Classroom Culture: Thanksgiving Pumpkin, Day One

What my fifth-graders were thankful for this week. ❤️

Supplies needed:

2 minutes

Largest pumpkin teacher can carry


The question: “What are you thankful for today?”

Directions: repeat daily until December 1.

Result: Smiles and redirected hearts after the Halloween craziness.

Teacher Space

Something new I tried last year was getting rid of my teacher desk.  said goodbye to the massive, clunky metal desk that had served well for the last five years. Granted, this was partly because I have a room half the size of normal classrooms… but my class size still runs 15-18 students. There wasn’t room for a desk and intervention table.  After teaching the previous year with a desk but no small group table, I decided to dispense with the desk and ask for an intervention table.

I had help, though. There are several helpful blogs highlighting the benefits of a teacher “space” over a teacher desk. From them (thanks, Pinterest) I got some ideas and gave “teacher space” a go. It went well enough that I’m doing for a second year. The picture above is from last year in the final stages of setting up my classroom. Several issues popped up that I hadn’t anticipated, which I have tweaked this year and it has already helped so much.

First Year

Issue 1: Set-up — Access

Negative: The printer actually ended up on the table… along with stacks of paper. Keep a lamp that big was not a viable option when students came to sit at the table. True, I had access to the printer easily… but that was not something I needed.

Positive: I had good access to the teacher books behind me, as well as my supply organizer, which I’m still using (it’s so helpful that the kids can get their own band-aids now).

Issue 2: Set-up — Aesthetics

Ok, I know that I can’t expect to have a Pinterest perfect classroom, but that shouldn’t rule out keeping aesthetic in mind.

Positive: The big, clunky desk was gone.

Negative: Looking back at that picture, the furniture is different depths, there are too many colors, too many drawers… it was organization flirting with chaos.

Issue 3: Procedures

Positive: I had a small group table, which I did not have the year before.

Negative: Since the teacher space was also the small group space, students had trouble understanding and respecting the boundary lines that a teacher’s desk should have.

Second Year

Teacher Space Year 2

This year, I kept in mind the positives and tried to incorporate them. It involved switching around several things in the classroom (check for upcoming classroom organization post).

Issue 1: Access

These bookshelves had originally been in classroom library. However, this set up was similar to something I had a couple years ago, and I regularly use this small white board with group work. Using these bookcases gave me more horizontal work space — something I had needed before.

Issue 2: Aesthetic

This set-up helps create a feeling of symmetry, even though I still have many materials stored in this small corner. The tray on the table is wonderful for keeping the desk free of misc. staples and paperclips and sticky notes. Things I need in drawers are in the cloth containers (mostly on the bottom row of shelves) instead of having multiple free standing drawer units. The catch-all paper bucket (I still don’t know how to teach without one) has a home in one of the cubicles, instead of one my desk. Now, if I could just work on getting two more stools instead of clunky chairs. :)

Issue 3: Procedures

Granted, one of my classes has all students from last year, which made it easier. However, I had two new classes this year. At the beginning of the year, I told the students that the teacher chair and space behind the table was my space. As the year went on, I added things students were allowed to access — the foreign language dictionary shelf and the staples/band aids. They also know not to look through any copies that I might have on the table. My students sometimes ask if they can work in my chair or move a stack of papers for more space (which I usually agree to).


All things considered, this teacher space works for me and my classroom. It gives me more space to work.  My materials are accessible for planning and group work. My students like the set-up. Parent-Teacher conferences around this table work great.

Sure, it takes a minute to adapt. Sometimes I still miss having a junk drawer. Sometimes, it still gets messy — copies attack, ya’ll. So, if you think if could solve space issues or just help with the look of your room, give it a try.


When the end of the semester attacks… Keepin’ it real, folks. ;)

Using My Teacher Voice

“Wow, I was using my teacher voice. I actually missed that.”

I couldn’t believe that was a thought from my own brain. Yet, there is was. Even more shocking… it was true. I really had enjoyed using my teacher voice.

This teacher voice, however, was not the stereotypical one my students aren’t supposed to make me use.


Oh, I have that one, too.

Then the realization dawned… I have more than one teacher voice.

And so do my teacher friends. I have heard many, many teacher voices coming from down the hall and in my own classroom.

There is the teacher voice that yells above a noisy classroom.

A teacher voice that quietly talks to a student about their struggles at the teacher desk.

The teacher voice that is raised in anger.

The teacher voice that is upbeat and cheerful.

A teacher voice that is firm in discipline.

The teacher voice dripping in sarcasm and bordering on disrespect.

A teacher voice that almost sounds like singing – lilting and lyrical.

A teacher voice that is smiling.

A teacher voice that is sad.

The teacher voice that is tired and discouraged.

I’ll admit it.  I’ve too often used the wrong teacher voice. My students got an exasperated voice when they needed a patient one. I taught about main idea and details (for the 500th time) with a tired voice when my students needed interest and energy.

Some days I may feel like Charlie Brown’s teacher projecting wordless, almost intonation-less mumbling in front of a classroom, but in actuality my students hear what I say.  Maybe more importantly, they hear how I say it.

School’s out for the summer, so I’m looking forward to the next year. One goal is to own my teacher voice (all of them) and make conscious efforts to use the one my students need… and leave behind the one they don’t. Do I think I will always succeed? No, but there is the grace of transparency and admitting when I’ve used the wrong voice. When I talk to my students about my voice, they understand their own.

Self-controlled. Lyrical. Firm. Smiling. Sad. Respectful. Laughing. Clear. Strict.