This week, I am prompted to write about my school home or my home home. I think I’ll dabble in a little bit of both.
I live in Charleston, SC – perhaps one of the most beautiful places on Earth. It ranks in the top of various lists about travel destinations, wedding destinations, places to live, etc. Coming to Charleston was somewhat of a big move for me. I spent my entire life living in the same house in the same small town. People I still keep in touch with from my hometown I have known since kindergarten. My parents house is nestled in some woods about 20 minutes from “town” – Augusta, GA. Growing up, we went to “town” every Saturday to shop. The house I grew up in was the first on the road that was made of Georgia red clay until after I graduated high school. Deciding to go away to school, to the University of Georgia (an hour and a half away from my parents) was a pretty big deal. However, my decision to move to Charleston was bigger – be it the extra distance/time away, the fact that I was leaving Athens and not going back to Augusta, or my leap of faith I was taking. Charleston has been a welcoming city. Hospitality is something the city prides itself on. I am pleased to be a “transplant”.
My home here is in the “burbs” about 10 miles outside of the downtown area. Once I accepted the cost of living here, we were able to find a comfortable place for us and our 2 cats. We are able to enjoy the weather with a screened in porch, walks on trails, and various ponds to catch sight of herons, egrets, and gators. I am able to weave my way through the neighborhood maze to my school each morning. I see my students on their bikes, at the pool, or at the store. History is around every corner – even on the outskirts of town. Our school is two miles from one of the few Southern rice plantations from before the Civil War. Our field trips include that plantation as well as the beach! When we talk about the ocean and pirates there is real, tangible history here in this town. It is amazing!
When it comes to my school home, priorities in setting up my classroom tend to be pretty OCD. Getting in to my classroom before I am “required” to be there is of utmost priority. I cannot think if furniture is still in disarray and tables are strewn about. When I taught upper grades with desks, they never remained in the same formation for the entire year. We always found it necessary to switch things up the mood came over us. With my huge circle tables, where they land tends to be where they stay. Last year, I believe I found a layout for centers that worked both for the students (space/organization/noise) and also for the teachers (also space/organization/noise). Organization is tied for first with getting into my classroom ASAP. I have found that when particular things have their places, students are able to build their independence. ABC/Math are color coordinated so activities can share one shelf but also be put in proper places. Books in the reading center are organized by author or subject with basket and book labels. We talk a lot about how our school library is organized and why. We discuss why books having a home is an important technique for organizing the library. Last year, a students suggested consolidating some books to one basket or separating others out to be easier to find. My OCD tendancies do show some wiggle room every now and then!
Classroom decorations are minimal. I strive to keep my giraffe obsession in check. At the beginning of the year, our classroom walls are pretty much empty except for the alphabet. 95% or more of what hangs on our walls, from our ceilings, and on our windows is student created. At first, keeping the walls bare was a little difficult for me, even though I whole-heartedly support why I do it. I want the students to walk in and the space feel homey and comfortable, not sterile and cold. I’ve opted to create more “cozy” with movable objects.
Before the students arrive, I have ideas for cozy places and safe places. The locations may change or stay the same. There are bean bags, cushions, and various stuffed animals (Thank you Kohl’s and your $5 Kohl’s Cares deals!). Reading spaces are not limited to right near the reading shelf, but in that general vicinity. When discussing how we want our classroom to be, space inevitably comes up and staying within our space at center is a huge deal. A designated place for “time out” or “chilling out” is not labeled. That spot is different for every child and possibly every day. An idea I came across that I’m thinking about for an option this year is:
Other ideas for coziness – reading space with mats
All my plans and ideas aside – once my littles walk through the door, I want them to feel love, warmth, and welcomed. I want them to feel a part of the classroom and a part of the school. I want them to take ownership and responsibility in their educations. Our classroom should be their home away from home.