Last spring, I wandered into my superintendent’s office and asked her how much trouble I’d be in if I painted murals all over the walls in my classroom.
My superintendent, who is remarkably tolerant of my creative impulses, promptly gave me carte blanche and waited to see what would happen next.
This is what happened next:
The aesthetic I had in mind for this project was somewhere between the children’s section at Barnes and Noble and somebody’s cool dorm room. My goal was to remind my kids of how they felt about reading when they were little — back when they were eating Green Eggs and Ham with Dr. Seuss, swinging from the branches of Shel Silverstein’s Giving Tree, and sneaking through Hogwarts under J.K. Rowling’s Invisibility Cloak instead of being assigned a million pages of stuff they didn’t really care about. I wanted to recapture some of that joy and maybe get them excited about reading again. I told them what I was planning, took requests, and honored as many as possible.
I now have kids who struggled to pass the reading-comprehension exam a year ago engaging in spirited debates about whether John Gardner’s Grendel is a nihilist or an existentialist. I credit my classroom’s laid-back vibe for most of this. Kids tend to buy in more and understand better when school feels safe and fun rather than stressful and intimidating.