Welcome to 2019!
This year I had the good fortune of being selected to move to one of our brand new super luxurious deluxe classrooms because of my stand-out performance and student achievement. Actually, I was dragged kicking and screaming to a “portable” building that has exceeded its projected lifespan by about 30 years. After I realized no amount of complaining was going to persuade my principal to allow me to keep my big beautiful room, I made peace with my situation and realized I was going to have to make the best of it.
Going from a much larger classroom, complete with a sink and ample storage space to a cramped, dingy, portable presented me with several problems. How was I going to turn this room that had about as much charm as a morgue into a welcoming learning sanctuary that children would actually enjoy.
My first priority was to ensure I had enough space. I have the same number of 4th graders (31-34!) with about 33% less space. I realized that providing each student with their own desk was untenable and instead opted to go with a table layout. Each student was given the choice of sitting on a crate or a chair. The crates are convenient because they have built-in storage space. Not every kid prefers sitting on the crates, but luckily the crates fit perfectly under the chairs, so everyone has a place to store stuff. After replacing the desks with tables and rearranging a few storage closets, the room was starting to feel less cramped. The room was still ugly, but at least you didn’t feel claustrophobic when walking into it.
Now to fix the ugliness problem. I decided to go with an outdoor theme for my room because it’s something I enjoy and appreciate. Admittedly, this theme is as much for me as it is for the kids. I started with a giant 10’ mural of Lake Moraine that I found on Amazon. It’s beautiful. It almost feels like I’m looking out a huge window. I covered the rest of the walls of my double-wide with various accoutrements; camping signs, fake trees etc. I used a wood patterned shiplap to create my various bulletin boards and I have various other outdoor themed decorations throughout the room. I bought several indoor houseplants further enhance the atmosphere… unfortunately about half of them were defective and didn’t make it to the new year.
Lastly, I wanted to do something the lighting. My trailer came equipped with 8 sets of irradiating fluorescent lights. While they provide plenty of light, they’re more jarring than pleasant. They also give me migraines, so I decided to not use them. In keeping with my theme, I use lanterns at every table and the natural light of my 2 windows. This creates a dimmer, more calming, atmosphere. The kids really enjoy it to. I had a sub last week, and the kids complained afterward that the sub kept the fluorescents on the entire day.
Admittedly, decorating my room like this required a significant investment of time and money, both of which is in short supply for most teachers. While I didn’t receive a larger paycheck, a big promotion, or even a thumbs up from my principal, this effort was still well worth it. I spend most of my year in that room, so while I would rather be teaching on the shores of Lake Moraine, looking at its beauty while I teach is not a bad consolation. The kids respond well to it too. The love the lanterns, and the stools, and the various other things. Combined with some soothing classical music or natural sounds of rain or creeks my dingy trailer becomes a peaceful sanctuary…. usually…