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

MaryKathryn Conceison
3 min readAug 28, 2022


It’s just filled with things we can’t see

Photo belongs to Author

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.

Marquez-Greene reminds teachers:

“Your courage will support students who are left out and overlooked, like the isolated young man who killed my daughter. At some point he was a young, impressionable student, often sitting all alone at school. You will have kids facing long odds for whom your smile, your encouraging word, and your willingness to go the extra mile will provide the comfort and security they need to try again tomorrow…

She goes on to share that,

“Parents are sending their precious children to you this fall. Some will come fully prepared, and others not. They will come fed and with empty bellies. They will come from intact homes and fractured ones. Love them all.”

In a world where some people are saying that teachers are trying to push an agenda; let this be a reminder. In the next coming days and weeks, teachers will be standing in the front of no-longer-empty classrooms. There will be young people looking at us, listening to us, watching us. Young people filled with anticipation and potential.

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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Stay wild, friends.



MaryKathryn Conceison

Lover of: the right words at the right moment, Big Feelings, cheese + crackers on the beach, live music, being called Auntie MK and Ms. C