Thursday, July 12, 2007

Heeeere we go...

I'm fixing up my classroom. It's been a really, really interesting process. I've felt overwhelmed, underqualified, scared spitless, more comfortable in incredibly tiny increments, slowly growing into it, then overwhelmed again. I know what I want to see happen in that room, but I am hitting that problem that I heard teachers talk about last year: your first year in the classroom, you can't even afford to buy new shoes for the first day of school because you aren't paid until the end of your second month (well, I'm officially employed July 23, so it's not exactly the second month...). There are all kinds of things I would buy, but I just can't.

My heart is to create an interesting, lively space that my children would enjoy walking into. First on the agenda today, however, is to make it clean. Not that it wasn't clean before-- my school is fantastic and the floors shine and there isn't a speck of dust around. The custodians are some of the friendliest, hardest working people I've met in any school. What I mean is that I want it to look clean. And to smell like my favorite cleaning things-- Murphy's oil on the wooden cabinet and shelves, Fantastic across surfaces of desks and things. Not hospital smells but home smells... I'm weird, I know.

So I'm scattering here the "before" pictures of the room. It's huge, isn't it? I had no idea how tough this part would be, honestly. In fact, this is the part I have secretly relished the most. I remember that when I was in high school, the decorations were fairly sparse in most rooms-- someone asked me the other day if there was a classroom I remembered in a strong way because of what it looked like. I had to say that no, there wasn't one really. My favorite teachers? I remember them easily. But what they had on their walls? Not so much. I'm waiting for someone to write a book about classroom decoration. And not a cheesy one, but one which includes psychological study and theory and all that. Sounds like a good idea for a dissertation, doesn't it?

I remember that Mrs. Marshall's room was in the "theater"(as it were)-- we had sets and props everywhere, and it sometimes felt like the English class part of the room was pure "Oh! We almost forgot!" Which I loved. That classroom felt like a special workshop to me. Mrs. Krueck's room was, I recall, completely bare. What I remember is that I loved the class, loved how smart and funny she was, loved being in Latin I, II and III with her. I remember that the room was just whites and creams with desks (the same ones which are there today) with red tops. Ms. Ellington's room seemed dark and crowded, but she responded to every single one of my journal entries. Her room came to mind often when I encountered professor's offices years later. I remember being able to concentrate in her room. I remember who sat next to me. I remember that I felt that she cared about me-- and not just me.

So why am I so hung up on what the room looks like? Maybe the bottom line is actually the fact that I am going to have to live in that room, too (I am deciding today to give myself a break, though). My 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Redding (she was fantastic), changed her room all the time-- in fact, she let ME change her room sometimes. She saw my little artist's heart, my need to be alone sometimes even though I was powerfully extroverted, nurturing my desire to help be in charge (this freedom helped to feed a sense of security with people in authority which would follow me into adulthood) by giving me free reign after I had proven a fairly reliable sense of order. I feel sad about how different things are today for elementary students. In 1979, it was no big deal to leave a 4th grader alone in the classroom during recess. In 2007, it would never happen.

So now I'm the grown-up. One of the first things I did in that classroom the first time I was alone in it, a couple of weeks ago, was sit down and a) pray and b) journal. I knew that I wanted to record exactly how I felt at that moment. It all feels very significant, and instead of giving in to that modest embarrassment (so similar to the way I felt referring to Don as "my husband" in the days after we married... such a hard feeling to describe, trying that new name on for size), I'm going to be plainly excited about all this. I'm not a kid, but I have never felt more like a 19 year old than I have this week. And it's really kind of fun.


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