Decorating Rooms

In the spring, my wife and I went through a major remodeling project in our house. After living with an outdated and (mostly) dysfunctional kitchen, we decided it was time to tear down the entire room and start fresh. I’d like to say we did the work ourselves, but we don’t have the time, talent or patience for that kind of work. Instead, we hired a local contractor who worked with us to redesign the room so it could use the space better. Our house was built in the 1920’s and it has all sorts of “odd charm.” Odd charm is a nice way of saying that after almost 100 years of remodeling and DIY fixes, there are a multitude challenges and problems that can emerge. Thankfully, we hired a contractor who knew how to navigate those issues. Which left my wife and I time to focus on the other aspects of the kitchen redesign.

Since we were going to be living in this kitchen for the foreseeable future, we wanted to get it right. As we approached the design elements, we had to select cabinet colors, wall colors, drawer pulls, faucets, sinks and so much more. While I’m sure the physical aspects of the construction project were strenuous for our contractor, I found the design aspects to be stressful and tiring. My wife has an eye for color and we spent an entire week with paint swatches taped to walls next to different flooring samples and stained chunks of wood. She wanted to find the right color combinations by viewing them in different lighting and at different times of the day. But color combinations were just one hurdle. We also had to decide the right countertop materials and switch covers and … You get the picture. Let’s just say there was not a single element in the kitchen remodeling that didn’t involve a careful, intentional decision by my wife and me. And after living in the new kitchen for the last five months, I’m happy to report that we were really successful. Our careful, intentional decision-making paid off.

I was reminded of this process last week when I received a pretty awesome email from a former student. I worked with the student in a high school classroom over twenty years ago and he emailed me out of the blue. I won’t get into the details of the content, but it was easily the most thoughtful email I’ve ever received from a student. One line of his email has resonated with me for the last week. Reflecting on our time together, he writes:

“The moments I remember from that room are like postcards taped to the walls of my brain.”

That’s some pretty amazing imagery. And it also captures the inspiring (and terrifying?) role that we play as teachers. As we interact with students and make decisions in the moment, it’s like we’re decorating rooms in our students’ minds that will live in their memories forever. And that requires careful, intentional decision-making. Since our students are going to live with these memories for a long time, shouldn’t we get it right?

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