Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hot Mess

My name is Maria and there is a whole lot of mess in my classroom closet, drawers, and in my brain. 

I am great at helping other people come up with organizational systems.  Turns out, I stink at implementing them.  I can either organize it so well that it takes me three years to set it all up, can only be deciphered by a handbook, and is color coded.  Or, everything goes into one drawer and I have no idea how to find anything ever again.  

Some days, I wish I was better at this.  I wish I could just put my hands on that one piece of paper.  I feel like I am going to pull my hair out because I know I made three copies of something and it isn't in the "Tuesday" folder where I swear I put it.  

Other days, however, I'm glad that my brain doesn't function like this.  Too much structure, for me, feels stifling.  

Classrooms can be effective in chaos.  Some of the best days in my room have been when I can't see or remember the color of the carpet.  I know that I need to find a balance but it doesn't make sense to me to spend more time worrying about where the colored pencils should be rather than creating exciting opportunities to use  them.  

One of the challenges for me in teaching is the number of questions and requests thrown at me during the day.  Early on, I implement strategies such as "Ask three before me" to limit the number of small people standing within 3 inches of me needing something.  A lot of times, however, the line of kids is excited to show me something, want to read me something, or want to share a story.  And these are the moments when I really get to know my kids.  

I'm grateful during these times to have a brain that allows me to be off task.  I'm not saying that structured, well organized, efficient people can't be successful teachers.  I just know that it wouldn't work for me.  Sometimes, allowing the kids to work in weird spots, look through my "craft box" in the closet, or asking them to decide how they want to present a topic, is exactly what we need to build community, get energized, and effectively teach and share content information.  

As I prepare to go back to school and I peruse the beautiful classrooms on Pinterest and in my own school, I know that organization is important.  I want my students to feel proud of our shared space and I want it to be efficient and clutter free.  Unfortunately, it doesn't come naturally to me.  I can come up with creative seating, rhyming birthday cards, and catchy bulletin boards.  However, I have no idea how/where to store my own materials.  I just know that they need a place.  

So, I went to the 1$ store and I bought places.  I got a label maker and I made labels.  I researched, I got materials, and tomorrow I will engage in my own PBL design project.  

I'm almost happy that I am having this experience.  It's hard for me to understand why my students don't know how to use a sheet of notebook paper, where to put their homework, or construct an argument with fact and fluency.  But really, these are all different types of organization skills.  I know I can help them with these!  I also know that if they don't have "it" I can give them strategies to get there.   

I'm going to start with a plan and I'm going to do my best to stick with it.  However, if I have to choose between stopping kids to clean up or continuing to create, my new strategy will be a sign on the door that says:

And I'm totally OK with that.  


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  2. Loved this post. I don't think effective classrooms have much to do with materialistic organization. Rather, they function most effectively when a teacher has a firm grasp on his/her strengths and weaknesses and can use them to an advantage like you do. Good luck in the upcoming year.

  3. Great Post

    I like the term controlled chaos. Meaning the teacher knows what id going on and there is a purpose to it. Often kids learn best when they are moving around and standing up