Wednesday, October 03, 2007


There is a woman at my school, a 38-year veteran of the math department, who has occupied the same classroom for her entire career. In that time, you might say that she has grown quite accustomed to her room. There's one thing more than any other that I remember her saying: She will never teach in a different classroom. Her streak almost finally ended. At the end of last school year, she was told she'd have to move to make way for a new program taking over her wing of the school. When she heard the news, she cried. Literally spent the school day crying in front of her students about it. The program ended up not taking over her room, so she's back for her 39th year.

I would probably make fun of her, except that I'm quickly becoming the same way. I've been lucky enough to have had the same room for the past eight years. And slowly but surely it has become my home. The room number is part of the email address I give students to contact me. The room, actually, has become my co-teacher in lot of ways. It defines me. There has been talk of me being forced out to make way for a new computer lab. And, quite frankly, I don't want to leave. It's where I make magic happen, if that's what you want to call what happens there.

Today, I'd like to take you on a little tour of Room 230.

The Binders
All my students are required to have binders, to keep their work neat and organized. At the start and end of each period, they head over to this bookcase. As you can see, we've got to work on being neat.

My desk
Speaking of working on being neat, here's my desk. Oh well. A clean desk is a sign of a sick mind, or something like that. I pretend that I know exactly where everything is, which is why I tell students to never, ever place anything on my desk. They need to hand it to me personally and let me toss it onto my desk and promptly lose it.

My room
This is what it looks like from my desk. What can I point out? Map on the right, inspirational posters above. A screen in front, where all my lessons are projected. Clothesline overhead where I hang student work. Desks are in a sort of U-shape, with me usually pacing around in the center. Enough space to accommodate 40 students.

Four years ago, I started projecting all my lessons using PowerPoint. This was my projector. The bulb finally burned out last year. A replacement bulb would cost more than $450, so I just bought a new projector for $700. This old one now acts as a stand for the new one and as a reminder of how quickly technology changes.

One of my fans
I've got three fans strategically placed around the room. They're loud, but definitely necessary during the first and fourth quarters of the school year, when it can easily be humid and in the 90s in my room.

Dress code
In the winter, on the other hand, it can be in the 40s in my classroom. Students love to show up with their out-of-dress-code sweaters, claiming it's too cold to be in dress code. (Our dress code is a solid white top and solid-colored pants or jeans.) Well, I ran out and bought a few white sweatshirts, and anyone that's cold is welcome to wear one of them. It's gross enough to get them to remember to bring their own white tops.

The Rule
Many teachers waste their time posting class rules and expectations. I've got just this one. On the first day of classes, students must copy the Rule into their notebooks. Then, anyone ever breaking the Rule must draw it perfectly 10 times. What does it mean? Take a guess! What do you think my class rule is? OK, fine, I'll tell you: It's Japanese for "respect."

I have three bookcases around the room crammed with old classics and paperbacks. Every once in a while students actually gravitate to them and borrow a book or two. Sometimes they even return them. You might be surprised to learn that many students actually love to surround themselves with books. How do I know? Last week, I pulled 25 or 30 old books, put them in a box in the hallway with a sign saying "Free Books!" In an hour, they were gone.

Points and pictures
It's a hassle for someone as disorganized as me, but I try to keep my students updated with points they've earned in various activities. I also have pictures of each of my classes, plus individual pictures of kids I call my SuperStar Students.

The clock
One of the nicest things I've heard from students is when they say they can't believe that class is over already. I try to make the clock irrelevant. But when I look up and see it's after 5, I realize I need to get the heck out of here.

See you tomorrow!


subhuman said...

Nice post! That's a beautiful classroom, given the range in schools around the city. I wouldn't want to leave either.

Mr. Molitor said...

Very interesting entry and a little different setup than what I pictured as a non teacher. Question.....the classroom setup is a circle? When you give lessons I assume you're in the middle? If so, have you ever had students make fun of you w/ your back turned. you must have some good stories there.

FresH20 said...

5:00 PM, eh? If you really are getting out of there every day at that time, with all that I see you've created in your room, you're doing well with your time.

middleson said...

very fun post. and i will say that i'm more than a little jealous. as a first-year teacher, i have to travel. which, to the non-teachers, means that i have to use 6 other teachers' classrooms during their prep periods. i can't wait to get my own space and really make it my own!

appopt said...

Subhuman: My messy desk is one reason I'm never absent. I'd hate to have a sub see that mess.

Mr. Molitor, yes, usually I'm in the middle. Do the kids make fun of me behind my back? God, I hope so! I know I'd make fun of a dorky guy like me if I were in their place. But I move around so much that they have to be quick.

Middleson, Yeah, traveling must suck. I've never had to do it, but I have had others come in and share my room. I don't mind too much, but I'm still very protective of my space. Which is why I've started marking my turf like an animal or a gangbanger might.

and, oh yeah, you guys should have seen fresh20's classroom before he ran off to Madison. It was tiny but very cozy. Got any pics, fresh?

Anonymous said...

Ms. F's room is really cool. She has such a deep connection to her space. The room reminds me of calculus, her gentle but firm ways of teaching, and our one on one lunch time when I used to be a junior and the only Calc 2 student in the entire school. She took time to really shape me into a mathematician but I was mostly amazed at the biographies and lives these mathematicians lived and portrayed. I used to anticipate living a similar life as Descartes or Pythagoras and would sometimes spend time in complete solitude for days just writting theories and going on walks by the lake imagining the critiques I would receive from their acquaintances. Ms. F was a huge part of my inspiration and I can draw a perfect picture of how her room looked even today- after 7yrs from graduation...