After five years of researching, reflecting, observing, practicing, reflecting again, and so forth in the course of earning two degrees… it’s a little daunting to start with a blank slate. As a first-year teacher it seems the “to-do” list is a mile-long and kind of functions as laundry does: the longer you stare at it, the more it multiplies.
So where do I start? Well, like any good organizer, I am starting by going through the last five years of my life — in the form of manipulatives, Dollar Store finds, books, notebooks filled with research articles… and organizing it. De-cluttering, donating, and yes, even throwing some things out (do I really need to save the warped sheet protector when I literally have 1,000 others?).
After that is accomplished (and it will be no small feat, with some aspects — like cataloging our classroom library — on-going), the real work begins.
I sat down to think about what I want my students to feel when they walk into my classroom on the first day of school. What do I want to feel, as the teacher? What do I want my first classroom to feel like, look like, and function as?
Quite simply, I want it to be Oz.
The thing about Oz is that for as magical as it looks and feels, the real magic happens from within. As cheesy as it sounds (and I do realize it sounds beyond cheesy), the tin-man, scarecrow, and lion had the very attributes they were seeking all along and my students will, too. They’ll all be authors and scientists and mathematicians and historians and good citizens when they walk in the door… they just might not know it yet.
So, then, it becomes my job to create an environment in which they feel like they can learn and grow and take bigger risks than they ever have before.
At the top of my “to-do” list, right after “stop looking like an episode of Hoarders: New Teacher Edition” is this: CREATE OZ.
No problem, right? L. Frank Baum might’ve had his own imagination, but I’ve got Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers, spray paint, Mod Podge, a laminator (I never leave home without it!), iced coffee, pacing guides, scope & sequence, and just about two months. All that’s missing is my very own pair of ruby slippers (don’t worry, I have a Google alert setup so if any size 11’s show up I’m good to go).
I think the deck is stacked in my favor! (But that’s not to say I wouldn’t like a leg-up. So, all of you veterans out there — what do you wish someone had told you to do first in the weeks leading up to your first first-day of school?)
For now, I tackle this (not pictured — nine million craft supplies, a trillion school supplies, and a dozen or so boxes of books):