The first impression I have of my new position as a middle school math teacher has nothing to do with the students being slightly older, for I haven't met any yet. It isn't even my new principal or my new comrades-in-arms. Instead, the first noticeable change is architectural in nature. I have transferred from a very new school in a recently built suburb to one of the oldest schools in an already old, well established city. I have moved from an unused, bright beige, low-ceilinged, recently built school with modern fixtures and features to a well-worn, darker, wood adorned, architecturally bygone era.
The ceilings are flat cathedral, designed before air conditioning. I am on the second floor, and the ceilings are so high that the first floor alone shoves us at least fifteen feet in the air. There is a grand view out the huge windows that permit air and sunshine to enter and they cover the west walls of the classroom, and outside are huge oak trees that provide shade for the students and a habitat for squirrels and reportedly, an owl. The outside of the entire school is also impressive, as if the architect was not as concerned as modern Americans about financial requirements when paid to design it, and his clients were not as concerned about the cost to build it.
I have already heard multiple stories about Jackie Chan's recently released film that has my new, old school as the set in a few of the scenes, and everyone on the school staff and all the middle schoolers got to meet Jackie Chan. The school is photogenic, but they touched it up with CGI.
There is one drawback to my new, old classroom. A huge shaft runs from floor to ceiling in the outer middle of the room. The first thing I thought of when I saw this monstrosity embedded in my classroom was an image of twelve year olds screaming, grunting, and running around it until finally one of them was brave enough to touch it, as in the scene with the monolith in the movie, "2001: A Space Odyssey."
It also looks like it could be the chimney flue for the fireplace in Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane," but what is it doing crashing through the middle of my classroom, fer cryin' out loud? I'm not teaching at Xanadu.
It also looks like it could be a hyperthermic pressure release tube for the core of the Earth, and I expect every minute or so to hear the geological equivalent of Mount Vesuvius rushing through the monster and releasing its sulphuric hellfire upon the innocent victims shading under the oak trees just outside the window.
I quickly surmised that it was built as an air duct for the luxurious air conditioning (evaporative cooler) for this wonderful old building, and the only way to go to the ceiling above the second floor classrooms was to run it through what is now the center of my students' learning environment. My first decision upon seeing my room was to spend a lot of time designing a seating arrangement where no one, and I mean no one, is allowed to hide from me behind the huge shaft.
I have made a change, and the first advantage is the architecture of my work environment. I even like my monolith, as long as it doesn't turn out to provide an "Invisible Zone."