TMP Photo by Kelly Hite. Barfield Elementary fourth-grade teacher Angela Bunyi makes her portable feel like home.
Most parents cringe at the thought of sending their child to a portable classroom.
Most teachers cringe at the thought of teaching in one.
But some teachers – like Barfield Elementary fourth-grade teacher Angela Bunyi made the most of her portable by turning it into a home-like environment, complete with couches, carpet and a deck with patio furniture.
Bunyi shares one of the two singlewide portables at Barfield with another fourth-grade classroom, which creates a very small space to teach in.
“I’ll be honest, when I first walked in, I almost started crying,” Bunyi said. “It was just so small.”
And even though Rutherford County Schools may have added fewer students than in he past and opened a new school this year, it still uses 142 portables to house students including the two at Barfield.
The system only added only 841 students, a 2.3 percent increase. When compared to the end of the last school year, RCS has added 1,054 students, a 2.9 percent increase. Last year the system saw a 4.2 percent adding 1,483 students from the 2006-07 school year.
Barfield Elementary’s student population, in particular, dropped students, because some were rezoned for Rockvale Elementary, which lost students to the new Rockvale Middle School.
Last year, Barfield was the system’s most crowded elementary school with 1,145 students in a school built for 850-1,000 students. Because of the zoning changes, Barfield’s student population was reduced by almost 14 percent to 985 this year.
Even with the reduction in student population, Barfield Elementary still has four classrooms housed in portables located behind the school.
“It’s more comfortable than in the building,” Bunyi said, adding she’s tried to create a homey place by doing things like hanging white Christmas lights and picture frames on the wall. “You just can’t do that in a classroom.”
Bunyi has gotten comfortable with her small classroom, and because of the lack of space, she had to rethink how she uses it.
“The lack of space has really helped me determine what’s important in a classroom and what has to go,” Bunyi said in blog on scholatic.com
One of the first things to go, the dominant feature of any classroom, was her teacher’s desk. Now she uses a desk designed for students as her workspace. It’s even mixed in with the students.
But Bunyi doesn’t use the desk much, because she does most of her teaching on the floor on the same level as her students.
The space opened up by pitching the large desk is now used as for teaching, where she meets with each student for reading and writing conferences once a week.
Bunyi has created a relaxed environment for her students with several reading areas with couches and wicker papasan chairs. And her students have responded positively.
Kathleen Scruggs, 9, likes it in the portable because she can read and write wherever she wants and doesn’t have to wear her shoes while she does it.
“It’s kinda more fun because you’re closer to the playground,” Kathleen said. “And you have carpet. I think you should have carpet in classrooms, because if it’s wet outside, you won’t make that squeaking sound and distract the teacher.”
Her classmate 9-year-old Jasmine Justine likes it because of its airy feel.
But Bunyi likes it, because it has made her focus on what is important in a classroom and what best helps her students learn.
Michelle Willard can be contacted at 615-869-0816 or firstname.lastname@example.org.