When a closet becomes a creative haven
Over the past two years, I have been working on a passion project for the Emerging Teacher Institute at the University of North Texas at Dallas. This project, called ETI Create, is a MakerSpace designed for #futureteachers to be able to create classroom materials and manipulatives. I always believed our students needed such a space, but a fire was lit inside of me when I learned that one of our students was having to choose between paying her car insurance bill and laminating materials needed for student teaching.
Thanks to the generosity of the US PREP grant, we were able to not only purchase that much-needed laminating machine but also the most awesome digital die cut machine, a 3-D printer, and a poster printer. The only problem? Space was at a premium, and the only available room was a closet.
But, hey, as all seasoned teachers know, education requires a lot of macgyvering. Our visions are lofty but our budgets are small, so we teachers save toilet paper rolls and shop garage sales and somehow make it work. So, when I was told our MakerSpace would be housed in a tiny closet so full of forgotten junk that I could barely open the door all the way, I just shrugged and rolled up my sleeves.
I cannot tell you how much joy it gives me now to look into that closet-turned-creative-space and watch beautiful things spring to life. A student leader making a Black History Month display. Another student demonstrating an anatomy lesson with laminated manipulatives . . . that she didn't have to fund with cash needed for bills. This space proves the old adage true: the best things do come in small packages.
As I open the doors of Welch Education this week, it comes as no surprise that my office is — guess what?? A converted closet. We have a storage room in our home that has been filled over the years with all manner of *stuff*, but it has now taken on a new purpose. It's a creative haven, painted purple because why-the-heck-not, and is filled with precious things that remind me of how much I love being a teacher. I have a bulletin board, a whiteboard, an unreasonable amount of books, buckets of markers, and decades old props and games and posters that I keep holding on to because I just might need them again someday.
I also have a framed wug test because we linguists can't help ourselves. And besides, nothing communicates #linguistics4teachers quite like a colorful little drawing that illustrates how amazing languages and their learners are.
Best of all, though, is the wall of notes that students have given me over the years. These little handwritten notes are among my most treasured things and remind me of my "why". It's sad, but some of the names I no longer recognize because it was so many students ago. But each name represents a reason to keep pushing and writing and learning, and to stay in a profession where so many leave.
The Welch Education headquarters may be a converted closet. But every superhero has their hideout, and I'm hopeful that — like the ETI Create MakerSpace — beautiful things will soon emerge from this place, too.