As a teacher, we hear years and years of: “Oh, where do you teach? What grade do you teach?” We instantly have a quick vision of our school’s name or the building we walk into every day and of little faces from past or present as we answer these very popular questions about our lives. I want to invite you today to look at this question a little differently. Where do you teach? Let’s narrow in and look to that sacred space assigned to you where you teach, grow and nurture children.
That classroom is more than a space where you corral children to impart lessons… or is it? Everything speaks, including our environment, the objects on our shelves, and the pictures on the wall. The design and contents of the classroom are an extension of who you are and hopefully of the plus or minus twenty children who share that space with you. It is a physical manifestation of the beliefs, dreams, issues, feelings, and learning of those of you spending day after day inside of it.
Our thoughts have tremendous power and our brain believes what we tell it. So, whether you designed your classroom intentionally or unintentionally, your thoughts, beliefs and ideas are projected into the final product of your classroom. When dealing with human beings, there are many things we cannot control, but the feel and message of our classroom is one that we can.
This project takes time because you are actively reflecting on the message and value of all aspects of your room, but in the end it will be worth it when your classroom becomes the space you and your students come alive in each morning ready to learn and flourish.
First, start assessing your space. Just look around and observe, feel, and maybe take notes. Where in the room do you feel happy when you gaze? Where do you cringe? What part invites you to come over and engage? What story without words does your room tell? Who does this classroom belong to? Is creativity valued here? Do things personal and handmade appear as valued? Is this a lively room or subdued?
Next, begin to release literally and figuratively things that no longer add value or speak to the message you want your classroom to convey. We teachers can be pack rats, but sometimes all of that is just weighing us down and keeping us from soaring as far as we could.
Finally, manifest the future. Begin to create and design your space to reflect your internal beliefs and philosophy about teaching and learning, and observe your own thoughts the next time someone says, “Where do you teach?” You just may imagine the most wonderful, inspiring, learning space. And that space may just be your own.