Editing is bruising

I moved a lot of furniture this week.  I now have bruises on my thighs that would cause people to sneer at my husband, all due to balancing tables on my legs as I heffed them around the classroom, trying to figure out some optimal location that probably doesn’t exist.  But, it did get better…  as I hope you can see in the pictures.  What took the most time was removing stuff, much of it ancient, from the classroom.  Classrooms have a unique physiology, they attract stuff the way large planets do.  Each teacher brings in her own stuff and leaves a few items behind, the school board buys supplies, parents donate toys, and it all piles up.  Resources are often scarce so we’re always afraid to throw things away: “If I get rid of this 30-year old toy kitchen, what will the children play with?”.  So, step one was to decide what I didn’t want.  You can see in the pictures that I have a lot of empty shelves; that’s not how the week began.

What I edited:

  • two toy farms
  • doll’s house
  • a huge metal teacher’s desk
  • 30-year old toy kitchen, including plastic food
  • toy fire station
  • toy airport
  • multiple cars
  • many, many books that had seen better days
  • lots of plastic bins
  • several tables
  • several chairs
  • lots and LOTS of plastic manipulatives and miscellaneous toys

What I added:

  • two rugs
  • floor cushions
  • a new sand table
  • a rocking horse
  • a mirror
  • a new puppet theatre
  • a rocking chair
  • two old-fashioned school desks
  • wooden writing accessories (pencil holders, file folio)
  • small slate boards
  • art prints, sculptures, wall hanging
  • plants and plant stand
  • worm composter
  • wicker storage baskets
  • pine cones, rocks, shells, wooden and wicker balls
  • portable light table
  • terrarium
  • bird feeder

At one point on Friday, the custodian came in and commented: “It looks more like a house than a classroom.”  I thought that was a fascinating comment.  Why would we want our classrooms to look different from our homes?  Why would we have objects and colours in our classrooms that we wouldn’t have in our homes?  I think that most people would find the parade of primary colours on display in most elementary classrooms pretty jarring – red, yellow AND blue paint in your living room… anyone?  We shouldn’t be surprised when children are overstimulated by them.

My own four-year old also had an interesting comment: “Where are all the toys, Mommy?”, he asked.  He walked around the classroom, a little bereft for a while, looking in vain for a fire engine or a doll house.  After a few minutes, though, he asked for paper and grabbed some crayons, then he got very engaged in using a stamp pad and stamps, moved on to the blocks, inspected the rocks, then had a ride on the rocking horse.  It was interesting to observe him as he re-framed his own definition of “classroom” and found ways to engage with the materials.  He has wonderful independent play skills and will quite happily play with pine cones or rocks at home but at school (or daycare) he expects ‘toys’.  I’ll be very interested to see how my students handle the environment next week.  I’ll keep you posted.

What do I do about the ugly computers?!?

4 thoughts on “Editing is bruising

  1. Emily, it looks like you have struck a beautiful balance between “home” and “school” (and I agree, why must they be mutually exclusive??) I have a colleague who is very much into the psychology of space, and I love sharing a classroom with him because he puts in much more time and care than I do, and my students and I get to enjoy the fruits of his labour. One thing I have always loved is that he hangs hanging baskets of plants in the windows– it really warms up the space and it’s nice to have something “alive” besides the humans in the room! I wish you much happiness in the school year ahead– for you and your lucky students!

  2. I think the coziness of home with a layout for learning and creativity is in balance in your classroom. Creativity and play is so important, so congrats. love the pics.

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