Thursday, March 20, 2014

Classroom decorations

Now that we're finally back in the English room, I can share the additions I made to it at the end of spring break in February.  But first, what prompted me to make them:

When my previous co-teacher changed classrooms in February after she was assigned to teach music this year, she brought her belongings with her - including classroom decorations in the English room that she'd made/purchased on her own, understandably (just a days of the week train that was on a bulletin board and some flowers).  So at some point near the end of February before the new school year, YJ (my other co-teacher) briefly mentioned to me (while passing in the hall) that she wanted the English room to look like a classroom in the states this year. She thought it was very bare and boring right now, so I should think about how to decorate it.

But that's all she ever said about it.  I'm not a fan of vague direction, but I started looking up ideas online (hello pinterest), thinking of bulletin boards we could do.  I got lots of ideas for posters to make and put up around the walls.  We could also wrap the front and sides of the teacher's desk (not top) with big colored paper to add some vibrant color, or hang colored ribbon from the window rails.  But with what materials??  Our school doesn't have those big rolls of paper that most U.S. elementary schools do for bulletin boards.  All we have in the English room for supplies are glue sticks, scissors, markers/crayons, and some small packs of colored printer paper (not construction paper).  In the storage area of the room I found just ten pieces of worn colored construction paper - but it was bigger, maybe a foot and a half by 2 or 3 feet.

So one day I finally asked YJ about materials (she'd been super busy all of those days), and she was not expecting the question.  I just asked what materials were available to decorate the room.  I think she said if there was something I needed, she could get it (out of pocket, it sounded like), so that answered my question: No, there was not a secret stash somewhere of colored paper or other things I could use to decorate the classroom.  So what did they expect?  Keep in mind this was also taking place during my February grey days of worry, frustration, self-doubt, and isolation, so I was really hating all of the unknowns surrounding this decorating project.

And then I was off to Busan for a long weekend, and when I returned my new co-teacher YH had printed two big, simple posters and put them on the two bulletin boards. (Wait -- we have a color printer?! And a plotter?!)  So no need for my bulletin board ideas, then.

He had also laminated a few small things to put on the chalkboard (Again, shock: There's a laminator somewhere in this school?!  I still have not been shown the machine, and I guess none of my creations later that week were lamination-worthy because YH put them up with tape right then and there, so we'll leave it at that).

So then on Friday of our last week of spring break I was in a dreary "What does it even matter, just go for it" mood.  I quickly and determinedly said to my new co YH, "Is it OK if I make some posters for the English room?", and then I went and sat in the English room to work.  I finally got to do a little of what I'd been brewing up the past two weeks: make some colorful posters from those single sheets of construction paper I'd found in the storage area.  I thought they could go up on the walls to add some color to the space.

YH came in when I'd finished four, and when I showed him where I thought they could go he told me the principal has said we can't put anything on the walls because of the new paint job that happened over winter break. (If we couldn't put anything on the walls from the beginning, how could I change the look of the classroom??)

So he taped them down below the windows, around waist height.  They're less visible than I had wanted, but the bright side is that they're still visible - and I'm glad to have added something to the classroom.

The other poster I was able to make that afternoon is up on the chalkboard now:

They were definitely not the English decorations/posters my co-teachers were expecting, but I didn't care.  I like them.  Positive messages are important - even if only a few people can comprehend them!  At the time I really needed the extra encouragement, so while yes I'm trying to build up my students, I think it was also therapeutic to make and see the posters myself. 
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