The room was dark until I flicked on the dull florescent lights. They illuminated this square box of a room with minty green painted cinder block walls and the musty scent of an old basement pervaded the whole space. I looked at the faded rose wrapping paper that the previous teacher had put up and a peeling sign that said “Today’s work is tomorrow’s success” but I felt nothing but excitement.
Here it was, the classroom I had always dreamed of. When I was a little girl I got a PlaySkool easel for Christmas and created a set-up in the basement where I could teach an imaginary classroom all about whatever I felt like. I kept and cataloged my favorite books and practiced reading out loud. My grandmother got me beautifully illustrated picture books and I stashed them aside, subconsciously knowing someday there would be the perfect home for them. This room, with its four walls and persistent damp odor, was, is all mine.
Of course the first feeling of triumph and love was outweighed by the sheer amount of manual labor that I was going to pour into the industrial room to make it feel cozy and welcoming, just like the classrooms of my childhood. I spent the better part of two hours removing that hideous rose wrapping paper from all the bulletin boards and tearing down bulletin board borders that were stiff and yellowed from being on those boards for years and years. I took an extra long path around my room to avoid a large dead cockroach that lay in the middle of the floor. I pushed everything to the center of the room and tried not to cry when the box holding an entire set of World Book Encyclopedia circa 1992 fell out of the bottom of the box and all over the floor. Or when I spent a solid half hour making a floating word wall display to go over my window only to find that the air from the vent was coming out so strong made the whole display twist and turn like a kite at the beach and I had to redo the entire thing.
But somewhere along the way it turned into a classroom. A real place for learning to take place, where friendships can be built and trust and caring are fixtures just like the chalkboards. Standing in the center of it all, desks arranged and bulletin boards carefully decorated, it felt just right. Some little details still need to be conquered and squared away but I’m ready for them. I’m ready for eighteen new third graders with their shiny new sneakers and stiff, unused backpacks to come through my classroom door. After taking the rocky and twisty road to get here, I am ready for my class in my very own classroom.