An Empty Classroom Is Quiet, But It’s Not Really Empty

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An empty classroom is quiet, but it’s not really empty.

It’s filled with anticipation

The first time I enter my classroom in August, I spend a few hours cursing my June self for shoving things into drawers in celebration of a much needed refresh. I play with my hair, pace around the room, arrange and rearrange furniture, and ask myself questions like, “wait, didn’t I order that?” and “how do I do this again?!” After my chaotic energy calms, and my mom comes in to help me, I start tackling the long list of tasks that go into opening a classroom. With each new-to-me name labeled on the desks that are free from “___ was here” pencil marks and lockers free from crumbled Ritz crackers abandoned after lunch, I begin to anticipate the beauty of a fresh start.

Thanks to my mother, the perfectly pointed pencils lay in anticipation of a student who proudly interrupts the quiet sounds of instrumental music and independent writing with a “Ms. C!! Can you come read the lead I wrote? I finally got it!”

It’s filled with potential

I do not make the prettiest bulletin boards, and they always start off the year blank. My handwriting on my anchor charts is not Instagram worthy. In fact, my cooperating teacher told me during student teaching that I really needed to improve that. That was 14 years ago, and I don’t know that it’s improved. The teacher comparison trap is real, and I try to not get caught up. Because, the thing is, the potential in an empty classroom has nothing to do with how amazing the teacher’s handwriting will be on the currently blank chart paper. The potential in there has everything to do with the future questions + conversation; inside jokes + laughter; learning + experiences; mistakes + repairs.

The potential in there has everything to do with the people. They are students, yes, but they are people first. People who have the potential (and right) to question, converse, joke, laugh, learn, experience, make mistakes, and make repairs.

There is courage, faith, and love in here.

I have a night-before-the-first-day tradition where I read “A Sandy Hook Parent’s Letter to Teachers” written by Nelba Marquez-Greene, mother of sweet Ana-Grace, who was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012. Each year, Ms. Marquez-Greene’s beautifully painful words bring me to tears. Each year, these words and the sweet picture of then six year old Ana-Grace serve as an important reminder for me. I am reminded that although my mind is ruminating on making sure my plans go well, the thing that really matters is leading with courage, faith, and love.

Our agenda is to help the people in front of us feel safe enough to come as they are- with all that they carry. Our agenda is to help them feel seen, heard, accepted, cherished, and loved.

Teachers, let’s do this.

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MaryKathryn Conceison

MaryKathryn Conceison

Thirty-something logophile whose passions include: Big Feelings, teaching, cheese + crackers on the beach, live music, and being Auntie MK