My Own Slice of Life on My Home Away from Home
In the beginning of the school year, setting up my classroom is something I cannot wait to do. All summer long I spend time thinking about different little nooks for children to escape to and shopping for the perfect piece of furniture to make an area cozy. My sister usually goes on these shopping adventures with me and we always have to stop and draw up sketches of my vision for my classroom to determine whether that clearance furniture item was the missing piece. Once I have all of the pieces, all I have to do is put it together. Sounds simple enough, but it never is. My husband, who is also a teacher, goes with me every year to set up my classroom. Every year he thinks, in his middle school teacher mindset, that we have about two or three hours worth of work ahead of us and we will be on our merry way. He is wrong. After spending about 5 full days in my classroom, I finally start feeling like the furniture is arranged how I want it.
My vision for my classroom includes a “home away from home” atmosphere. I want the children to feel comfortable and learn in places that allow them to be alone, with a friend, work in groups, or meet as a whole class. I want to have at least three areas in my classroom that allow all of us, as a classroom family, to sit together comfortably. I want to have areas that are made especially for partner work. Little tables for two and benches that seat two children are positioned ever so carefully in my classroom. I also want to have those little nooks where one child can get away with his or her favorite book. Creating this type of environment takes me a while. I need to make the nooks feel just like home. That is when I started looking through my mom’s crawlspace and going through the boxes in the garage of stuff that I just did not want anymore. That is where I found my decorative pillows, lamps, small area rugs, fake plants and trees, and even things like picture frames and stuffed animals. I started bringing these items in to change the “feel” of my room.
The children love sitting or laying in the learning areas on the little area rugs or on a bean bag chair or on a bench. I put decorative pillows around the room in case they want to lean up against a wall as they work or lay down on one as they read. I brought in small blankets to use as decorations. I threw blankets over the arm of the rocking chair and over the back of a bench and it gave our room a little feeling of home.
I really think that when children are comfortable and know that they have certain freedoms to move about the room and find an area that suits them, they learn better. Some children might read sitting up at the kitchen table but I bet a lot of them read while lying in bed or sitting in a comfy chair or even on a porch swing. I want my room to feel like home so that they can be comfortable and do their best learning; the kind of learning that is limitless and brings out their exceptional personalities. Little things like pillows and lamps and displayed group photos do just that in our room. Things like painting our handprints on the garbage can because it was the only thing in our room that looked like it did not belong, mean so much to the children that came up with the idea in the first place. It really is the little things when it comes to decorating and furnishing a classroom with those special clearance items or garage sale finds, that add to the long list of great memories and learning experiences we create in our classroom, our home away from home.