Dear Classroom: I Love You, I Miss You

Image courtesy of Macau Photo Agency via Unsplash

When I first moved into this classroom a couple summers ago, I kept coming back once a week. It wasn’t because I had any work to do in there that I couldn’t complete at home, but there was something about that room that always pulled me back in.

My classroom was my favorite place in the world. To me, just like my students, it was a safe haven that I had carefully curated. I enjoyed getting to school early and even staying late to be in that room. It was my favorite place in the entire world — which is saying a lot since I have a cute house and no roommates. As any teacher can tell you, there is nothing quite like your classroom.

I visited my classroom today for the first time in awhile. We have been virtual since we started our in-service meetings at the end of July. It has been really difficult — I have been working way more hours and spent the majority of my time tracking down kids or explaining how to download a file. This isn’t how teaching was supposed to be.

I want us to be safe though, and I will continue to support staying virtual until my county is no longer a pandemic hot-spot, and encourage waiting until things are actually under control. But both can be true: I can adamantly support staying virtual while also missing my classroom and what my job used to be.

My classroom in disarray after district sanitation deep cleaned the room

Dear Classroom,

I love you. I miss you. You were left such a mess by the cleaning crew. When I arrived the AC had once again left it feeling like the arctic in here. The only alternative would be to endure heat and stuffiness because there is no in between. My sweater still hangs on the wall, the one I forgot I left here to help me get through the daily freeze-out.

There’s my yellow drafting lamp, still clamped to the side of my desk. I have an identical one at home, but somehow I forgot about the one here. I always loved the way it brightened my room, and of course yellow is my favorite color.

Around the room are floor lamps and string lights because I hated the overhead lighting. I loved that students would ask if they could turn off the lights, and when I said yes they would follow the routine of turning on the supplemental lights before dimming the fluorescents.

The vintage globe I bought specifically for this room still sits next to my desk collecting dust. I came here today to put some books back on the bookshelf. I don’t have room at home for one, so I have always kept books here. But since March, I finished reading 13 of them so I brought them back to where they belong. I miss having all my books in one place to reference or randomly read during my prep.

Vintage globe, showing the USSR instead of Russia

My desk was almost like a command station. Everything I could possibly need was always within 6 feet. Behind me are the fridge and microwave — A.K.A. the reason I could spend hours in this room without worrying about the outside world. I can practically smell the Italian meatballs I made the last week of in-person school. I didn’t know it was the last week at the time.

It hurts my heart to remember one of my drawers was a huge stockpile of snacks for my students. By now they have expired, but I spent a lot of money on them to make sure my students wouldn’t go hungry. I would’ve donated the food, had I known.

Nearby is the bin of cleaning supplies I always kept within arms reach. I have been a germaphobe for years — I had sanitizer, Lysol, wipes, tissues, etc. in that bin. When the stores started running out of things I had to take most of it home. I still haven’t been able to replenish the stash. I can’t find wipes anywhere.

On the other shelves are some of my favorite knick-knacks. Like my Julius Caesar pencil holder which always got laughs from people visiting my room. Or two of the guardians of my classroom: a stuffed bear named Teddy Roosevelt and a dog the previous teacher left that I named Barchimedes.

Julius Caesar pencil holder

The third guardian was behind my desk: a Fathead of my cat, Handsome, in a Christmas sweater. Kids would make fun of me for having it, but I always told them he was watching to make sure they made good choices. I also miss being surrounded by the wall of notes, pictures, and memorabilia from previous students. The smallest reminder of why I do this.

Then I see the papers: the piles of copies I prepared for 4th quarter last year but never got to use. There’s syllabi, notes, lesson plans, and ice-breaker activities. I’m not ready to look at them, for now they will remain a pile of papers.

Across the room is the stool I painted specifically for this room. It hasn’t been used in six months. There’s the quotes on the wall from people I hope my students would aspire to be. And the “Oh the Places You’ll Go” poster I made that was meant to encourage my students to go to college. For most of them, they would be the first in their family. What is college going to look like when all of this is said and done?

“Oh the Places You’ll Go” Poster

Then there’s the history meme wall. I spent grad school collecting memes about historical events, and then meticulously placed them for display. My favorite thing was when students would randomly go read them and laugh at the ones they understood. The cutest part was when they would explain a meme to me.

Worst of all are the supplies in the back of the room. Countless dollars I spent on markers, crayons, colored pencils, folders, paper, notebooks, scissors, rulers, pens, anything students could possibly need. Sitting still unused for so long. I hope my markers don’t dry out before students get to use them again.

I miss when my coworkers and I would call each other and joke about our days. I miss coming up with new ideas for the school, planning events or improvement projects, and executing them. I miss the field trips and guest speakers. I miss the events we hosted like the bake sale or holiday games.

I miss when we would have meetings in the cafeteria for the whole school. Admittedly, they were still small meetings because my school has low enrollment. It was endearing watching a couple students go through the announcement slides for their peers in the audience.

I miss the morning announcements and the charismatic student who read them. I miss the terrible jokes one of the teachers would tell during the joke of the day segment. I miss when my principal would make an announcement and then before getting off the loudspeaker he would jokingly say he was another staff member.

I miss running the basketball club every Friday. Even though I complained when it was freezing outside or boiling hot I loved watching my students play. I miss our students who graduated. I planned to watch them walk across the stage. I wanted to see them all and be there for their achievement. I hope they’re doing okay these days.

I even miss the things I hated. Like the stale portable classroom air. Or my beat up desk that looked like it was a 1970’s teen movie prop. Even the ugly tan walls that I planned to paint before the end of summer… before I found out we wouldn’t be returning yet.

Quote wall

Or my big ugly orange chair students always wanted to sit in but that I was going to offer to the other teachers. I hated how much space it took up, but now it just reminds me of my kids. I even miss the stupid scorch mark on my carpet floor from a cigarette. It happened way before I ever had this classroom, but it was always a reminder to be an attentive teacher.

It’s hard to be attentive like that when you’re talking to students through a screen. I miss this room. The smell. The cold. The energy. I miss what my job used to be.

I miss that excited feeling I got every morning driving to work. I really did, I got so excited every single day. I miss laughing and having conversations with my students while they worked. I miss showing them National Treasure for fun in history class. I even miss the kids that challenged me.

This isn’t the room I knew. It doesn’t feel the same as it once did. It’s like looking at an image you know is missing something but you can’t quite put your finger on it. What changed you, classroom? What are you missing?

It’s like you’ve become sterile… Which is ironic given how often I cleaned you before. This time I mean more than physically though. You’re missing life and love, aren’t you? I wish I could bring that back to you. You’ll just have to wait a bit longer…

I love you, classroom. I hope to see you again soon.

Love,

Ms. Woodward

Age of Awareness

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Madison Woodward, M.Ed.

Written by

Alt school educator and writer. Living an active life in the desert. Endlessly passionate.

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the ways we learn

Madison Woodward, M.Ed.

Written by

Alt school educator and writer. Living an active life in the desert. Endlessly passionate.

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the ways we learn

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