Setting the Stage
Finally, it’s time to put all of that rich information from orientation into life as we set up the classroom!
Sweating the Small Stuff
I’m not sure if was the intense Manila humidity, or the overwhelming to-do list of transforming a bare classroom into a kindergarten classroom that had me breaking into a sweat. After all, if one were to look into your typical kindergarten classroom it would not be an overstatement to say that a visitor may be hit with sensory overload. Colorful calendars, cubbies, pictures and bulletin boards adorn every wall and work space, making it a bright, cheerful and sensory-rich environment.
An Empty Classroom; a Blank Canvas
Unless you’ve taught your own kindergarten classroom, there is literally no way you can imagine how much thought, effort and energy goes into all of the classroom displays and the overall presentation of the classroom. The empty room is like a blank canvas and as an intern mentoring under an experienced pro, I have felt like an apprentice training under a master artist laboring on her next great work of art.
The Art of Teaching and Mentoring
The teacher with whom I have the pleasure of working with has been teaching at the school for over ten years. Not only is she an incredibly successful and effective educator, but she is also an artist capturing beauty in every moment of the day. Whether it’s humor in the midst of chaos while preparing our classroom, or patience and understanding as she pauses in her activity to guide, instruct and encourage me as I prepare for my first days in the classroom. I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to work alongside such a passionate teacher who is so generous in spirit that she’s willing to share with me her past successes and mistakes all learned through years of experience.
To-Do, or Not To-Do
That is the question! As we worked together on our exhaustive checklist filled with numerous items to complete such as the creation of bulletin board titles and borders, posters, decorations, reading corners, activity stations and everything else required to construct an inquiry/play-based environment, I was starting to feel satisfied that our room was slowly but surely coming together!
Despite this growing feeling of accomplishment, I couldn’t help but feel another sensation brewing in my mind. As I am poised to begin my first year teaching, I am getting the feeling that there is never enough time in the day! Even though the tasks on our to-do list have been completed, there is the realization that there is always more to do!.
This was really beginning to stress me out. Although I was working late and bringing work home, I realized that I had to accept that time had run out. Students would be arriving in the classroom on Monday whether or not the classroom rules were pinned-up , all activities were planned, and other details that we envisioned were not yet fully arranged.
As I walked into the classroom the next day, this concern was still on my mind, and I had to discuss it with the classroom teacher, and now my teacher. She patiently listened with an understanding ear and then explained to me, that this is something as a teacher, that I would need to accept. She confided that she too was a stickler for getting things done on time and was very hard on herself in the process. But through her years of experience, she realized, especially at this grade level, that there is always something more that can be done. Therefore, the checklist never ends.
A is for Attitude
Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the never-ending to-do list, she advised, to instead focus on being mentally ready for the day. Your positive frame of mind and enthusiasm to start each new day is ultimately, the best preparation a teacher can give to his or her students. She reminded me that despite the importance of the props in setting the stage, the intellectual and creative energy of the director is what is going to produce the best performance from the actors.
So as we embark on a new year, and have a fresh slate to work with, I am reminded, and consoled, that there is no such thing as perfect. As educators we can strive to be as prepared as possible, but in this field, that will always be an elusive goal. It is the constant chase that makes our journey so exciting. With that understanding I came away with the assurance that all I can do at this point, is to save up as much energy as possible for Monday morning. With 20 new kindergartners set to walk through that door, I know I’m going to need as much of it as I can get!