Before I begin, a word to MNQTH.
This blog is not meant as a rubbing-your-nose-in-it, thumb-on-nose-with-waggling-fingers, look-what-I’ve-got-and-you-haven’t type piece. It is meant to show what you have got to look forward to next year when you begin your year in calmness, sanity and a classroom with all its walls, floor, fixtures and fittings x
In teaching, there are many ways in which decision making is taken away from us. We are allocated a class, given teaching partners, put in a classroom and given a curriculum which we must teach. These are decisions which are made by others. And while we do have some freedom over what we teach and how, ultimately, we don’t have complete autonomy over this, as we have assessment criteria to meet. The one way in which we do have relative freedom of choice is in the way we design our classrooms. This is a way in which we can express ourselves and maybe show our personalities a little.
This week has been one of ups and downs in our house. On Tuesday, I was very excited to be back in school, getting my room ready for the new year. This didn’t involve anything special: the usual backing of boards, putting things on display, numerous configurations of furniture, getting drawer labels ready, and best of all, getting the table trays ready with the new stationery. For me, filling a cutlery tray with brightly coloured sharp pencils and taking the stoppers out of the new glues means that the new year is here and I am ready to go. Admittedly, many of the jobs are quite onerous (is there anything more dull than cutting out tiny little names for sanction boards and talking partners?) and awkward (after 15 years, I have still to perfect backing a board without having a stapler in my mouth and climbing across a row of chairs), but they are fun to do all the same. And with the addition of www.rasterbator.net to make huge posters, backing boards was even more fun this year. I finished my day on Tuesday feeling really proud of my day’s work. There really is nothing like a furniture shift around to make you feel like you have a brand new classroom. But this excitement was tinged with a bit of disappointment.
You see, MNQTH is about to embark on the challenge of having his own classroom. He too was excited about getting to set his room up for the first time. But with a new build classroom still in a state of disarray, no furniture, no display boards and no storage, his excitement was understandably dampened. Until this happened, I really had no idea how much we pin on our classrooms – they are our way of making a first impression on the children, and we want them to be perfect. I felt bad telling him how much I had achieved during my day and how pleased I was with the results. When I realised yesterday that I would not be in class to see what the children thought of the rainforest and the animals everywhere and the giant trees (which I haven’t quite finished yet!), I was really disappointed. I’m sure the same is for MNQTH – this is day 1 of his career, and he wants everything to be just right.
I have a vague recollection of my first day in a very similar situation: my classroom was not ready for the start of term, so I started in a temporary classroom affectionately known as “the baked bean tin”. I had 2 posters on the wall and no display boards, and it sapped my confidence a little. I wanted the children to go home and tell their parents how fantastic their new classroom was, not that it was dreary and dull and had nothing in it.
So, tomorrow, we have a family outing planned to the new classroom. We are going to fill cupboards and move tables, put pencils in pots, fill it with bits and pieces to make it MNQTH’s room (T very thoughtfully made his daddy a Hama bead heart yesterday to stick on his wall!). It’s personal touches that give our classrooms an identity, that give us things to talk about with the children, and make us want to spend our time there. Hopefully, with a bit of time and luck, we can make MNQTH’s classroom into the room he wants, so that he can feel the buzz that I get when I walk into my room.