It’s that time of year again where my 28-year-old self has fallen down the social media rabbit hole of a teenager. I’m stuck watching perky Instagram Stories of bright-eyed teachers unveiling their Pinterest-perfect classrooms while I sit on the couch in my tattered gym clothes, silently panicking about the asylum-looking walls of my new classroom. My internal clock is ticking. I feel like a giant failure before a student has even set foot in my classroom.
You see, I’m not one of those teachers who enjoy the arduous task of making her classroom look like Disneyland on steroids. I hate decorating. I hate coming up with a “theme” for the new school year. I hate trying to bargain hunt at Home Goods or Target for an item that fits in with my non-existent theme in the correct color scheme. Rather, as a K-8 music teacher, I have shows to plan for. Music to buy, new courses to create, and curriculum to revisit. On-point calligraphy is, sadly, not at the top of my to-do list.
And yet, I feel like an outsider. A teacher who was sleeping while everyone else in grad school learned how to be crafty and multi-purpose a shower caddie as an Expo marker holder. On one hand, I love social media for its ability to open my eyes to like-minded individuals and fantastic resources. It has created a community of teachers, linking all of us on one slowly sinking boat that is trying desperately to remain afloat from September until June. On the other hand, I hate social media for reminding me that, in some respects, I’m not good at everything in my job. As a type A perfectionist, this is an incredibly hard pill to swallow. What will my students do if they walk into my room and aren’t immediately greeted by posters reminding them they are special snowflakes that are one day going to take over the world? What type of environment am I creating for my students? AM I UP TO PAR WITH THE MORE COLORFUL, CREATIVELY FONTED ROOMS OF MY COLLEAGUES?
At this point, I have a very honest, realistic chat with myself that goes like this: AUSTEN. LEGITIMATELY, NO ONE GIVES A SHIT ABOUT HOW IMPERFECT YOUR CLASSROOM LOOKS. GET. IT. TOGETHER. GIRL.
My students aren’t going to remember how my classroom was decorated. They are going to remember how I made them feel – hopefully safe, nurtured, and cared about each and every time I run into them in my classroom, in the halls, and on a Saturday morning in Target while I look like a homeless monster. They aren’t going to remember the color of my walls or the neon banners dangling from the ceiling. I’m not “less than” just because I’m choosing to modify my syllabi before venturing into the layout of my classroom.
And so, dear reader, I challenge you to go on with your unique, bad self. If you LOVE decorating your classroom, get high off those paint fumes and document it. If that’s not your thing, it’s okay. Take a break from social media and remind yourself of your strengths, not your weaknesses. It’s okay to not be the quintessential textbook teacher. I’m not, and I can’t WAIT to put this on display for all of my students to see.
|This article was written by Austen Courter — a fifth year K-8 music teacher at a private school in California. She has taught general music, band, choir, performing arts, drumming, and music technology. Connect with her on Instagram.|
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