Monday, August 09, 2010

Outfitting the Classroom

I went into school this morning and began work on recreating my classroom. At the end of every school year we are required to pack everything up and move it out. This is a good thing because it requires that I sort through the flotsam that accumulates during the year, and it allows the custodians to clean, wax the floors, and make any necessary repairs.

The first order of business is to find the proper placement for the teacher's desk, the large table in the room, the students' desks, the shelves, filing cabinet, etc. Every year I call upon my inner sense of feng shui and try to find an arrangement that works. I think I have come up with a workable plan... for the moment!

While unpacking, I came across those things I have found indispensable (to me!) for running an organized and effective classroom and I want to pass along my suggestions to any newbies and veterans (in no particular order):

  • A Good English Language Dictionary with etymological information. Believe it or not, this is the very first thing I purchased for my classroom 23 years ago. I have often referred to my Webster's Collegiate Dictionary when questions of word meaning, origin, usage, or the correct plurals, have come up in class. I often refer students to this necessary reference and even show them how to use it correctly.
  • A Class Set of English-Latin/Latin-English Dictionaries. I use Traupman's lexicon and these have held up admirably. Not only do they come in handy when we are working on translations (both directions), but they are also good for comparing vocabulary items, finding correct principal parts, and teaching the students how to use a dictionary effectively.
  • A Good Latin Grammar. This goes without saying, doesn't it? Actually I have an ancient, tattered paperback version Allen & Greenough's New Latin Grammar that has become almost unusable. It is held together with several rubber bands and I believe some pages are missing. It is definitely time to find another one of these most important references.
  • As Many Maps of the Ancient World/Whole World as you can stand, or have space for. I have a fairly new set of overlapping maps which are mounted on the wall and roll up like a movie screen -- these are often in the unrolled mode. I also have mounted on my walls at least two maps of Italy, three maps of the Roman Empire, and one of the city of Rome. I love maps; I teach maps; and I use maps almost everyday.
  • A Full Change of Clothes. This is not something I use very often, but you never know when you will make a spill, tear or snag an item, break up a fight, or run into any countless situations.
  • A Cozy Sweater or Sweatshirt. This is necessary for those chilly days (usually in the winter) when the air system just isn't up to speed... and this happens enough to make this a nice-to-have item.
  • Paper Towels and Cleanser in a spray bottle. This is useful for general classroom cleaning, but more useful for the students' desks, tables, and floor for food, drinks, doodling, and dirt from a variety of sources. Don't be hesitant to direct the student to the closet so that he can take care of his graffito or latte!
  • Tissues. There is no way to function without them! There are allergies in the fall and the spring and colds (and worse) in the winter. I have found that if I offer extra credit at the beginning of the year for new boxes of tissues decorated by the student in a classical manner, I have more than enough for the school year. Hint: Don't put the box of tissues on your desk -- that way, the students bring the germs right to your nest. Instead, put the box in the front of the room, somewhere near the pencil sharpener.
  • An Extension Cord -- the longer, the better. There will always be that mobile projector, overhead projector, CD player, (insert electronic or electric item of your choice here), whose cord just doesn't reach the nearest plug.
  • Band-Aids. Keeping a supply of these on hand makes for a quick and easy solution to minor problems which always arise, and also cuts down on those lengthy student trips to the nurse's office. In a pinch, tissues and tape will work, and they come with a smile, snicker, or eye-roll!
  • Antiseptic Wipes/Wet Wipes. It is always handy to be able to clean up messes and face other issues such as, "I still have ketchup on my hands, arms, face, knees, etc. from lunch, can I go to the bathroom?"
  • A Good Set of Speakers for the computer, i-pod, CD player. Too often I have found a neat presentation online, only to have the students strain to hear it.
  • Pencils and Paper. I know that the students are supposed to have these items on hand, but it is so much easier to direct them to the store in the front of the room than to argue with a student who knows better but just isn't prepared, for whatever reason. I buy a new pack of pencils at the beginning of the year but add to the supply everyday as I walk down the rows of desks or down the hallway. Also, paper can be had for free when the lockers are cleaned out at the end of the year.
  • Arts and Crafts Supplies. After 23 years, I have quite a collection. My supply of crayons, markers, scissors, glue, ribbon, string, paper, etc., etc., etc., began in what I called (from the hit, children's TV show) "The Barney Bag," which then grew into "The Barney Box," and now exists as "The Barney Cart." Roll it out and let the students get to work!
New for me this year will be one of those dust bins with a handle and a short broom. All too often there will be scraps from crafts, paper, trash, M & M's, etc. on the floor and it needs to be cleaned up. This type of garbage is not the responsibility of the custodian, particularly after a spirited Latin Club meeting or party. Don't get me wrong, though, I stress strongly to my students that it is their responsibility to clean up their messes, but there really is no way to run an active, busy classroom without generating some residue.
Most of the items mentioned on this list are my own possessions, gathered from teaching for over two decades. My suggestions to the rookies out there is to beg, borrow, or buy these (and other items) over time. Most are for convenience, many for effectiveness, and some are absolute necessities.

No comments: