My path to an inspirational space…

It all started with a move to tables.  When I taught first grade, I had these enormous six person tables in four different colors.  They had little half-circles cut out for the kiddos to sit.  We had chair pockets behind them and community supplies in the middle.  When kiddos didn’t finish their work, it went “under their pencil cups” so that they could retrieve it easily to finish and so that we didn’t forget that there was something unfinished.  The tables were colorful and I loved them so very much.
Then I moved to a new school and a new grade and there were desks.  Desks everywhere.  I hate desks.  Things get lost inside desks.  Your books get smooshed and smashed in desks.  Even the tidiest of kids pulls out long lost treasures after long enough at a desk.  You have to put name tags on desks to mark territory.  You have to fuss at the “messies” to keep their desks tidy when they can’t.  They just can’t.  You have to dig and sort through piles of mess and feel heartbroken when that thing that you slaved over (to choose just the right font) to impress his family is found crumpled and torn in the back of his desk three weeks/months later.  I shiver when I remember those days.
And so, it started because I couldn’t stand the desks anymore.  I asked my administration if there were any tables available anywhere.  She contacted “surplus” and emailed me back.  There were a few rectangular tables and a few round ones.  I hadn’t considered mismatched tables, but how cozy and unique.  It made my mind buzz.  After taking stock of what I had and really thinking about the type of space I wanted to create, I requested two of the rectangular tables (that were the same size) and one of the round ones.  They came a few weeks later, but it was the end of the year and I wasn’t about to make a change like that at that point.
While I waited for the year to turn over, I schemed and planned.  I drew up a plan for the room.  I pored over Pinterest to find examples of spaces that I found engaging and inspiring.  I had a colleague come in and give me her opinions of my opinions because she’s amazing at thinking outside of the box…especially when it comes to planning spaces.  I couldn’t wait.  It was going to be amazing.
Finally….  It was time!  I got many questions and looks askance as I carried the desks one by one into the hallway and piled them outside my door.  The custodians kept asking if I was sure I wouldn’t need them.  Yep.  The teachers kept popping in to check out the radicalization of my classroom.  It was glorious.
In the end, I kept four desks for individual seating and two desks that I use to hold supplies.  I also had three trapezoid tables, a kidney table, and a low, square, coffee table.  I had a black dish chair and a wicker rocking chair and the rest were the awful, blue, standard-issue classroom chairs.  And what I fashioned was pretty nifty.  I had rectangular tables that sat five each.  I had a pair of trapezoid tables pushed together to make one long, six seater table.  I had a round table to seat four.  I put the comfy chairs near the coffee table and put them all near my classroom library.  I had three desks in a spaced row for those who wanted to sit on their own, but also in the mix, and a desk and a trapezoid table tucked out of the way for when you wanted to be alone.  I had lots of carpet space for stretching out.  I lowered my kidney table so that we could sit on the floor or kneel to fit more kids around it.
It all worked fairly well.  There were a few bugs, however…  With only two big comfy chairs, there was always a fuss over who would sit there, who had already sat there, who had never had a turn to sit there, etc.  I had originally turned my desk to face out directly behind the kidney table so that I could use the magnetic front to hold anchor charts and whatnot while I taught small group.  This meant that my computer couldn’t sit on my desk and I needed something else to hold it…which also meant that I needed another table behind my desk…which ended up being this cart that was super cute but not terribly efficient…which ended up using up a lot of space to house a computer that could have been used to house kids.  But still…
I kept up my interest in classroom design.  I continued to look for inspirational spaces.  And then, Kayla Delzer published her article on EdSurge.  And then…  I went on fall break and it was on.  I fixed the teacher desk/kidney table/computer workstation problem.  I abandoned my magnetic surface backdrop idea and turned my desk against the wall to hold my computer.  While it isn’t as pretty, it does afford us much more space and that’s what’s important.  I located an old, leather loveseat in our tenant’s garage.  It cleaned up beautifully and took immediately to the  pretty new blue pillows I put on it.  I noticed some plastic adirondack chairs on sale at Lowe’s.  They looked perfect flanking the low coffee table and even more perfect when I added fluffy yellow pillows.  This tripled our comfy seating.  I used my birthday gift certificates to pick up a few framed quotes to place around the room.  I went to the party supply store and got a few accessories to hang from the ceiling.  In cleaning out my kids’ closets, I happened upon some shelving that wasn’t being used.  I scrounged from everywhere I could and spent a bit of my own money because I knew it would be amazing.  I knew the kids would absolutely love it when they walked through the door.
And they did!  My kids LOVE our space and so do I.  It is a space that we love coming to, working in, and learning within and beyond.  We have some more work to do…  I don’t heavily decorate, but wait for our learning to fill the space.  We’re getting there.
Want to see it?  I can’t wait to show it to you…  Next time!

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