enters a room, collects papers, leads discussions, holds office hours, and so on?

As one who has been living for years within the four walls of myriad classrooms, I freely admit that I’d be more comfortable if every classroom looked and felt like one I’d been in before. But I know it’s crucial for me, for all of us, to open our minds to all of the possible “places” where learning can and does occur.



Jessica is a doctoral candidate, education consultant, writer and editor. She is the founder of bookclique, a collaborative of English teachers and students working to promote book culture, and a co-founder of Well-Schooled, the site for educator storytelling, dedicated to sharing first-person educator stories. All Rights Reserved - What I Learned Today in School.


  • Steve says:

    Loved this post. We all have to be open minded to new experiences. If we ask our students to take risks…..shouldn’t we as well?

    • says:

      And, just because it’s harder for us to do, because we’re older & more set in our ways, doesn’t mean it’s not valuable for us. Thanks, Steve!