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September Warmth: Moving from Teacher-Centered to Student-Centered Classrooms

By Nancy Meredith, Senior Staff Developer for PEBC

Golden leaves drifting to the ground, gently released by its mighty trunk. A fireplace, flames gently licking the logs, heralding the beauty of heat. Coming into a warm classroom from a chilly Colorado morning to the comfort of an inviting teacher’s voice—releasing us to do the work of deep thinking.

So how is it this ‘warm release’ happens for some of us, but not all? How is it that we can all become ‘flames’ releasing heat or trees releasing leaves?  

As with the falling leaves, a mighty tree does not lose its leaves in a day, but, instead, incrementally according to light and temperature. And so it is with our kiddos—releasing or moving from a teacher-centered classroom to a student-centered one must happen in baby steps—ever so subtle that no one seems to notice.

Warm Thoughts…

  • Reflection: What do you remember about ‘warmth’ in the classroom when you were growing up? How did a teacher invite, provide, structure support that moved you to be more independent? 
  • Environment:  Gently rearrange the classroom slowly, creating spaces for discourse, individual work time, nooks and crannies. Add a lamp; a flameless candle; some inviting seating areas.
  • Comfort: To create a classroom of inclusiveness, kindness, empathy, and diverse thinking, kids must get acquainted with each other. Model this early and often, asking students to know fellow students first and last names, setting up mini-interviewing sessions, and using open-ended questions. 
  • Conversation: Keep initial collaborative assignments short (10 minutes) and create work that can be completed with only one partner. Switch often.

Exploring this move from the teacher-centered classroom to the student-centered classroom,  these essential questions—“ How are we supporting equity, agency, thinking and understanding for each and every learner via the student-centered classroom? How do we release control in a way that is effective for all?—will be our guideposts. 

Enjoy the ‘September warmth’ and see you next month when we explore the ‘spookiness’ of releasing ourselves to the student-centered classroom.


“Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.”  (Author unknown)


Many of PEBC’s events include the opportunity for participants to visit Lab Classrooms where they can see student-centered spaces in action. Click here to see a list of upcoming events.



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