All teachers know there is no joy comparable to setting up your own classroom. Walls to be covered, furniture to be arranged, and the perfect environment to be created book by book and brick by brick. The experience of thoughtfully designing the space you’ll share with students brings a dizzying happiness ripe with possibility.
I don’t have a classroom anymore; I’m a principal now with a desk and conference table in the office where I hang my proverbial hat. On my best days I’m not in it much, an hour or so before students begin to arrive on campus and a couple of hours after the last bell has rung. This isn’t to say that it’s not an important space. I know that some of the conversations that take place here are critical and when someone finds him or herself “in the principal’s office” I want the experience to be as productive as it can and the atmosphere to speak of kindness.
This year is my first in a new office, new to me anyway; the walls went up in 1937. While I’ve certainly done my best to help if feel like home, one of the (temporary) defining elements of the space is a pile of boxes against my desk. Moving into a new job midway through the summer meant putting the priority on getting about the business of preparing for school, not interior decorating.
As a result, and a result I’m comfortable with (at least until I get a few days off to take care of it), some files to be put away and books still waiting for a shelf are part of my office decor. These boxes remind me daily to keep my focus on what happens outside my office; there will be time later this fall to straighten the furniture.
One bit of furniture yet to be straightened, and one that fits my priorities and approach, isn’t yet in my office. It’s important to me as a site administrator to look forward and make plans for events months ahead, keeping the big picture of the year in mind. Patience can sometimes yield great results, and while I have a stack of books and frames tucked under an end table right now, I can picture how great they’ll look on a bookshelf my great grandfather built in 1937.
Logistics mean I need to wait a bit to get that bookshelf in my office, but like the new tennis courts that will open in October or the new science and math building that will be ready in the fall of 2017, I see the benefits of waiting for something wonderful, not settling for something easier now.
What is in my office now is the accumulation of more than two decades in education. I keep the model sailing ship given to me by a student on a shelf filled with familiar volumes. Nearby is a squid mug I’ve blogged about, and on one wall is a pirate plaque made for me by an amazing secretary.
And because principals are humans too, I have a few special pieces to help ground me and remind me of who I am when I’m not wearing a tie: an oil painting by my wife, creativity incarnate; two framed prints from a book by Dickens, acknowledgement of my sometimes wordy and antiquated soul; and a ferocious clay tiger made for me by my niece.
Scattered throughout are photographs, pictures of my family that smile back at me no matter how my day is going.
The environments we create say much about who we are, and I hope that if someone were to come into my office when I wasn’t there she would think me worth getting to know.