Creating the Calming Classroom

So, it has been a while. Between crazy yearbook deadlines, teaching, family, and M.Ed. classes, this was a clear place to save time. Honestly, time is still at  premium because I don’t know how to take a break. This is legitimately something I would like to work on as an area of personal growth, but I am not quite sure how to tackle that… So instead of working on myself, I decided to start a project that has been in the back of my head for the past few months: transforming my classroom.

You see, a few months back, I was in a class that focused on Universal Design for Learning. The premise is to make learning accessible to all of your students. (For more information on UDL and why it is so important, check out this video!) One of the assignments was to use research to design your ideal classroom. This was what I came up with at that time, taking into account my current classroom, which at the time looked like this:

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It was bright and chipper — even with the lights off! — but maybe too much so. I wanted it to be a calm and productive space with a lot of positive energy. Collaboration — real collaboration is something student needs to learn how to do; we focus so much on technology-based skills that being able to work productively with others is often overlooked. Do I want technology? Absolutely! The students need that, too, so as to be prepared for the future. I wanted the students to feel welcomed and cared for. And while this started off as an assignment, I hadn’t been able to get out of my mind how some fairly simply changes could accomplish much of what I described.

What could I complete this summer? I knew I couldn’t go out and buy a cart and 42 laptops, as much as I wish I could. However, I could address much of what was laid out in my original assignment. To that end, I decided to gather dining tables and chairs and refinish them with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (because I have learned from experience that it really is the best!), add a couch perhaps and some living plants, and work to create a space that is truly accessible to all of my students.

And then reality kicked in. Doing some math, I realized that I need 10 tables and 40+ chairs… and honestly, this has been a bit challenging: it is time consuming to search for appropriate pieces and to then refinish them, and it is also kind of expensive.

But it is coming along so very beautifully, largely to the help of the wonderful people who have helped me out! Kerry Whitfield, Christine Parreira, and Alvin Amaral have all sent me numerous postings for me to check out; their willingness to find me relatively inexpensive tables and chairs has been instrumental to this process. There have also been folks who have donated items to this endeavor: George E. Smith sent a lovely coffee table my way, the Burgess family donated a sofa, and Stephanie Ecleo gifted me two tables! Many others have charged me far less than they could have for chairs and tables. Dana at the Emporium — my stockist for the paint —  has patiently helped trouble-shoot my occasional paint issues. And then there is all the support I have had from my friends on social media.

And then there is family (and friends who are like family). My mother-in-law, Donna Young, has lent me her box van to transport furniture countless times. My folks have picked up tables and hauled them all the way from Tuolumne for me, and my mom spent a long, hot day painting chairs with me.

My dear friend Sarah bought me 6 chairs for my birthday, delivered them from San Jose, and spent a day creating amazing chairs!

And then there is my husband, David, who really is making all of this happen. He has picked up so many sets of tables, even when it has been 109 degrees out — he even suffered through a blow-out on the box van when it was that hot and didn’t give me a bad time. He has set up a tent, a fan, and shade so I won’t be in the direct sun on these wildly hot days. Not to mention, he is an incredible photographer and he is helping me to document this process! He’s simply amazing, and I feel so very blessed!

Is my room ready? Not even close! So much so that I don’t even have photos of the room to share! But it will be ready one month from now when we start up the 2017-2018 school year, and I am so excited to share the progress between now and then! I am determined to create the learning environment that my students truly deserve. Please join me on my adventure!


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