If my classroom were a piece of art, it would be the image above. A class of newcomer English Language Learners helped me create it on the last day of school in 2011. They covered my wheelchair tires in a rainbow of paint, and then directed me how to move across the canvas. We repainted the tires and repeated the process several times before one told me to “go in the middle and do a… a… um, a… like Homer Simpson?”" “A doughnut?” “Yes!" So I did. Then the kids all painted the bottoms of their shoes, and marched around the canvas.
I think of this painting when I hear Brandi Carlile sing the lyrics, “You can dance in a hurricane, but only if you’re standing in the eye.” My students and I live terrifically complicated lives. We each have our personal hurricanes that we’re trying to survive. My constant goal: to make my classroom an eye in the storms. I want it to be a place where it’s safe to learn, grow, make mistakes, be angry, be hurt, be happy, be curious, try new things, laugh, cry, lead, and dance. Our dance might be a chaotic mess of colors and drip and smudges with no rhyme or reason. But we dance. And I think it’s beautiful.