Starbucks and Cemeteries

Someone in today’s professional development meeting mentioned that our classrooms tend to look more like cemeteries than Starbucks. (Presumably that’s a bad thing.) All hyperbolic statements aside, she has a point: Grey-walled classrooms with rigid seating arrangements aren’t always the most conducive to learning.

But what is to be done?

Some union guy somewhere, sometime, came up with this rule that janitors can’t do jobs belonging to teachers and teachers can’t jobs belonging to janitors. Let me be the first to say that I appreciate that rule–particularly when a student vomits in the center of my carpet, or the fluorescent light bulbs develop a psychedelic rhythm during 3rd period.

Other times, I really just want the holes in my wall patched, and I know how hard my maintenance guys work, and I suspect that the help ticket I submitted isn’t languishing all alone in anyone’s inbox.

So a couple of summers ago, after weighing the relative merits of forgiveness and permission, I broke out the drywall repair mesh and plaster, bought a few cans of paint… and drew the classroom blinds. One thing led to another, and pretty soon, I was building book shelves, and buying books, and resurfacing the 1980’s Formica counter tops and re-enameling the door jambs.  Let’s be real: it got a little out of hand.

(Particularly the counter top resurfacing. That stuff is somewhat… aromatic)

But. Looking back over the last two years, it was probably the best 2 weeks of summer vacation (and $500) I’ve ever spent. Every day I walk in and feel at home–and my students do, too.


The original Prison Grey

FullSizeRender (6)

The existing counter tops: A lovely 1980’s mauve, complete with splintered edges.


24 feet of bookshelves, plus resurfaced window sills


Dictionary page wall.


School colors: Maroon and Gold, and a resurfaced counter top and door jamb

So here’s the deal: This summer, if all goes well, I want to get rid of the rickety, thigh-slicing, hair-pulling desks 🙂 I can’t tell you how many students have cut a leg or torn their pants or gotten their hair pulled out by a protruding bolt. Last year, I had to staple my favorite jeans shut, from hip to knee, after sidling a bit too close past the back row.

Is this the point at which a girl starts a GoFundMe account?


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