I started setting up my classroom today. On Day One of Classroom Set-Up, that means shoving file cabinets, tables, desks, podiums, etc., around the newly waxed floor and getting them arranged where you want them. For most teachers, this is a no-brainer since they put things back the way they were the year before. For me, that’s seldom been a luxury. This is my fifteenth year of teaching and my tenth classroom. I AM in the same room as last year, but haven’t hit my “sweet spot” as far as my classroom feng shui goes just yet. Maybe next year….
As I’ve been anticipating my classroom arranging, my mind has gone back to all the teacher stuff I have accumulated over the years. Teachers are great hoarders of stuff. We can’t part with the pretty little doo-dads that our students give us at Christmas, and we keep EVERY item useful, or even hopefully useful, in a classroom because you never know when the money will run out and you might need that very thing.
However, there are some items that are most special. My favorite classroom set up was about six years ago. I had several special things in that room. I had my favorite coffee mug, a gift from a student during my time as a third-grade teacher. It was a “four-finger” mug (can fit all four fingers in the handle), inscribed with “Have coffee, will grade papers.”
That same student was the son of my assistant the partial year I was a permanent sub in a first grade class. She gave me a little rag doll teacher with wire-rimmed glasses. That teacher doll sat in the glass-doored cabinet built into my classroom, along with several projects students had done and left with me as examples of the best.
That was the year I had finally found a spilled cup of coffee. Have you seen those? It’s just what I said – a cup tipped over, coffee spilling out of it – but it’s all fake. I had it on the counter in my room, anticipating the kids telling me about it. The plan was for me to poo-poo it, then later when they were gone, I would make it disappear, only to show up elsewhere at a later time. This was to go on until they finally figured me out.
All along that counter were bookshelves filled with books I had purchased, been given, and – most special of all – that my two “real” kids had read and allowed me to add to the classroom library, their names still inscribed in their little kid handwriting. I never counted, but it was five short bookcases and they were FULL, let me tell you.
In that glass cabinet were also some of my books that were not for student use, mostly poetry books that I couldn’t afford to have permanently borrowed. Among them was the most precious of all: a poetry book with a worn cover and yellowed pages that belonged to my grandmother. There were poems in there I couldn’t find elsewhere. But there was something else in there that could not be found anywhere else in the world: my grandmother’s handwritten notes. She had written pieces of songs and poems, quotes, and ideas on the blank pages at the beginning and the end of the book. There were also pieces cut out of magazines and newspapers, some dating before I was even born. I had it safely tucked into that glass cabinet with the lesser treasures.
And that’s where they all were in 2005 when hurricane Katrina took that school down to its foundation.
I hold more loosely, and yet, ironically, more tightly, to my treasures these days.