The Real Mr. Fitz: A Classroom                                                  

A Classroom

When I stepped into the room
Last century
The paint was beige, I think, and peeling
And the coat underneath was puke green.

I spent some time in room 007
(the coolest room number ever)
Seventeen years.
About 2 years in, frustrated by the puke green and the peeling,
I painted the walls
Two tones of blue, light and a little darker,
Textured together.
That sort of thing was encouraged then.
It stood out when you walked past the other beige rooms
And then looked in my windows.

One room
Four walls
Varying numbers of
Books, desks, students
And an entire forest of paper, I suspect.
Chalk boards gave way to whiteboards
Overhead transparencies gave way to a projector.
A big desktop computer gave way to… a big laptop.

What happened in this room?
What did it witness?

Lessons, like
The teacher was angry.
Versus -
The teacher slammed a dictionary to the floor, tipped over a stool, threw an eraser,
And yelled “I’m not going to take this any more!”
After their shock wore off,
They always remembered that showing
Is better than telling.
Genre Jumpers:
Proofreading taught through the tale
Of Ben Blast and Tracy Tracker
Riding through books
To stop the Grammar-nator
Who wreaks havoc with mistakes
That kill people.

Students reading.
The rise of Harry Potter,
The fleeting fad of Twilight,
The miserable reign of Lemony Snickett.
Students reading their own books,
Happy in the silence and immersed in words so far
They forgot they were words at all.
Shared stories:
The girl with the lost slipper, the girl with the red cape,
The boy and the cow, the girl with the really long hair.
Laurie and that lost sneaker
Anvil and Tucker and the apple tree
And that white circle I thought was yellow
Charlie and Algernon
And Jonas and Montag, both looking around, waking up,
And hitting the road.
Making My Escape,
And the teacher explaining the story of how he came to write it.
Students asking their own questions about all of them
Rather than answer mine
Or the textbook’s.

Students writing:
Their enthusiasms and frustrations
Their real stories and the stories they dreamed up
I made a mad dash to get to class on time
The room was a mess
Ben Bunny and Fred Fox
Describe this suspect for the police artist across the room
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.
The Right Words at the Right Time
This I Believe
Group novels
Mocking the five paragraph essay
And formulas of all kinds
“A paragraph has five sentences!”

Whatever you want to write about is fine!
Stop asking “Can I…?”

Strange goings on:
Playing a murder mystery game
Called Killer,
My students winking at each other
And laying on the floor after their dramatic death scenes.
Leaving the room with planks of wood and logs
To play a survival game outside
And coming back in to write about it
Any way you want
A spy mission to building 8
To steal the laptop cart back from Mr. Copes
Darting from column to column
Dashing around corners.

And sitting at my desk at planning
To hear an announcement that a plane had hit
A building in New York.

Despite events like
Finally landing on the comics page
Publishing a novel
Winning Teacher of the Year
Or perhaps because of them
When workbooks and maps and fidelity came to town
And I spoke up
Only to have my hand slapped
I went into a tailspin
Had a heart attack scare at my desk over lunch
But kept teaching till the end of the day.
And then I figured out
That being the good kid isn’t all it’s cracked up to be
That there are times to speak up
As the bumper sticker says
Even if your voice shakes.

I learned to think bigger
Step back further
Collaborate with my students
Rather than setting us up as adversaries from day one.

When I entered the room, my kids were 3 and 4.
They both passed through my class for three years.
As I am leaving this room,
They are now in college.
And I’ve had grand-students in this class.

But now I’ve packed up my 27 boxes
Of books and posters and knickknacks
A shelf, roley chair, and a table, and emptied the room.

And I packed them up to drive away,
I took one last look in the window.
A guy was in there
Painting it beige.

Probably for the best,
I suppose.
But I can’t help feeling
That they want to paint us all beige
In the name of Fidelity

Time to create a new space.