Occasionally, I move the furniture around in my classroom. I say occasionally, but my students (and definitely my colleagues) would use the word often. Regardless, I feel the need to move around the physical space of my classroom several times throughout the school year. I do it to accommodate small groups for upcoming book club discussions; to find as much quiet space for serious, independent writing as possible; to make room for a new student or to allow a specific student the opportunity to safely hide. I also rearrange when one of my many old, gently used chairs finally needs to make its final exit to the dumpster. But I do respect the physical space of my classroom and I give a lot of thought to the impact of that space on my students. A lot of thought.
But I haven’t thought enough about helping them to find their space at home. I am not equipped to give this advice…I am currently holed up in my bedroom while my husband and three kids find a way to reorganize our living room. We live in a small (just over 900 square feet) home with our overactive, overgrown 6 year old puppy and our postage stamp fenced-in yard. Survival is the name of the game here, at least when it comes to finding your own space. I read wherever I can find some quiet; I write in the early morning before anyone is awake. I do not have an office or even a chair designated as mine. Move your feet, lose your seat is not the law of the land, but it definitely sets the tone.
About 15 years ago, I stopped assigning any homework. Along with some members of my department, we agreed that the 80 minutes of class we had each day was enough and that the only “homework” that was necessary was independent reading. When students fell behind on their writing, they would work with me during the school day; working from home was always a last resort because I didn’t want them to try to navigate the writing process without the resources and support that they had in our classroom workshop. School was enough.
A few years later, I stopped bringing my work home. We had our second child and it was clear that bringing home papers or trying to plan from home was almost impossible, so instead I stayed at school until my work was done, or went in at the crack of dawn. I would rather log 10 or 11 hours a day at school than try to carve out the time at home. School was for school and home was for home. It was as simple as that. I had drawn the line and it was clear.
And now? I have no control over their environment. I have made the master bedroom my command center, working from the warmth of my bed, away from the distraction and energy of the rest of the house. I am giving them only homework. Work to do at home. My time is split sometimes hour by hour and even minute by minute…parenting, partnering, dog wrangling and teaching.
All lines have been erased.