Student Proofing My Classroom

Remember at the start of the school year when I was so naive and optimistic and decorated my classroom to look like something you’d find on Pinterest? Now, I’ve taught at two different schools before the one I’m at currently. At one I had my own classroom and decorated it how I liked. The other was during my student teaching so I saw what worked and didn’t in my mentor teacher’s classroom. I read post after post on Pinterest about classroom functionality and aesthetic. After all of it, I thought my classroom was prepared for anything. I was wrong.

We’re now in February and I’ve had to adapt a lot of things in my 6th grade classroom. For instance, my cozy sofa in the Book Nook? That’s gone. My students couldn’t handle having a sofa. They threw themselves on it and fought over it so hard that they broke off both front legs. They sat on the back, cracking the frame on one side, and tore a hole in the fabric on the back. They enjoyed vaulting over it, and sitting on it when they were supposed to be working at their desks. So the sofa came home. The Book Nook pillows that I envisioned students reading on? My students tore the covers of some to shreds when fighting over them, they also enjoyed hitting each other with them a little too aggressively.

Colorful Bright Classroom KatieandCat

Then I had to move a big table into the middle of the Book Nook because the students were taking advantage of the free space to do cartwheels and headstands during class, or worse, for fake fight club practice.

At the start of the year, I had all my art supplies in neatly labeled containers for the students. At schools I’d been at before, this type of set up had always worked. Students were responsible enough to not only get what they needed, but to return it when done. Not in my current classroom. Students enjoyed using my carefully sorted supplies as projectiles for throwing at each other. They also liked taking markers and colored pencils to draw during class instead of working on their assignments, or just taking them to keep.

At one point a student took a glue stick, took out the glue, and smeared half on the tv and half on the classroom door. The paper kept being made into paper airplanes. My rulers were snapped in half, markers broken and the ink from inside smeared all over my desks and chairs. So all the art supplies got packed into my locked cabinet. They get pulled out only when they are needed.

Colorful Bright Classroom KatieandCat

You might have thought I’d put the hole puncher away after a student tried to hole punch another student’s hair with it. You’d be wrong. It got put away after a student spent their entire work time punching their assignment sheet full of holes.

I had grand dreams of fun holiday decorations. For Halloween I did decorate. I put out a few fake pumpkins and hung up a few felt decorations. The small pumpkins made perfect projectiles. They had to be picked up by my students and handled at all times. No more. All classroom decoration that isn’t too heavy for students to move or is attached to the walls has been packed up. All the knick-knacks have been moved off my desk. Three small, fake potted succulents have gone home after one too many students grabbed them and screamed that I was growing weed in my room. So much for my textbooks that said that classrooms with real or fake plants had calmer students.

My students have drawers to turn in work and where I put work once I’m done grading it. All the “Pass Back” drawers have had their “P” stickers peeled off – haha, very mature guys. The white shelf in the background of this picture? A student scribbled on the top in lipstick.

Colorful Bright Classroom KatieandCat

My bulletin boards are covered in photos of my students working and fun posters. The thumbtacks kept getting stolen. If I was lucky, I’d notice the picture or poster on the ground before it got thrown away. Now everything is stapled on and the thumbtacks are stored away safely.

Colorful Bright Classroom KatieandCat

As an ELA teacher, it’s vital to have a classroom library. I’ve spent almost 2 years buying books for cheap at thrift stores and have a collection of many hundreds. I was so excited to share them with my students, even though I had to buy and bring in extra bookshelves.I wanted my students to always have access to books and I wanted them to be inspired by how many choices they had.

Of everything in my classroom, I’ve been the most hesitant to take away my books. But the majority of my students don’t read them. They throw my books (are you noticing a trend?) at each other and at random. Two weeks ago a student threw a book at the ceiling so hard that it punched a hole in one of the tiles. Last week a student who sits near a small bookshelf, sat in his seat and threw book after book at another student until he had cleared off an entire shelf of books. So Friday, after all the kids had gone home, I started packing my library into boxes. I’ve started with the books I care the most about. There are still books on the shelves – some I don’t personally care for, or books that I had multiple copies of, or got for free, but the shelves are looking sad and bare.

Colorful Bright Classroom KatieandCat

It’s heartbreaking to me to see my classroom slowly be stripped of all the things I put so much effort into and was so proud of at the beginning of the year. Reviewing procedures does nothing, rewards for good behavior and punishments for consequences do nothing, calling home does nothing. So it’s all slowly making its way back to our basement. It’s not just me, all the other teachers in the 6th grade have had to do the same things. Sometimes I wonder how long it will be before my room is back to how it was before I moved in.

Colorful Bright Classroom KatieandCat

I try to keep things on my blog light-hearted. I’m an optimistic person by nature, and I want my blog to reflect that. Lately though, I’ve been feeling a lot like a failure and my classroom is, sadly, starting to reflect that. But as Scarlett O’Hara would say – tomorrow is another day!

Katie and Cat