In our classroom (I say “our” because it is both mine and my students’) there is an order and a calm that comes with knowing. In the first week of school, my students and I discuss why we are here, why it matters. We create Essential Agreements for our room that relate to expectations we have for each other as well as the look and feel of the room we want to be surrounded by all year.

I compile our Agreements into a document for one last final review. Once is it just the way we want it, I type it up and give each child a fragment of the document to write in their own handwriting. (They are also able to add one embellishment if they wish, as long as it does not make their words unreadable. They love learning the big word embellishment.) These fragments are then put back together and glued to a large poster paper upon which we all sign our names. These Essential Agreements are what guide us in our behaviors, attitudes, and direction throughout the year. It is a large piece of the order and calm that then organically takes place in our classroom.

To protect student identities, I put stickers over their signatures.This is from a couple years ago.

We care for each other and our room because that is the type of environment we want to be in.

We laugh and have fun, but we also work hard and support one another because that is the type of environment we want to be in.

We acknowledge that learning is sometimes messy and hard but know that at the end of the day, we are proud of our learning and our learning space and so together we tidy because that is the type of environment we want to be in.

On Thursday, I came home from a quick and unexpected trip to my school campus and cried.

I had no order.

A lot of energy has been spent this summer worrying about the unknowns and the uncertainty of this coming school year. My worry is twofold – I worry as a parent and I worry as an elementary school teacher. In the arena of parent, I felt I had more control. Husband and I discussed and then worked at getting both boys enrolled in a school district that had an option we could live with. Once this decision was made and our boys were officially enrolled, I felt less anxious and my mind could shift to my own self.

At this time last week, my district was fully in the direction of in-person learning. While they waved about the CDC guidelines with vague and unreachable realities, they did mandate masking for all, but still it did not seem safe to me. In an effort to have some control, I bought a box of N95 masks and tried to mentally prepare myself to teach thirty, eight and nine year old children through such barriers and still come across as loving and accessible.

Last Monday I received an email from my principal; a water supply line breakage occurred sometime over the weekend and many classrooms were flooded. Many classrooms upstairs (where my room is) and many classrooms below those sustained heavy damage. Phrases like “major loss” and “water restoration company” accompanied the information that the water was on for 2-3 days leaving a lot of water in rooms.

I played over in my mind any items low to the floor that I may have lost. I tried not to think of the smell that surly must be there considering none of the windows open to the outside. I recognized my inability to control any of this even while I looked, with a heavy, flat feeling at a picture the custodial staff sent of one of the classrooms across the hall from mine.

The next evening my district held an emergency board meeting to discuss and vote upon in-person vs. on-line learning. There were moments that were very heated. The chat stream made me uncomfortable as I watched both sides do away with niceties. It lasted over three hours, but in the end four votes for on-line learning through the first quarter out numbered the one vote for in-person.

Feeling safer but still full of questions (and with a lake for a classroom), the next morning I was greeted with an email telling those teachers affected by the flood that we could come in the next day to pick up any items we felt we may need from our lakes/classrooms for distance learning. No expectations or guidance in how this distance learning was to happen had been disseminated yet.

Photos from about this time last year.

It was then, that on Thursday I was escorted up to my classroom. Long plastic sheets hung down in the hallway making for an E.T. like vibe. Fully expecting to walk into my room to quickly pick out the items I had on my list. I know where everything is, there is order in my classroom, even behind the wall of cabinets and on the sometimes jumbled looking bookshelves. I was greeted with cabinets, counter tops, and cubbies all ripped from their walls, emptied of contents, and pushed into the center of the room. I could not access any of the items I thought would be helpful.

Current state of the classroom.

Some of the water restoration workers took me down the hall to boxes meticulously labeled and stacked floor to ceiling. Boxes containing my classroom. Tears welt up and I was glad my mask covered my face as I worked to keep from crying. They offered to open them and help me find what I needed, but I waved the offer away. I would simply make it work without. I went home and cried.

Then, I once again recognized that which I could not control. In doing that I saw that there are things that I can control. So I did.

I took my desk, shoved into a wall in my bedroom, my uninspired work station, and I turned it, making a little “classroom nook”. I ordered a whimsical, cheerful canvas print of an owl in glasses to hang behind me, an image my students will see ever time I reach out to them for a video call.

The classroom nook is not ready yet, but here is the picture I ordered for it.

I created a virtual classroom containing a Bitmoji of myself that we will use as a place to house resources, assignments, and celebrations. I am not technologically savvy, so my head is not fully wrapped around all this, but I am trying. I am going to grab on to what I can control and I will make some semblance of order.

Still a work in progress, but you get the idea.

For me.

For my family.

For my students.

About Shoes

I am an elementary school teacher, a former microbiologist, a mom to a herd of two boys, and a grilled cheese sandwich and beer connoisseur.
This entry was posted in Being a Teacher, The Virus and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Order

  1. Rivergirl says:

    The whole Covid situation is horrible enough for teachers, but to have to deal with flooding is really just too much. How awful. I think remote classes will be the norm for a while to come. Love the owl!

    • Shoes says:

      I knew we were going to be doing remote learning for awhile, but actually seeing the state of things in my flooded classroom, was just so overwhelming for me. I really enjoy setting up the classroom to make a cozy, welcoming space and it currently is so far from that reality, it got to me. My classroom nook at home is coming along, however, so there is that. And I adore the owl picture, something I would typically not spend money on.

  2. Oh my! So sorry you had to deal with a flooded classroom on top of everything else. You sound like an amazing teacher. Hang in there, it can only get better from here, right? We can hope. 🙂

    • Shoes says:

      Thank you! I am very much holding on to the hope that things will get better. I support teaching from home at this point, but I really don’t like or feel comfortable with it. I want to be in the classroom with my kids and watch them learn and grow from the opportunities I provide, and almost equally so, learning from the interactions with each other. I love seeing the building of friendships and the special one-year-only community we create in our room. It will improve and we will be there again, I’m hopeful.

  3. Oh dear, it must have been so hard! as if the current situation wasnt enough! you sound like an amazing teacher by the way, I wish I had somebody like you when I was at school!

    • Shoes says:

      Ahh, thank you! I do want to make the learning and the whole school experience for my students one that is looked back upon with warmth and self-confidence. I am rewriting in my mind what teaching and being a student will look like this year. It is hard but worth it!

  4. sorrygnat says:

    Good for you; lucky students to have you!

    On Mon, Jul 27, 2020 at 7:33 AM Shoes On The Wrong Feet wrote:

    > Shoes posted: ” Order. In our classroom (I say “our” because it is both > mine and my students’) there is an order and a calm that comes with > knowing. In the first week of school, my students and I discuss why we are > here, why it matters. We create Essential Agreement” >

  5. Pingback: July, an Honorary Fall Month | Shoes On The Wrong Feet

  6. Deborah says:

    I’ve been following COVID news closely on a daily basis. Based on this following, my husband and I have been very much of like mind that sending anyone in to school in anything but green-zone conditions will be fatal to someone. Someones. There are so many examples of this already, when “hotspots” were relatively fewer.

    Right now, my sons are still enrolled at “our” school. But in my mind, many times daily, I’m drafting the letter about why we’ll be pulling our children the first moment they try demanding physical presence in yellow or orange zones. I have so much data, it’s hard to know where to even start in explaining … but I do know, no, I will not, if I can help it, be part of ending someone’s life (these amazing teachers have loved on my sons for FIVE YEARS!!!) because district policy said it was fine.

    I’m sad you lost your stuff. I’m sad you’re being left to muddle through this without clear support and guidance. But I’m not at all sad for the circumstances that, for now, have left you relatively safe from a virus that never, ever needed to be so lethal.

    I’m rooting for you. ❤️

    • Shoes says:

      Thank you for your support and for the logical and scientific way in which you approach the situation. It is so sad the unnecessary loss of life that has happened and will continue to happen because of the way this pandemic has been mishandled.
      I am so relieved not to be forced back into the classroom. My rising panic over having to teach in person when the data shows we should not has now turned into anxiety of not being prepared or having a grasp on the new technology we are rolling out in a week and a half. Better anxious and ill prepared that risking my life and that of my family.
      Not sure yet the level of loss in my classroom, but what’s done is done. I will move forward, learning as I go and it will get easier.

  7. Jennie says:

    I love this post! Your essential wall is just wonderful. And then the worst happened, and then you rose to the top and created something amazing for your distance learning. I am impressed and inspired. Thank you, Shoes.

    • Shoes says:

      Thank you! Just yesterday I created a Padlet that will let my students digitally record their thoughts and ideas on how they want our class to be/feel/sound. They will also reflect on what actions they should take to build the type of community we want and what I should be to support their success. It was my first Padlet and I am excited to see how it goes. I really feel that the Essential Agreements are an important part of our first week of school and that this carries over into the entire year.

      • Jennie says:

        I couldn’t agree more! I’m looking forward to hearing how it goes. I’m going to Google Padlet. In what state are you? Third grade?

        • Shoes says:

          I am in Arizona, third grade. We start training this Wednesday (as of now I have no training in Schoology the platform my district moved to from Google Classroom). The students start back on the 11th all remote. Are there any digital tools you loved during spring remote learning you could direct me toward?

          • Jennie says:

            I loved YouTube Channel. We posted there often (reading aloud, science experiments, math activities, exploring nature, etc.), and parents could decide when to have their child view it. In that way, they could arrange school around their work schedule. Zoom was not our favorite, as preschoolers don’t understand when they can and cannot talk. Of course with young children, there wasn’t homework, but we had three Zoom sessions a week, like a Morning Meeting.

            If I find other digital tools, I will let you know.

            I strongly encourage you to chapter read for your third graders everyday on YouTube. It will give them a constant, and they will have something to look forward to every day. If I taught third grade, I would read aloud “Because of Winn-Dixie”. Apologies if I sound pushy. I often wish I had your age group to read to, so I started a reading group at our library. Their favorite book is “Bob.”

            Best to you, Shoes. I look forward to how your school year will go.

            • Shoes says:

              Thanks for the YouTube tip. I will set up a teacher one to use.
              One of my favorite times of the day is right after lunch and recess. The kids come in and meet me on the rug. I read a chapter of a book each and every day. I start with shorter chapter books – Jigsaw Jones and Humphrey – then longer more elaborate books – The Cricket in Time Square, Owl in the Shower, The Twenty-One Balloons. Near the end of the year, we read Because of Winn-Dixie. I LOVE the rich conversations we have as a class, the unstructured interactions we organically have. I don’t know how to capture that teaching remotely. And you don’t sound pushy at all! 🙂

            • Jennie says:

              I love what are doing. Yes, those rich conversations are what it’s all about. You’re reading great books. Do you read aloud Charlotte’s Web? Let’s hope school is not remote this year! Thank you, and I’m glad I didn’t sound pushy. Passionate is a better word 🙂

            • Shoes says:

              We are remote through the first quarter to start off and then will determine next actions. I read Charlotte’s Web when I taught 2nd grade – love that book! It is good to have passion for children’s books in the world of teaching. 🙂

            • Jennie says:

              Yes, the passion for reading aloud is the thread of teaching and learning. It’s my strongest drive. Do you know “The Read Aloud Handbook” by Jim Trelease?

  8. cupcakecache says:

    I teach English remotely at two colleges but have worked in elementary. My hat is off to you as this will be challenging! I wish you well. You are handling it well.

    • Shoes says:

      Thank you! This remote teaching thing is not my cup of tea. We will do our best in the situation and hope it becomes safe to return to the classroom sooner rather than later.

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