I’d like to begin by apologizing for the lack of a blog last week. The past two weeks have been a complete whirlwind of gluing, stapling, and syllabus-making. All leading up to today…the first day of the new school year.
It’s funny how much preparation goes into a classroom. What seems like it should take two days to decorate and equip, really takes six because every detail matters. This year the details seemed even more important because it was my first school year with a new philosophy.
In years prior, I focused on efficiency. How could I streamline everything so that I could get the most done in the shortest amount of time? In my defense, I feel every year’s added responsibilities and expectations of teachers are partly to blame for making this a common educational philosophy. In response to this pressure, I spent the minimum amount of time necessary throwing up mis-matching, educational posters and random classroom adornments. The result was less than visually pleasing, but it passed as a decorated classroom, and I quickly moved on to more demanding tasks like analyzing my students’ past test scores and trying to develop lessons to meet the county’s ever-changing standards.
This year, however, I was on a mission to change my approach. After my transformative experience last school year, I vowed to make my classroom a space where students felt safe and comfortable. I wanted it to be a clean, bright, inviting space.
So I began with my physical environment.
I left my tattered posters in the closet.
I framed things.
I installed more group workspaces.
I brought in nature with plants and wide open windows.
I focused on creating an environment that would send a positive message:
You are welcome here.
It took over a week to decorate. But the effect was exactly what I wanted. I can feel it every time I walk into my classroom. The words greet me at the door:
You are welcome here.
It’s my hope that these words will reinforce the barrier that I’ve tried to create between the political bureaucracy that’s taken over education and how we approach learning in my classroom.
It was in this spirit that I found myself repeating my convictions to every class today:
What we do in here matters.
I want them to believe that. I want them to embrace it.
Not because an end of course exam says so. But because right now they are determining how they will communicate with the rest of the world. And more than anything, I want to give them the tools to speak confidently, convincingly, and in a grammatically correct manner (still an English teacher). I want them to know that I take them seriously, and they should, too.
I want them to know they are welcome to be themselves.
My walls are the first step.
Hopefully, I can do the rest.