As my classroom assistant and I were setting up our room this past week her seventh grade son remarked, “It’s like you’ve centered everything around books in here.” And I stopped and made him repeat his words just so I could be sure that I heard him correctly. And then I looked him straight in the eye and said, “That’s the greatest thing anyone could have ever said about our classroom.”
A few days later, another teacher walked in and said, “So what’s your theme? Every class has to have a theme.” After I first told him I didn’t really have one and he seemed a bit disappointed, I remembered the words of the wise seventh grader and I said, “Well then, my theme is reading.”
You see, I decided that this year everything that went into my room had to serve a purpose. It had to help my students to be better readers or writers in some way. It had to help us to create a community of readers and a community of writers. If it was just there for decoration then it was taking up space that could be used for something more important
The result of this decision is that I have a pretty un-fancy classroom. I have no fancy bulletin boards. I have no cute Pinterest displays. I have no catchy sayings lining the walls of my room.
What I have are a whole lot of books. Everywhere. What I have are a whole lot of supplies that are easily accessible for my students so that they can do the writing work that they need to do in a way that works for them. What I have are spaces for students to work where they can be comfortable and where they can collaborate. What I have are lots of choices of where to sit and how to sit. What I have are places for us to gather, to share our thinking with one another and to document our thinking so that we can share it with the world.
So when my students arrive next week I hope they won’t be disappointed. I hope they won’t miss the clever sayings. I hope they won’t be disappointed that there is no bag of treats sitting on their desks waiting for them. I hope they won’t be sad that there are no giveaways to win.
I hope instead that they will see that this is a place where we will read and write. I hope they see that this is a place where their voices matter. I hope they will see that this is a place that includes them and is waiting for them to fill. I hope they will see that this is a place where we will celebrate our successes. I hope they will see that this is a place where meaningful collaboration happens. I hope they will see that this is a place that is made for them and that nothing in this room is off limits to them. I hope that they will see that this place is a work in progress and it cannot possibly be complete without them.
This is the message that I hope our classroom sends as the students start to file into it this week.
If you’d like to take a look at our classroom, you can watch the classroom tour that I posted on YouTube. I try to give a bit of an explanation about all the things in my room and what purpose they each serve. The one glaring exception to my rule is the ridiculously large collection of rubber ducks that you’ll see along the windowsills. Most of those have been given to me by students, so there’s no getting rid of them now!
You can find the classroom tour here.