Normal is Relative

One morning this week I walked into our classroom and was struck by a bit of cognitive dissonance. I walked in thinking about how comfortable and normal our classroom felt to me. Then I thought about how much our classroom isn’t normal at all. A brief reminder that whatever your normal is seems completely normal without some external reminder or push to suggest it’s not.

At first glance, it looks like most elementary school classrooms.

A nice bright rug, easel, places for books, even a SmartBoard. Pretty standard fare.

A little closer though and I take stock of the things that make people pause when they enter our room.

The black thing behind this table is a piano. In kindergarten and first grade we used it to sing and dance a lot. In third grade last year we hardly used it. This year I’m hoping to use it to sing (school appropriate) pop songs my kiddos know. I’m especially looking for ones that are powerful and send a message of empowerment. Planning to kick off next week with some songs from Moana.

The couch is often a topic of discussion when people visit our room for the first time. My mom bought it years ago, decided after a while that it really wasn’t what she wanted, and passed it on to some young colleagues of mine who were in need of furniture. When they all moved on and no longer needed it, it came back to me and I decided I wanted it in our classroom. I’ve had it for ten years now and I can’t imagine not having a couch.

In the left-hand corner here there is a floor lamp. It’s one of four, one in each corner, in our classroom. There are also two strands of rope lights (like holiday lights but brighter and tougher) above the whiteboard and a bulletin board. We don’t ever turn on our overhead lights. They are too bright and too harsh. Between a wall of windows and these lights we’re all set and in a much warmer setting.

We’ve got flexible seating in our room. Tables with typical school chairs, the white table above with folding chairs, a table with stools, a couple of tables for sitting on the floor, and a table for standing. Plus, bean bags and little spinny chairs. Lots of choices and no need to stay in one place if it isn’t working for a child.

That’s all been true in or room for a while, which is why it seems so normal to me. This year I added one piece of furniture.

Now kids have the option to take their shoes off in our classroom.

My hope is that our classroom is a place in which everyone is comfortable because without that it’s awfully tough to focus and even tougher to take risks. I’m sure there are ways our space doesn’t work for everyone (it doesn’t work for me when the kids leave it a mess!) but that’s always my goal. No matter how odd it makes our classroom seem.

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