There’s a story that during the Vietnam War, a certain prisoner survived the torture of being in a cell all alone for years by planning, in incredible detail, a dream house that he would build once he returned home. In his head, he knew exactly how many nails, how many 2x4s, and how many tiles he would need. When he got home, he built that house and, in terms of the materials he had estimated in his head, was only off by one plank of wood.
This summer, I’ve been pretending to have a smidgen of the ability that prisoner of war had and designed my dream classroom. I’ve planned out, in incredible detail, all the cute little students, where each table and desk will be, and the collaborative general educators I’m going to be working with next year.
I’m about to open a self-contained, cross-categorical classroom serving K-6 students with language delays and impairments for the very first time. My school, Longview Elementary School, is an International Baccalaureate (IB) Candidate School located in a high-poverty area of Phoenix, Ariz. New teachers have already reported to school, but I actually missed the first few days of new teacher training because I was in Texas for IB training. Sound complicated? Yes, it’s pretty complicated.
And I’m pretty sure things are only going to get more complicated . . . way more complicated . . . as soon as I step into my real classroom and not the dream classroom in my head. I’m going to guess that in reality, my classroom is going to be smaller than I’ve been imagining and general educators might just advert their eyes whenever I have a question.
So I admit, my dream classroom and my reality will likely differ by more than just one plank of wood. But, hey, the longer I dwell on the fact that I can’t plan things out in my head, the more time I lose and the fewer things I can check off my to-do list!
My first plan of action, you ask? Clear the clutter. Another school in my district closed at the end of last year, meaning maintenance crews spent the summer moving stuff from one building to another, from one classroom to another. From what I’ve heard, it was a messy process. So for me, taking the time to clear the clutter is a personal must and will make me feel better about all the challenges ahead, like reading IEPs and coming up with a curriculum.
How about you? What’s the first thing you do at the beginning of the school year to get a grip on everything that’s coming at you — especially when you realize your planning is off by way more than a single plank of wood? What’s the first thing you do when you’re feeling overwhelmed with a to-do list longer than a 2×4?