I’ve been back in my classroom for 2 days now, puttering about and getting things organized. I work in meandering circles through the room: a task here, a task there, part of something over here, but wait first that other thing needs to be done, but where are my scissors, and who took my recycle bin, and wasn’t my desk further away from the window before…? I have passing moments of mild irritation that I can’t seem to tackle classroom setup in a more systematic fashion, but I’ve also learned: it always feels like this, and it always gets done before the children arrive.
There is my 3rd year in the same classroom, teaching the same level — a record for me. Since moving a mostly-inherited classroom from the other end of the school, I finally feel like I know every nook and cranny, every item in every box and bin and basket. When I walked in this morning, after spending yesterday placing furniture, I felt my heart whisper a happy sigh: “Oh yes, here is my room, here is my stuff…”
There’s something magical about a classroom, and the “stuff” that goes into it. Think about it for a moment: a place constructed entirely for children: to be inviting and interesting and safe and soothing and stimulating, all at the same time. A place where adult “stuff” — furniture, supplies, materials — is incidental, almost an afterthought. There’s magic in the metamorphosis of our rooms every year – from piles of furniture and boxes to a world built for the small people who will soon inhabit it. I even find magic in how, every day, our classrooms get torn into glorious messes, and then, with a few rounds of a cleanup song, a little big of nagging, a squirt of soap, a swish of a broom, they are reset, ready for tomorrow’s fresh start.
But the greatest magic of all comes, perhaps, from this: from the care that we, as teachers, put into preparing our rooms every year. We are creating the space that will hold us and our students for 10 whole months, a space in which we will (hopefully) fall in love all over again: with a new group of children, with this amazing thing we have chosen to do with our lives.
I am not a religious person, but for the years I worked at summer camp, I used to sometimes feel, as I was crossing the camp meadow, or walking the dusty road, that I was walking across the palm of a hand that held our camp family safe and happy. I had that same feeling today, puttering around my classroom. Yes, this is the place where we will come together and weave our world, the place where we will be we.
Yes, this is the place.