Many schools started the new academic year today. My school does not officially begin until after Labor Day with teachers returning the week before. Today, two weeks prior, I am sitting in my empty classroom. Desks are stacked from the carpet cleaning, it is hot and stuffy, my computer had to be re-assembled but I am sitting at my desk looking around at the the visuals I left on the walls when I left in June and enjoying the whirr of the air conditioner.
The empty room is one of possibilities. I can re-arrange my desks. I can put up new posters to catch student interest. I can design stimulating presentations for my SmartBoard with interactivity to keep everyone engaged. The empty room is the calm before the storm. I am allowed to think about the upcoming year, the students I do not know yet, the changes I want to make to be better each year. I can change everything or nothing at all.
When I came to campus today I went straight to my room. I am avoiding the front office so far because it is a reminder of all the things that go along with the start of a school year. Administrative things. Test scores. My department members who dread another year. The extra duties. The loss of family time. The political realities that have dictated less pay, more hours, less resources, more challenges. But this room. Room 622 is mine. My cave…for the moment.
There are moments like this quiet time in my empty room when I am reminded how fortunate I am to teach. This is what I am supposed to do. The room will not be empty for long. In two weeks, I will have 150 students pouring through the door throughout the day, seeking information and knowledge, solace and excitement, hoping for friendship and success. Filled with bodies and voices and brains, the room changes it character. A small cave to be defined by its inhabitants.
Every year there is change. Every period is different. Every student unique. I set out to define the academic year based on my goals and those mandated to me, but it is the evolution of students and the school year that force adaptability and flexibility. I accept the challenge.
This room has potential. I can begin to fill the space, but no matter what I do now, the room requires more. Until each desk is filled, and bells ring, and books and minds open, this is nothing but an empty room.