Sunday, August 26, 2012


Many times when I'm chatting with another teacher about my new school their eyes get big. "I am SO jealous!" they exclaim. "It must be heaven."

The assumption in education is that any new building must be nicer than an old one. In many ways that's true. Some public school buildings have been around since the 50s. They are old and falling apart and were built in a time with different priorities. Still, a brand new public school building is still a public school building. It's still built by a school system on a budget. I'm not complaining- the new building is nice- but it doesn't mean that crickets aren't chirping in the corners or that there isn't water dripping through the tiles. Things happen, even in new buildings.

A school is really built by whose inside it- the dedication of the teachers and the smiles of the students. When I student taught I was in a building in the midst of a renovation gone wrong. The classrooms had been stripped of any paint on the walls and the floors were cold concrete, the tiles pulled up long ago. The ceiling tiles were also non-existent and the kids could look up and see all the wiring in the ceiling. Yet because of the dedication and determination of the teachers it was still a school.

There are some downsides of a brand new building. For one, we don't have the furniture collection older schools have. At the think-tank we thought we didn't have enough book shelves. Ha! When everyone's been issued the exact same shelves and those shelves were bought with precise math of how many go into each classroom (no storage room to rummage through for the previous years' discarded shelves) we have what's in front of us to work with. Same with the book collection- classroom libraries, the book room- only contain one year's order of books. Everything is new, but it also means we don't have the surplus of books and supplies older schools have.

I don't mean to sound like I'm complaining because the new building is beautiful. The staff is amazing and the energy is palpable. But a new building isn't going to automatically make it a great school. It's not about the building itself, it's about what happens inside the building. Are teachers energized and dedicated? Are the students motivated? Do they feel safe?

*All that being said I'm going to take a moment to brag about my storage. OMG they are building new schools with CABINETS. I have so many cabinets I don't know what to put in them. Places to put materials away from the kids' little hands- meaning that what's on the shelves in the classroom can purely belong to the kids themselves. Staring at the empty cabinets trying to decide what to put in them makes me giddy, I'll admit.

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