Thursday, August 7, 2014

Creating a Classroom You Love, Part I: Back to the Drawing Board

Here’s something you didn't know about me: I love Tina Fey.

I had more than my fill of doctors’ offices, emergency rooms (in the Harrodsburg ER I asked them to change the waiting room channel to the UK game as I  paced around massaging my kidney infection), and diagnostic offices  last year, which correlates to lots of waiting times.  And lots of magazines.  One of them featured a Tina Fey interview.

She was talking about her apartment in New York and she said her boss had told her she needed to decorate her home lavishly.  She explained, “He told me when I open my front door I need to be like, ‘Wow…whose house is this? Somebody important must live here because look at all this.  Having a home like that reminds you why you work.” (Okay, so it’s not an exact quote.  Probably not even in the ball park but you get the idea.)

That sentiment of “Wow…this is mine?” has struck a chord with me.  I’m moving classrooms which means everything had to be taken down-which was a lot.  (I told our lead custodian when he saw the pile in my room he could call me everything but a white woman.  He didn’t, because he’s super nice, but I felt some serious guilt about having to move all that.)  Moving classrooms also means that I’ve been carefully and consciously trying to make a classroom that kids will enter and be so excited they get to learn there.  And I’d like to share with you how I created my classroom with those parameters in mind.

Before I go any further I’d like to point out the most obvious disclaimer: I’m not a pro.  I search HGTV’s website in hopes they will do a classroom makeover, but alas and alack, no such luck.  This is my first attempt at creating a cohesive, intentionally designed classroom.  There are other people who sketch, decorate and plan and their rooms could be on the cover of Good Housekeeping. I know teachers who choose a new theme each summer and then decorate their rooms accordingly.  I don’t have the budget nor the brain power to do that. 

Before making any purchases (or even stepping foot in your room), first gather yourself some paper (I used loose leaf because it was easy to manipulate and put in my binder), writing instruments, and the internet.  Or, if you prefer technology, create a Word document.  Make a wish list-those things that in your wildest dreams you would like to have in your room.  (Much to my shock, I realized I’m fine without a writing center, listening center, and computers-I’d rather have iPads.) Make sure you leave out some extra paper because when you do your research you’ll be jotting ideas and rabbit trails (I added five books to my Amazon wish list when researching and kept writing new ideas).

Once you’ve written down your wish list, get a new sheet and write down: Floors, Walls, Cubbies, Book Cases and Cabinets.  Then go through your wish list and write where each wish list item would go-calendar is on the wall, Reading Corner would be on the rug, manipulatives on the cabinets. 
After this, I was able to better distinguish what items were essential and which were not.  Knowing my essentials helped me plan my wall space in my room (rules by smart board, calendar on bulletin board).  I kinda looked at this like a rubric:

Classroom Environment Rubric

0-No ideas, no direction, don’t care.

1-Essentials only-desks, chairs, and computers.  You’re begging for cast offs from your colleagues and are on a first name basis with the Goodwill and Salvation Army employees.  Though you have no idea what you will do with anything you get from them.

2-A few accents and/or plan.  You know you want something cute or have an idea in mind, but need more direction.  You’re open to any hand me downs-you know exactly what you can use them for.

3-You’re tackling each area one task at a time.  You’ve got a plan and just need time and/or resources to complete it.   You only accept donations if it fits your current theme and/or color scheme.

4-You’ve achieved the nirvana of a cohesive classroom.  The accent colors of your IKEA rug match the colors of the table caddies that match the color of your stapler and mouse pad that match the curtains.  In short, you’re colleagues hate you because your room reminds them of everything theirs is not.  There’s a place for everything and everything is in its place.  You are not above accepting donations, but you squirrel it away until your next great idea.

And going into the new room with some possibilities in mind helped ease my anxiety-I knew things may change, but at least I knew to what I was aiming.

Come back tomorrow to see the next step in creating a classroom you love. 

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