Recently I had a student teacher observing in my class. We had a hectic day and the clean up at the end did not go well at all. When the children had left I walked around and was horrified at the state they had left the environment in. I really didn’t want the observer to see my classroom like that (and judge me as a terrible, unprepared teacher) so I started to clean it up. Then I realised that by ‘fixing’ the problem from a superficial perspective, I was not only taking a learning opportunity away from the children but I was setting this new teacher up to have unrealistic expectations of classroom life.
I realised I didn’t want her to see the picture perfect classroom of her dreams, think that is what all Montessori classrooms look like all the time and then think of herself as a failure on the days when her classroom ends up looking like mine did.
So, instead of tidying everything up, I took photos of each area as they were and made them into a slideshow. The next morning, instead of letting the children wander in as they arrived, I kept the door locked until the bell rang. Then I asked the children to line up and come in for a special presentation. I said that they were to go in and sit in front on the TV in silence, watch the presentation in silence and then do whatever it felt right for them to do, in silence. I said that when they were done, they could come and sit back down in silence and we would begin our day.
The children sat and watched the slide show, without making a sound (apart from the occasional horrified gasp) and when it was done, they all got up and began to fix the classroom themselves. Nobody wanted to be the first to come back and sit down so they tidied every little thing they could find. Within about ten minutes the classroom was spotless and the children were able to begin their day in a good space, as was I, feeling I had done right by them and my observer.
This got me thinking about the impression of my classroom I give on this blog and my social media channels. Almost daily, I post pictures on Instagram of the beautiful work my children engage in. It occurred to me that this is only part of the picture and anyone looking at it might think that all the children’s work turns out that well. Along with this, I write about the ideal way to teach something, or manage materials in the classroom, as if I have it all figured out.
So let me tell you now – I don’t. I try things out and they fail. Many’s the time I have found a beautiful fresh piece of felt put back on the shelf with a tiny piece cut from the middle, or all the little balls of yarn have mysteriously formed themselves into a giant knot and nobody knows how it happened. My children start projects and never finish them, knitting needles disappear, dye samples go moldy, clay is left to dry out and plugged in glue guns are abandoned. After the children tried to extract lanolin from raw wool I found the pot, greasy and stinking, at the back of a cupboard weeks later – I did not post that on Instagram!
But nobody needs to see these things to know that they happen, because they happen to us all. I try to show the things I am proud of, and the things I think others will enjoy seeing and be inspired by, but I hope you understand this is my highlight reel. I would never want you to be worried about giving something a go because the standards I portray are unattainable high, when I don’t reach those standards myself. I just do my best and celebrate the good when it happens. Part of our job is faking it just a little bit, right?
So here you go, I’m being brave now……..these are some of my lowlights!
Okay, your turn - whose classroom looks like this every now and again?