At risk of hurting my sales this weekend, I wanted to share a little story with you.
Getting ready for teaching a new grade level in a new classroom this year I have spent many hours pouring over Pinterest searching for inspiration on how to set up my classroom. There are some really awesome classroom set-up ideas out there, but most would cost me a fortune to try to imitate, and as my classroom also has no library I just can’t afford to mimic them. I decided to go with a color theme instead, as it would be simpler and cheeper than some of the other awesome ideas I have seen out there. My color scheme is based of some sea glass I found this summer, and I thought I would add seashells to the room to add interest.
Ok, so far so good. I bought fabric to cover the bulletin boards, sea shells to glue to my clothespins and things, and sand pails for passing out math manipulatives in. All I needed was some bulletin board boarders with shells on them, and something to hang from my ceilings to finish it off. That’s when this all fell apart. No one is selling borders with shells on them that I can find. Not even Amazon! Bah!!!!
So, rethinking, it seemed that the plan should be to go with the color scheme. I needed turquoise and sea green borders. Strike out, strike out, strike out!!! After checking all the usual places and feeling a bit desperate I decided to check JoAnn fabrics to see if they had any ribbon or something I could use. I went to their website and discovered that they carry turquoise bulletin board borders, and there were 6 in stock in the store 1 hour from my home. Yeah!!!! So, I got up early the next day and drove the hour to the store to be there when they opened.
I arrived to find that the store is remodeling, and even though the web says they have the borders I wanted they could NOT find them. We looked for about an hour with no luck at all. At this point I was honestly shaking and about to cry. This was my rice bowl for the moment and I was loosing it. Then I walked by a small display of little chalkboards and it reminded me of an adventure I had when I was just starting out teaching.
My first year of teaching I had the opportunity to spend my summer working at a school in India. The school was in an orphanage where all the teachers had grown up. They had learned how to read, write and do math in the orphanage as children and were now trying to teach others what they knew with no formal training. My task was to go spend 6 weeks at the school teaching the teachers how to teach more effectively. I spent months collecting crayons, pencils, paper, and coloring books to give to the children thinking that these would be the supplies they would be in short supply of.
My first day in India I was brought to observe in a kindergarten classroom. The classroom had no desks or tables, only simple long wooden benches for children to sit on. There were no centers or manipulatives. The walls were bare concrete with no decoration. There was no chalkboard at the front of the room, and no books that I could see. “How are children learning like this?” I thought. Then the 50 something students began to pour into the room and sit down. The teacher arrived carrying a single book to read to the students that day. That day I watched in awe as a classroom of 50 students learned to read, write, and do math in 3 languages with only the small chalkboards they had brought with them from home that day. When the teacher read the big book she had brought with her students hung on her every word, and when she had problems she wanted them to solve (yes kindergarteners were adding and subtracting) they dutifully lined up beside her chair (she had no desk) and had her write the problems on their small chalkboards. Children would then return to their bench to solve the problems then line back up to have their work corrected and have another assignment written on the reverse side of their chalk board. It was a very humbling experience. Over the next few weeks I saw students complete math problems with abacuses, and older students treat their notebooks as if every word they wrote in them was a precious commodity. I did speak to teachers about ways they could better deal with it when a student didn’t understand the problem, and give out a LOT of praise for what they were doing.
In the end I don’t think I taught them much of anything, instead they taught me.
They taught me that you don’t need lots of “stuff” to teach, what you need are great lessons, and the ability to command the attention of your students. It really doesn’t matter if I am running out of red construction paper, or I have one giant gallon glue bottle and nothing to dispense it with, I can improvise or go without. It is frustrating when the smartboard doesn’t work and it isn’t getting fixed, but while it is nice to have you don’t really need it.
Looking at the chalkboards that day I took a deep breath and walked to another store and bought all the trimmer they had left. It is plain and white but it doesn’t clash with the color scheme. In the end, I really don’t need bulletin board trimmer. It will not teach my students anything of any kind. It is the small stuff you don’t sweat, and now I’m moving on to the actual important task of writing my long term and short term lesson plans. In the end, that will be what matters.
Good luck this year, and don’t let the frenzy get to you too badly. Talk to you again soon!