What happened today?

Reflections from a Messy Classroom
June 24, 2011, 1:25 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Another year is finished. I have my room cleaned and packed up…a feat most think I will never finish on time, but I did with fifteen minutes to spare! The room is silent and I reflected on the wonderful year I had. I was able to teach these 29 students for 9 months and I hope they know how much they all taught me. I was taught to be more patient, that if a student wants to have a messy desk even after we clean desks on Friday to let it go…it is not worth the battle. I have learned that students love to create and I have learned that this group were scientists (they begged to have a science fair…and we did!). I learned many things this year, and for that I am grateful.

My goals for this year were the following:

1. Integrate technology when I can.

2. Make my students’ passion drive what we do.

3. Have a cleaner room….to make my principal happy.

4. Make learning has hands on and engaging as I can.

These goals are not really in the correct order, but that is how they are listed in my notebook. I sat down to write how I did  on each goal and I found examples for each of these goals that made me feel I have made progress on these goals, but I will still have these goals next year and I bet the year after that. My mantra is if I think I have nothing to change about my teaching, then it is time to retire….at the rate I am going I will not retire until I am physically or mentally unable to do so….there is always room for improvement!

I feel I made progress with all of these goals except for number 3. I tried to have a cleaner room and I even had a vacuum cleaner and a broom in my room to help with the mess we create… we failed miserably! I have learned that when you give the students ownership and let them create…it gets messy! My students know that it was OUR classroom not My classroom. They know where to get things in my desk, they know where the creativity box is housed and that they can use all the publishing tools available to them, no need to ask, just create. I have had to take the teasing and disdain from several people about my classroom and it bothers me, so every year I try to make it cleaner and I am beginning to resent that this is the only thing some people focus on. We have a messy room, but we have a great time learning and for that I will not apologize! I make sure the floor is picked up so the custodians can vacuum, but the tables are covered with a myriad of projects. Our Webkinz zoo takes up a whole table and to some observers that may look like boxes, but you ask my students and they will say, “That is our habitat!” This year long project is wonderful because it incorporates social studies, science, reading, writing and students are working in cooperative groups. All that learning that takes place makes some people cringe because there are boxes- decorated by 8 year olds. Our publishing center has many books on the table drying, our science table is covered with whatever science experiment a child has wanted to try and their desks, well they vary depending on the child and I believe that is how it should be. I have also had people tell me I need to get rid of some of my books because I have too many. I just shake my head at that statement…you can never have too many books!

I am tired of defending myself to people and quite honestly I think people that have really clean rooms are not letting their students explore, yet I do not go in their room and make statements like, “You’re room gives me a headache!” or “How can you stand this?!” Quite frankly…I am thinking the same things about the sterile environments that many hold as a standard all educators should strive to be. If I was a teacher that lost all her papers and never could find things you may have an argument, but that is not the case. I lose some things, everybody does, but I have several people come to me for something that was misplaced. So please, if you are only going to concentrate on the cleanliness of a room…just walk on by. If you want to see some really cool things can do if you let them explore, then come on in! We would love to show you how fun learning can and should be!

I am moving number number 4 to the top and number 3 to the bottom…it is still there because I will never please anyone with that goal so it is there. I will try, but I will not let it take too much instructional time or squelch creativity! I make DVD’s at the end of the year that showcase all the learning that took place this year. I made each child 3 DVD’s full of memories of learning that took place this year. One parent called me to thank me and said, “I see why it was so messy, but boy did my kid love school this year!” That is what it is all about!

Here is an example of the science activities we did for our Earth Science Unit. Messy, yes, but very engaging and the class average on the test was a 93%! Worth every bit of teasing about the room!

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2 Comments so far
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Well said, Kelly.

I feel more comfortable with the state of my classroom & office now! I agree with you totally: a sterile, tidy learning environment may not be in the best interests of the students. Which is why we are here!

Enjoy a well-deserved break – I reckon your students will miss you and your teaching before the summer is over!

Comment by Peter Price

Thanks for creating Alford News, Ms. Alford. It takes time even for me to go back and review my children’s lives. I for me personally as well as professionally know I was and still feel awkward. Your messy room story is a great story for other staff director’s to treasure. It goes without saying, I know you pick up your own bedroom and dust, etc. You have and always will be my Treasure of a Teacher. Reading between these lines in your story I know your students will recall why you Understand.

Comment by 5featherllc

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