After 3 weeks of more flexible activities and “Spring Break,” we now have online “classrooms” for video calls – virtual spaces where we can see and hear one another, type chat messages, and watch presentations. Students were thrilled our first practice day, and there were many “first day” feelings all over again. I loved seeing “This was fun” in the chat box as we wrapped up. That feeling of starting new is one of my favorite things about being a teacher. I love being able to simultaneously carry my previous experiences and lessons learned from year to year while also getting a fresh batch of students and a clean slate.
This week as I kept typing the links to “classrooms” I have been missing my real classroom. This whole video chat stuff is good. It’s better than email. It’s better than digital worksheets, but it’s not a classroom. A classroom is another home. I was looking through photos and I looked at that space that I lovingly created for Open Houses in the past to welcome students to their new home.
I miss the space we can say is ours.
My first year teaching I remember a student who dropped their backpack onto the couch. Not only did it not belong on the couch, it then slid off onto the floor and they walked away. I was floored. We had hooks for backpacks, people! I told him, “This is our classroom home. Do you do that at home?” He shrugged, “Yeah.” That was the first time it clearly dawned on me (not that I hadn’t thought of income inequality or anything in the past) that other home lives could be very different from mine (any teacher who’s had more than a couple days in the classroom is thinking duh!). I told him, “Well, this is our classroom home, and we won’t do that here.”
I love making a home in my classroom. Now, it usually looks a hot mess – not like those feet up Friday pictures on Instagram and not like my beautiful Open House photos that last a week. It usually has papers lying on the floor and a pile of sheets to be graded. Students consistently remark how organized I am, and I am. I am also someone who locked my cup of tea in the wardrobe and complained all day that I couldn’t find it. I can’t count the number of times a student has said, “Ms. Stohs, here’s your water bottle. It was on my desk.” But, God, I miss that place.
The place where they use all of my pencils and glue sticks mysteriously get eaten by monsters at night.
Where students hide away in corners and crannies and practically sit on top of one another as they work.
Where books are bountiful and everywhere. I find such immense joy in seeing kids sort through my classroom library, cuddle up reading, or turn in a book saying, “I want another one like that.”
The place where I have conversations and students ask me random personal questions.
Laughter is contagious here, and we have inside jokes and giggles.
The sound my chimes echoes and everyone transitions on cue (usually).
The space where we all see the the snowflake outside at the same moment and gasp.
We watch the clock tick to 4:00 for the end of the day every day.
The place where they cuddle with pillows that are definitely not sanitary anymore.
The place they tell me their fears and hopes and can ask questions and tell me about their weekend.
I can quell them with a look here or get them to tell me they’re confused because it’s just us right here and you’re safe.
The place they treat like home – for better or worse. I miss this place.