I boxed up my classroom today. Year 2 of teaching K-5 music with the Cherry Creek Options program is complete! (Except for field days and our teacher work day.) It’s been a fun adventure the past two years surrounded by the Denver Tech Center, but I’m definitely looking forward to our new building. No more 30 minute drive across to I-25, no more crazy quick turn just past the I-25 interchange to turn into the parking lot, no more old falling-apart building, no more light rail whirring past as I walk to or from my car in the parking lot (that one’s not a bad thing – actually made it feel fun teaching in the big city ;). Now I will only have to drive 15 minutes, and we will have a new building with, I think, a quieter surrounding atmosphere.
After I finished sealing the last box full of musical instruments today, I stepped outside my classroom and realized that I had forgotten to take down my Welcome sign. As I started pulling the staples from the wall being careful not to rip the poster more than it already is, I was brought back to a time when this poster was brand new and I was hanging it for the first time. It was August of 2008, nearly 10 years ago now, and I had just gotten my very first teaching job only a few days before the first day of school…
A mere 4 days after I accepted the job, I would be teaching my first classes of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders at North Valley Middle School in the small town of LaSalle, CO. Talk about diving in head first. And middle school wasn’t even what I wanted! I had a degree in Elementary Education. But this is the job God provided for me, so I was running with it.
After a morning of staff orientation at the district’s only high school in Gilcrest, I headed to the middle school so I could start setting up my room. One of the secretaries brought me to a very old building sitting right next to the main school building. I followed her up the stairs to my very first classroom. As I stepped into the room, the floor creaked. The building was so old-fashioned, I felt like a pioneer schoolteacher who had just arrived from far away to an uncertain teaching situation. The desks and bookshelves were covered with dust, and books were stacked in disheveled piles. The secretary gave me three keys—one to the main school building, one to my building, and one to my room—and left me to organize the mess.
There was so much stuff to organize and so little time. I was given no curriculum to teach from, only a bunch of supplementary materials. I was told that the previous teacher taught units to the students—one for each subject throughout the year. So as I went through the classroom materials, I categorized them according to subject. Anything I did not know what to do with, I took into the side room, that was also mine to use. In order to keep myself from being overwhelmed, I only focused on what I knew I could use right away. Everything else I would learn about later.
Being a brand new teacher, I had very little to decorate my classroom with. Of course all of education major friends and I were excited about the prospect of having our own classrooms when we got a job, so I had been to “the teacher store” a handful of times. I had purchased a few things that I thought I could use in any elementary grade level, and I had also been gifted with some elementary teaching items. So I hurriedly grabbed a Welcome sign from my measly pile of things and stapled it next to the entrance of my classroom. The sign stood out as a bright spot in the old building, and I hoped it would signal to my students that they were welcome, not only in my classroom, but in my heart as well. After all, the most important thing to me in teaching is the relationship I have with my students. I didn’t need any more decorative fluff than I had to accomplish what I considered most important. And I learned to love those middle school kids, tough as they sometimes were!
When I did eventually move to a 5th grade position (and then 4th grade) at Platteville Elementary School, that Welcome sign traveled with me. I wasn’t able to hang it outside my classroom this time, but it was placed right next to my desk, up front by the bulletin board. Stepping into this particular elementary teaching position automatically provided me with an abundance of posters and decorations since the teacher leaving was no longer planning to teach. But my very first Welcome poster remained year after year with each new class full of students whom I wholeheartedly welcomed into my life.
That poster followed me to Denver two years ago when I got married and moved to a different kind of position – teaching music and violin to K-5 homeschool students. Once again I’ve established myself, this time as Mrs. Turner, welcoming each student that is placed in one of my music classes.
And now I’ve taken the Welcome poster down for another move, to another new classroom. A new place awaiting me to welcome familiar and new students week after week, as the Lord continues to use me as a teacher in the lives of those He places in my care.