Hygge and Harry Potter

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For several years, I had been wanting to change up the furnishings in my classroom. I kept seeing these cool “cafe/coffee shop” rooms that seemed to be a much nicer environment to learn in, never mind the hours I spend in my room as well. So I started collecting pieces from parent donations, garage sales, Facebook Marketplace, and my parents’ houses.

Last year, my principal was extremely gracious, and when we moved buildings, he gave me one of the biggest classrooms because he wanted to support my implementation of flexible seating. I was over the moon to move out of a portable and into an actual building. When he gave me my new room, I was about to burst with joy.

If you have ever moved into a new house, you know that you have to live in the space for a while before you can arrange the furniture in the most user-friendly way. Last year I must have rearranged the furniture 57 times, and I still feel that there are times when I simply need to move furniture to better fit that day’s activities. I brought in ambient lighting, wood furniture, and natural light (through my new windows) to help further create a less institutional environment for me and my students.

About mid-October, I ran across an article that introduced me to the Danish concept of hygge and how it lends itself to creating a better classroom environment. It’s pronounced HUE-gah, and the Oxford Dictionary defines hygge as “A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture)”. The article went on to say that the Danish people have long, dark, rainy winters, and they use their furnishings and decorations to bring warmth and light into their spaces. They employ lamps, fire, windows, wood furnishings, and plants to bring the outdoors in when they can’t go outside to enjoy nature. These natural elements help keep them from getting cabin fever when they are stuck inside. If you want to know more about adding hygge to your life, visit this article. You can also just Google “what is hygge” and find plenty of information.

After I read a couple of articles about hygge I thought- Hey! That’s what I’m trying to do! And I finally had a name for the goal atmosphere I’m trying to create.

Pictures of my room from this past year

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In addition to my excitement about creating a more student-friendly classroom, I have a SERIOUS addiction to/obsession with Harry Potter. I realized that I could marry the two and come up with something akin to the Ravenclaw common room if I worked hard enough. I began adding HP elements like a flying keys mobile, Hogwarts and Ravenclaw banners, Snape quotes, Dumbledore quotes, and Cornish pixie silhouettes in the lamps as an extra-special touch. I also used YouTube to find different ambience loops that included a fireplace and elements of Harry Potter. You can find a couple of those here and here.

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One of my Cornish Pixie lamps

This year there will be an owlery, a brick feature somewhere, Harry Potter product vignettes (think Chocolate Frogs, Amortentia, and Puking Pastils), a Tri-Wizard Cup, and more ambient lighting/less or no fluorescent. Oh, and I need some plants. That’s one element of hygge that I haven’t added yet.

Basically, it will be my ultimate happy place. 🙂 Wouldn’t the Danes be proud?

The importance of air

Right now I’m sitting in my dining room, facing the television, writing this post. Sounds like a fairly pleasant morning, right? Well, factor in the fact that the A/C stopped working yesterday afternoon, and it makes what would have been a great morning an experience that you just have to bear until the repairman can get here. Which should be this afternoon. Ugh.

Air conditioning is a necessity in the south. I know there are places in this country where A/C is a nice thing to have, or you have it but don’t use it…well, here in Texas, people actually die from heat-related deaths.

Now, I’m nowhere near death. And if I really wanted to, I could pack up the kids and head to a hotel to get some relief. I can bear this inconvenience until the repairman does get here, mostly because I know I don’t have to.

What about our students? Do they have “A/C”? Their A/C might be food. Could be love. Maybe they need a safe place to sleep.

My point is: do they have what they NEED?

I read the quote above for the first time about a month before school ended. It won’t leave my brain. I’ve heard, “It takes a village to raise a child” more times than I can count, and as a teacher, I truly believe in that statement. I never considered the actions of a child that doesn’t feel loved by that village.

Full disclosure: I am known as a “hard teacher” at my school. You know, the one who makes kids follow all the rules, all the time. The one who gives challenging assignments and actually expects them to be turned in. On time. *gasp* My boundaries are very clear from day one, and they don’t change. They apply to every student. Period. Kids don’t hang out in my room. If they are there, it’s because they have a question or they need extra tutorial help. In short, my students would never mistake me for a friend. I’m also very polarizing. Students either love me or hate me, there isn’t really any in-between. I’ve known this about myself for years, and I know that there isn’t a person alive that is loved by everyone. It took me awhile to not take it personally, but I get better at it every year.

That being said, I know that my class needs to be a place where students feel they can ask for help. I keep extra snacks in my room, money in my lunch account for those kids who run out, and I have a mailbox in my room where kids can leave notes letting me know if there is anything I can help them with, school-related or otherwise. I have bought hoodies for kids who don’t have jackets for the winter, and I have hugged kids whose electricity was turned off the night before.

Great, right? Sounds good anyway. But in the interest of full disclosure, I don’t have much patience for misbehavior or disrespect. I lose my cool sometimes when kids are outright defiant. I’m notorious for my “look” when kids are misbehaving, and the younger kids in my school give my room a wide berth sometimes because they know I don’t “put up with nonsense”.

Sounds great for classroom management, but it doesn’t really leave room for those kids who are acting out because everything besides their own behavior is out of their control. It doesn’t account for a kid that talks back because their anxiety manifests as anger. It gives no grace to the kid who doesn’t answer my question due to crippling shyness, not disrespect. It also doesn’t love the kid who acts out to get attention, any kind of attention, from an adult in their life.

I need air. My air, right now, comes in the form of actual air from the A/C, and I’m not getting it. Some days my “air” is quiet time to think. Sometimes it’s a hug from my husband at the end of a long day.

When I don’t get air, I call a repairman. I’m an adult, so I know what to do (usually) to fix the issue. Our students don’t always know how to get the air that they need in whatever form it takes, so we need to pay attention.