Sunday, March 30, 2008

Spatially Speaking, Enough Was Enough

I still dream sometimes about my classroom back in the middle school. My classroom wasn't an ordinary place. It wasn't even ordinary-looking. My classroom was moving almost all the time.

I had a lava lamp on the bookcase behind my desk. A rubber chicken hung over my head as I worked at my desk. A large silver disco ball spun slowly at my right, and a static ball glowed eerily at my left. Rope lights wound all around the room. There were silver "perpetual motion" statues here and there. There was a life-sized human hand with poseable fingers on the shelf behind me; I liked to pass it to students who asked me if I could give them a hand. I had to keep my eye on those poseable fingers, though. I gave all that stuff away to sentimental students who asked me if they could have them.

On the left-hand wall was a huge bulletin board, which I changed twice a month to correspond with whatever we were studying. On the wall to the left of the bulletin board were several Harry Potter posters. I put them up for several reasons: I am the biggest HP fan in the universe; I wanted to encourage my students to become HP fans; the posters were on sale at Barnes and Noble for a dollar apiece; reading is a good thing; and I wanted to annoy the disgracefully large contingent of clueless mothers who, even though they had never read a single HP book, genuinely believed that the books were satanic because their pastor's next-door-neighbor's mother-in-law's beautician read something somewhere that said those books would make your child evil.

Behind the student desks but facing mine was the long wall containing bookcases full of my carefully chosen class sets: The Diary of Anne Frank, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, Tom Sawyer, The Jungle Book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Twenty and Ten, The Devil's Arithmetic, Night, The Miracle Worker, Our Town, and The Martian Chronicles. Between the bookcases was a huge bare expanse of wall. Here were our Broadway lobby cards; I took my students to a dinner theatre every spring and bought a show card as a permanent souvenir. Below the show cards there was room for an ever-changing display of all kinds of posters, usually theater or movie or book-related, but sometimes just something that caught my fancy.

To my right was an entire wall of green slate. Above the board was a really long print-out of one of my favorite quotations: "Let joy and innocence prevail; believe that love will never fail." (Bonus points if you know the source.) In the corner behind me hung our television and VCR, and below the tv was a bookcase full of ISTEP prep: all kinds of practices and drills to get the kids ready for the big standardized test. Next to the Prep Case were three file cabinets. The bottom drawer of the cabinet on the far left was full of band-aids, antiseptic cream, cotton balls, isopropyl alcohol, sewing supplies, and girl stuff. The machines in the girls' restroom hardly ever worked, and when they did work they were usually empty, so for many years I let my girls know where they could get supplies in the event of an emergency. I kept little WalMart bags in there so the girls didn't have to make anything public. I kept alcohol and cotton balls in there because the nurse was in our building only two mornings a week for two hours, and our secretary once told a boy who had been bitten by a BAT to "go warsh it." That was it. "Go warsh it."

My desk was very, very old, and none of the drawers locked. On my right was a large drawer full of paperback books, cd's, granola bars, Pixie Stix, drink boxes, and hand-made bracelets and necklaces. It was the prize drawer. (Yes, I often gave out prizes to a student who knew something about the unit that the test didn't ask.) I kept my purse in a little section of that drawer behind the loot. Above that drawer was a small drawer where I kept my hall passes: 8-inch wooden paddles with "HALL" written on one side and my room number on the other side, and huge hard rubber dog toys with loud bells on them for bathroom passes, and the words "Couldn't Wait" written in large black marker. We weren't supposed to let kids go to the bathroom without a signed agenda pass, but sometimes I did if I could tell it was an emergency. They had to walk down the hall and keep the bells quiet, though. If I could hear those bells out in the hall, there was big trouble.

On my left were three small drawers. The bottom drawer held official paperwork stuff; the middle drawer held my gradebook and seating charts, and the top drawer was full of thises and thats: comb, paperclips, scissors, glue, tape, staples, markers, pens, etc.

To the left of my desk was my computer, and against the edge of my computer table was another little table that held things for the use of my students: stapler, three-hole punch, tape, paper clips, kleenex, hand sanitizer, pencils that were left on the floor, and a large pair of scissors.

There was a big closet in my room, but I didn't hang my coat in there. I kept extra clothing for kids in there. Sometimes I would dump a ton of clothing on my tables and my girls would come in during lunch and take whatever they needed. My daughter is a bit of a clothes horse and shoe lover, and when she cleaned out her closet and brought the stuff to me, my girls would go through it and get some nice things. So many of my girls had nothing pretty to wear, and even though I got a ton of criticism from other teachers for doing that, I did it anyway. I was constantly being criticized, so I figured I might as well have the game as the name. What the heck; I thought it was important so I did it. I was uncomfortable giving clothing to a male student, so I brought in my son's outgrown stuff and asked the principal to do that for me. Once in a while I would take a student to a hair salon, but my budget didn't allow for that very often. Before our dinner theatre venture, I would take a few girls dress shopping.

My walls were deep blue and my carpet was blue and tan flecked. There were three doors; two that led into the hall and a third that led into the classroom next door, where my dear friend Pam still teaches.

After a while, enough was enough.

My students will be writing spatial essays in a week or so. I suppose I'm giving myself a refresher course with this post. Or, maybe I'm just lost in the past a little. It still happens, but less and less. I really do love teaching at the college level, and I wouldn't go back to the public school for any amount of money. Not that there was ever that much money.

I'm fine right where I am now. My blood pressure is lower, and my co-workers and department head are lovely, ethical people with a wonderful sense of humor, who truly care about the students and who bend over backwards to help them and who encourage us all to be creative and compassionate, so unlike my experience in the public school!

But sometimes, I dream about my old classroom.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:54 AM | |


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