I know people have considered me insane on several occasions, but that has never stopped me from hearing the music. I never stop considering how my time spent here on earth can be simplified. I want to love what I do and be present––from adoring the memory foam mattress topper on my bed to enjoying the stream of light that falls on the dining room table in the morning.
I cannot do this if my life is cluttered. If there are clothes on my bed or a curtain is blocking the light from my window. In any classroom there are so many things to be tamed, from data to paperwork to classroom books. Ultimately though we are there to teach children. That should be our main priority––by what all goals and assessments and classroom arrangements should be chosen.
When I taught first and second graders, I found myself being judged because of the lack of stuff on the walls. "It's so empty in here, when are you going to set it up?" I have been known to say in an interview, "If you're looking for an apple sweater wearing teacher, I'm not your girl." What I meant by this was that I'm not going to cutesy up my classroom. Decorating would be for me and what I want. My priority is teaching children. I believe that when we focus on theme-based classrooms and using other people's materials in their entirety instead of making them our own based on our student's needs, we are falling prey to the age of distraction.
I have watched children struggle with problems in the classroom and go to the teacher for help when there were hundreds of charts on the walls that could have helped, but they couldn't find the right one. I think of it this way, if you are driving and you come to a corner where there is a stop sign, a yield sign, and a do not enter sign, how will you know what to do? We must be very clear, and having walls filled with the alphabet, sight words, and how to stand in straight lines charts is confusing. I know that your principals may not understand, but I assure you I have lived without those things and gotten high marks on my observations. Tell them there are other ways to help children that work. The alphabet taped to their desk is a heck of a lot easier place to find the one you need. Sight words that are memorized can be done quickly during circle time or at a workstation for practice. Having a strong rationale for why you do things goes a long way to getting a principal to agree with your philosophy. So you must develop a philosophy you can stand behind again and again. And you must shift that stance as your knowledge base grows.
Go ahead, buy the thousands of education books that are published each month. They will grow your knowledge base, but don't make their philosophy yours. No one can be you and that's what makes teaching so special. Take down the curtains that cover up the amazing work you are doing. Let the sun shine in special spots of your classroom throughout the day highlighting two children laughing over a book or one boy madly writing his slice of life on a clipboard. At the end of a hard day's work, lower your body onto a comfortable memory foam pillow and read a book that you can share with your students. Simplify your days so that you don't need someone else to tell you how great your teaching is, you'll already know.
Your classroom family hears the music and dances every day.