Math = Love: What My Classroom Really Looks Like

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What My Classroom Really Looks Like

This weekend, I spent a good chunk of time cleaning at my inbox.  Notice, I didn't say cleaning out my inbox.  Despite spending 6+ hours organizing and writing replies, I still have 205 or so e-mails that require some type of action or response.  This is what I get for putting off answering e-mails for pretty much the entire first semester.  Oops...

Anywho, in one of those e-mail replies I was writing, I found myself saying something to this extent: I strive to be an honest person, and I want my blog to reflect that honesty.  Someone had thanked me for the fact that I still blogged about ideas even when they didn't exactly work out as I would have hoped in my classroom.  Yes, we all have our lessons that flop.  And, I feel like I have to blog about those lessons in order to learn from them.  Learning through reflecting on my blog almost sort of redeems the flopped lesson.  After all, if you learn something from it, it must have been worthwhile.

The rest of this post will be me trying to be honest.  The idea has been on my mind since August.  At the beginning of every school year, we fix up our classrooms and take pictures to post on the Internet.  Everything is in its perfect place.  Shelves are organized.  Desks are gleaming.  (Of course, my classroom is never quite perfect.  There always seems to be that pile of posters I haven't gotten around to laminating and hanging or something...)

At the beginning of the school year, my room looked like this.  This is not me.  This is not reality.  I wish this was reality.  In reality, I'm incredibly disorganized.  It's bad.  When I was in school, I would secretly judge my teachers for their messy desks.  Now, I'm the one with the messy desk.  Yeah.  I told a student one day that I really just needed a secretary or assistant.  Her reply?  "You know, Ms. Hagan.  Every other teacher has the exact same amount of time in their day as you do.  And, none of their desks look like yours!"  Ouch.

So, are you ready to see what my classroom really looks like?  Now, these pictures were taken on our first day back from Christmas Break.  It was a professional day without the kids, so I had time to clean my room up and get first semester grades finalized.

Disorganized Calculators and Christmas Decor That Never Got Hung Up

The (Very Disorganized) Back Table of Supplies

The View From The Door
(If you couldn't tell - we spent the last day of the semester playing board games.)

North Side of Classroom
(I'm not going to tell you how long it took me to figure out which cardinal direction to type...)

This brown cabinet collects stuff.  I hate it.  

Graded notebooks

My Desk

More of My Desk

Behind My Desk
Hope I haven't scarred you for life.


  1. I truly enjoy your blog, you inspire me to be a better teacher! Thank you for your honesty. I'd have to say, my classroom has some very striking similarities. I have a question for you, I see you have a coordinate plane on a white board? Did you create it, and if so would you mind sharing how?! I have tired so many different things, and never seemed pleased! Thanks!

    1. Hi! The coordinate plane is actually printed on a white board. It is one of the few things that was in my classroom when I was given the keys to it! You can buy them from a teacher supply company. A quick google search shows that they are about $200 if you go to buy one. Here's a link to one if you're interested:

      P.S. Thanks for reading my blog! It means a lot to me!

    2. Also, for those of us on a budget you can laminate a piece of giant graph paper and put it on the board. This also works with cardstock for a class set of "marker boards".

    3. Great idea! Thanks for sharing!

  2. This makes me feel soooooo much better! At the beginning of the year when I saw your classroom, I was jealous! I assumed your room would look like that all year! You just make my day every time I read your blog! Thanks for putting in the time!

  3. My classroom never starts the year looking perfect and certainly looks a bit more disastrous now than when I started. I've learned a few things about myself and about staying somewhat organized. I can live with a layer of chaos but I keep anything my kids need access to as uncluttered and clear as possible. One of my kids actually pointed that out to me on Monday (following my own admission of the same fact to a colleague on Saturday). She said, "It's weird. Your desk is really the only thing that's messy." To keep your room neat, your students need to be on board; it cannot all fall to you. First of all, teach your kids where things go. Many if not most kids will be good at keeping classroom materials organized if they know where and how to store them. Don't dismiss class until things are put away. Second, make a list (post it on the wall if need-be) of "chores" that kids can do to help out. This could be organizing papers, straightening desks, changing over things on the boards for the next day, etc. My school has a lengthy dismissal process that is about 15-20 minutes long, so I always have a handful of kids with a chunk of time on their hands and the ones that enjoy a job are such a blessing. Also, don't be afraid to ask students for suggestions about how you can make the space work better for them.

    1. Kathryn, Thanks so much for the feedback! I'm definitely learning about exactly what you wrote - to keep your room neat, it cannot all fall to you. About three minutes before the bell rings, I've started voicing my expectations to my students. "When the bell rings, you need to make sure you put up everything exactly where you got it from. I don't want to see any markers/boards/erasers left on the desks. Put your calculator back in the box." And, it has worked WONDERS. I might have one student leave a calculator out where before I would have seven or eight. Before, I was assuming that my students would just put things up where they belong. Now, I'm training them by voicing my expectations. Hopefully, it will soon become routine, and I won't have to spell out my expectations every single day.

      I love the idea of listing chores that students can help out with. That's brilliant!