In the past 18 years that we’ve been married, my family has moved 9 times (let’s cross our fingers and hope we’re done with that). Partially due to growing family, partially because we live in a college town of rental craziness. This has given me some pretty fabulous skills: I can very quickly organize a moving party, put things in boxes, and pack a van Tetris style so that I can make as few trips back and forth as possible; I own a hand cart; I’ve learned to pack the books in the plastic bins, because cardboard is insufficient for the weigh; I have learned to move furniture first so that I can reconstruct a room from the basics and fill the shelves as we unpack. I’ve learned to hang the pictures and posters and set out the things that make a place feel like a home. Within a week of moving, I can make a room feel like we’ve lived there for ten years (it helps that I have a family of stackers who stack their things all over the house and dust collects so quickly it looks like those stacks have always been there).
In the past 5 years, I’ve found that I can do something similar with a classroom space. When I initially set up my classroom, in room 9 at Yuba Gardens, it tooks me a good two weeks to decide where things should go, what things should be on the walls, how to create a space that felt like home for me and safely home for students, as well. When I moved to 217, it took 2 days. When I moved to room 3, it took 2 days, and when I moved back to 217, I had it down in a day. Classroom space should feel comfortable, should feel safe, inviting, and be a pleasing space to spend one’s time – I figure that if I plan to be in a room for 6-8 hours a day, I should enjoy it, and in so doing, my students shall as well…
Today, I broke down the rest of 217 – it did take 2 days to take down, but it felt like I was packing away 10 years – and leaving a little of my heart behind. Funny, to grieve a place that I choose to leave, but that seems to be the way life works. For the first time, in this move, I left pieces of my journey on the walls. Some signs and posters I made in my first year of teaching that, while I still love them, will have no place in my new situation next year. I don’t know if the new teacher that takes over my classroom will appreciate that it’s ready to go, or be annoyed and take them down to create a space that is more aligned with his/her personality and goals, but I still felt that leaving these behind was the right choice.
Teaching is a strange profession in many ways, but one way that is extremely clear to me as I move on is that there is no passing along of knowledge. In many jobs, you give notice and then perhaps help train your own replacement. I feel like teaching should have this sort of transition – a passing along of knowledge specific to a classroom, a school culture, and curriculum, and community. I have been blessed to work in places that as I was the new teacher, teachers who had been there longer took me under their wings, passed along their information and practices, their ideas and support. But there’s always a gap – something that could be filled in by the teacher no longer there, and I wish I had a chance to provide space for questions and information – but teaching is a profession where maybe that wouldn’t even be welcome – and so a space is left to be filled by a new face and personality, by a new style of teaching and learning. I wish them well, and look forward to filling a space myself.