As I reflect on the start of my 27th year of teaching, I am struck by what an unusual first week of school it was. Room 212 was filled with a sense of calm that doesn’t usually accompany my first few days of a new school year. The fact that our school building was closed all summer due to construction projects meant that I had just three days to set up a classroom before twenty-four eager learners walked through the door. Examining my beliefs helped me prioritize my actions.
Cultivating a classroom community based on student voice, collaboration and kindness tops my list of what I value as an educator. Creating an abundance of authentic literacy experience is a close second. Figuring out how to make both of these a reality from Day One was easier than I could have ever imagined. All it took was a healthy dose of embracing the beauty of imperfection.
In past years, I would have been frazzled trying to get every last detail of my classroom set up with so little time. The class jobs would have been posted. The birthday poster would have been filled out. The bathroom passes would be hanging up. The take-home folders and homework basket would be labeled. And every single bulletin board would be filled with clever themes and designs. But not this year. This year I was hopeful that my solution to dealing with limited classroom set-up time would not only avoid becoming stressed out but would actually contribute to a deeper sense of student agency. Again, all it took was a healthy dose of embracing the beauty of imperfection.
I discovered that involving my students in the organization and design of our learning spaces simply meant that the things might take a little longer to complete. The words on the lists, signs and walls might not be carefully spaced or aligned and they aren’t spelled correctly. We might have used more tape than was necessary and the recycling bin may have ended up with some extra messed up paper. However, the beauty of imperfection has led to a number of refreshing and positive outcomes.
Engagement… check. Empowerment… check. Enthusiasm… check.
As I look around the classroom, the sweet evidence of a student’s touch can’t be missed. I am overwhelmed with an even sweeter sense of satisfaction for our classroom community that is being built with authentic and powerful imperfection.