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Friday, September 1, 2017

Back to School: Teaching is a Work of Heart



So, it's back to school season.  And I remember writing a post a few years ago about setting up my classroom, and I was secretly so proud of myself for having matching caddies and baskets for each table color.  I was impressed that I copied another colleague and used clothespins to hang up student work to save myself time when I need to change their work.  I even printed out my own signs.  On white cardstock.  I felt so cool with my classroom set up skills I was practically high-fiving myself creating the blog post.

Fast forward to 2017, and things have changed in the classroom set up department.  With the explosion of Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, teachers are taking this classroom set up thing to a whole new level.  I mean, I think Chip and Joanna Gaines should be inviting some of these talented educators onto their show to help them out with fixing up some houses.  I'm simply amazed and inspired by all you teachers out there who are decorating and color-coordinating champs.  I'm pinning your ideas, drooling over your pictures on Instagram, and following you on Facebook and Teachers Pay Teachers.  I know I am a better teacher because of you.

However...

There's also a part of me that stresses out when I see all this.  We teachers compare ourselves to other teachers so easily.  My room doesn't feel Pinterest or Instagram worthy.

And part of me says, I only have so much money, time, energy, and sanity to dedicate to this job.  And believe me, we sacrifice a lot.  A lot.  I have to remind myself that my first priority is making my classroom functional.  Can my students learn in this space?  Can I organize my materials in this space?  Can the students and I move around safely?  Can I hang up their work somewhere?

The next thing I remind myself is that I'm committed to being well-versed in my content and to helping my students become better readers.  For the past couple of years, because I've been moved around a lot (the joys of being a reading interventionist), and I've had a pile of papers that I can't seem to get through and file. My library can't seem to get as organized or as pretty as I would like it to look.  And my table is a mess everyday.  I'm sure most teachers have had this same feeling.

But content-wise?  We make every effort to attend professional development and webinars, we stay up late creating materials and engaging lessons, scouring the Internet, researching and researching and researching.  We use best practices and we bring our A game.

Finally, our love for our students and for teaching is the best decor.  I know that sounds sappy and cliche.  But deep down in our hearts, we know it's true.  So many fabulous teachers may not have color-coded libraries, rainbow posters, and fancy font lettering.  But their classrooms feel warm and inviting because of their presence.  And our students are proof of this.  Years later, when they come to visit you, I'll bet very few remember your flamingo-themed classroom (okay, bad example, they would totally remember that).  But I know for a fact they will remember your read aloud voice, your crazy costumes, the butterflies hatching during science, and the time they corrected your solution to a math problem. I'll never forget when I ran into one of my former students who said, "We still remember the Pigeon book from the first day.  Robert still talks about it!"

So, if your classroom looks like it could grace the cover of a magazine, and your kids are learning, you are a rock star.  If your classroom looks clean and functional, you are still a rock star.  And if your classroom looks a little messy, but the students are growing and progressing...you're still a rock star.

Wishing you a wonderful, productive school year with lots of learning!

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