Amazing Kids

Amazing Kids

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Only Cosmetic? I Don't Think So...

Amanda, artist extraordinaire, who painted our
"think bubble" outside our classroom.
Last night was our elementary school's open house. You know, the big event when parents and students come in to investigate the classroom, get a feeling for the room's vibe, meet the teacher, find the desk and locker, and see who else is (or isn't) in their class. It was fabulous. It left me entirely and completely exhausted.

Our fourth grade girls' bathroom, with artwork by Jody
You see, this summer has probably been the busiest of my life. I have attended and/or presented at more conferences than ever, have been working on restoring my 1973 Super Beetle, and coordinated a wedding with TWO receptions. On top of that, we (the teachers) decided to paint all the bathrooms in our school, and then concluded it was so cool we should also paint the outsides of our classrooms to help create a more kid-friendly environment. We worked hard and had lots of great help from other staff, from current and former students, and from the community.

Yes, there's a Lochness Monster in our girls' bathroom!
Please understand: I am NOT complaining! On the contrary, mine was the first "non-white" classroom in the building. Several years ago after reading some research on colors and learning, my principal gave me the go-ahead to paint my room. I bought the paint myself and did the painting on my own "time off." The front is a nice blue (helps with concentration and mood) and the other walls are a calming color of green. Parents and students were happy campers and many would make some sort of happy comment or sigh as they settled into the room. I know it makes me feel a little happier and content. When I was given a different classroom, I painted again. This time I asked my artistically talented older daughter to add some quotes on several of the walls, which she happily completed. This sweet addition delighted me and my students. A little joke then started around the building that I was going to be moved again and again until all the rooms were painted. It was funny. But then I really was moved. It wasn't so funny. I painted. Again. I thought I was done painting. I was...momentarily. Until this summer. No reprieve. Not even one year. *sigh*

Love how he went around the corner with this one...
...and this one, too.
Instead of painting around windows and heaters, this summer I painted around toilets and urinals. I remember thinking to myself (as my face was centered over an open toilet) that my kids would know how much I loved them if they could only see me doing THIS. We finished the base coats in both the boys' and girls' bathroom and then our artists came in to make it way cool. And I do mean way cool. The boys' bathroom has graffiti art, done by Josh (who did the amazing "Choose Kind" artwork in my classroom). Jody, a former student, did kids from around the world in the girls' bathroom. She brought in her mom, sister, and brother to complete the work. Dr. Seuss' line, "The more you read the more you'll know; the more you know the more places you'll go" will dance across the top of the wall when Amanda can squeeze some time out of her busy schedule. Both bathrooms are tour-worthy. As a matter of fact, during our open house I sent girls into the boys' bathroom and boys into the girls'. They loved it.

I think this is the one I need to remember most!
So why paint classrooms and bathrooms?? Not because I have nothing to do during the summer, that's for sure. Not because it's my personal taste. Not even to cover up the ugliness of the old dirty white paint.  Really, it's because I want my kids to feel great when they're in this space. I want them to remember school as a wonderful place to be. A place they felt good about themselves and people around them. A place where some of their most precious memories are. I want them to feel like they can curl up in a comfy chair and read a book or have a rousing debate about an issue in my classroom and be completely safe doing so. I want them to know that their teacher cares about them enough to make the bathroom fun and kid-friendly. I want them to know that every part of their life is important. That people care deeply. Go the extra mile for them. I want my kids to grow up knowing they're so very important.

Two of Josh's "tags" from the fourth grade boys' bathroom.
Open house means we're into the new school year. Summer is over and it's time for a new group of kiddos to love on, to nurture, to prod, to encourage, to challenge. This year, our building is ready at a whole new level.

I can hardly wait!

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