Thursday, August 14, 2014

New School Year, "New" Classroom

My co-teacher's desk. (8/12/14)
My observation has been that some teachers only change their classrooms when they 1) get hired, and 2) retire. Many school bulletin boards are no different. In both cases, the result is rather than serving as a way of communicating information (successes, improvement, school pride), these become visual white noise quickly losing any value to those who inhabit a building. In an effort to avoid this, I like to change things up regularly. (Even during the school year, in an effort to make fresh and unfamiliar that which can become dry and boring, I'll re-arrange desks and seating assignments--students eventually become used to it.)

This past Tuesday, after a very pleasant lunch with a recent graduate and a meeting regarding the new school year with a colleague, I stopped by my classroom. Standing in my empty room I had some random thoughts and reflections about the beginning of the school year. While it is the same classroom I have taught in my previous five(!) years in the high school after moving down (physically) from the middle school, I like to begin each year fresh. What that entails is taking most of what can be easily removed from the walls at the end of the school and re-setting things at the beginning of each school year.

The mighty plastic sword, the Deus Ex Machina, is a holdover from last year. (8/12/14)
Like most teachers, I acquire a wide variety of things during the course of the school year. While some (senior pictures, letters, photos, student drawings of me, etc.) are respectfully filed in my desk at the conclusion of each year, others have more staying power. Team pictures and academic team awards for students I work with, as well as any trophies have a place there, along with trinkets and toys that relate to previously covered readings. The walls begin the year relatively free of things and by the end of school in June will be covered with students (and teacher) generated clutter.

Location of last year's Word Wall. (8/12/14)
Sometimes purging the walls is necessary because the room will be used for summer school, but even this year (when I had been assured it would not be used, but was), I stripped the walls with the intent of beginning a new in August. With cross-country practice starting next week, and summer school concluding today, I should be able to begin putting things in motion for the new school year.

Each year I have established and added to a Word Wall of Tier 3 terms. Based on some work last year with my AP 11 classes, I'll be tweaking that concept and devoting one bulletin board to each classes (Advanced Placement Language & Composition and Regent English 11) most relevant terms and concepts. As I've thought about it this summer, aligning the terms (and adding to them) within the context of an analytic filter might help to make the application of the definitions more concrete to the students.

Rubrics and pennants for reference. (8/12/14)
"College and Career Ready" has been the educational catch-phrase du jour in our building the past few years. Each of the past two summers I have stopped by the universities either myself, my children, or my co-teacher, attended and picked up college pennants from each school. Not sure what to do with them this year but upon adding some new ones this year, they will no longer fit on the small board.

With quite a bit to process about how to proceed, I am glad to be preparing the physical classroom environment for what I'm confident will be a great start to the new school year in three weeks.

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