Begin Again

There are so many places that my mind goes when I think of what it takes to get my kids engaged in what I want to teach them, what I want them to be thinking about and what I want them to be able to do. There’s proper planning and standards alignment, differentiated materials to reach all learners in my room, creating activities and assessments that are both rigorous and accessible…so many things we juggle as teachers to make sure each and every kid is brought into the fold and is moving forward toward success and proficiency.

Sometimes with all of this going on it can be easy to forget why many of us came into teaching to begin with – because we love kids, we are creative and naturally interactive people, and our inner child is still alive and well within us! So in order to keep my creative and energetic side – well…energized, I look to the possibility of the space that I have to work with to create surroundings that will inspire, welcome, intrigue and spark the minds of all of the different children that spend time within my four walls. Every kid has a magical part of their brain where anything and everything is possible and wishes might come true if you wish hard enough. I want that magic alive in my room and in my children. And I have heard before that “if you build it they will come”…so my classroom, and how I chose to envelop my students in a visual and special experience attached to their learning, must be a place where those magical moments that bring the sparks and the bubbles and the fireworks which explode, float and crackle against the night sky of my children’s imaginations. That’s what I want. So now I have to build it, right?

My classroom is my canvas. Every year its blank and by the end of the year it teems with the evidence that the magic has been there. The colors multiply on the walls as more and more posters, awards, academic victories and memories of a true school-family grow like rainbow-paper-ivy on all available spaces. At the end of each year when I dismantle my creation I take down the papers and the bulletin boards and the various decorations and visual cues and I can hear the voices of the children that have spent the last year here asking questions, laughing, calling out, laughing, sharing their thoughts, laughing, yelling at each other, laughing, helping each other, and laughing. All of these moments, voices, thoughts, experiences etc. begin the moment those kids first walked through the door and look around my room. On that first day, in those first moments, those children will know nothing of me accept for my profession and what I have chosen as my – our – surroundings.

Is she mean?
Is she fun?
Is this class hard?
What can I get away with in here?
Is she boring?
Is this class boring?
Am I safe?
When is lunch?

This is what the minds of children want to know. I promise you that this is what they are looking for, both in their swirling awareness and in the backs of their minds where their secret brain whispers all of their inner observations. Knowing that this is what kids want to know means that its my job to tell them these answers not through words and through letters home, but through the way I make them feel when they enter their new classroom. What I have chosen for them will tell them much about what they want to know about me and about how they will spend their year in this classroom and with me as their guide. It is my job to set the stage and then to direct the show…but they are the ultimate stars of the production…and nobody has ever been inspired to take on a role fully in a place that sucks your most inspiring energy into an institutional vortex. No, we will make this a grand production – because through the opening of my creative vision to them – I invite the magic.

Over the next several weeks I will be specifically chronicling this process, designing and building my classroom for next year and sharing my ideas, wonderings, inspirations, triumphs and challenges. I hope you will follow along and share what inspires you!

Next Topic: Theme?!? Theme? Theme!


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