This week I spent most of the week driving around Illinois for the solar eclipse, celebrating my wedding anniversary, and also putting my work space together.
Over the last three days I’ve spent about 20 hours setting up my work space, my classroom. Every year in the late summer the room starts as a fairly blank canvas, all the furniture needs to be moved around, books and materials need to unearthed and a place found for them. Lots of thinking and rehearsing and trial and error goes into all of this; it’s not just about how I’d like the space to look and feel, but how 30 kids will like it, how they’ll feel in the space. I think about whether the placement of something is intuitive, too high, too far away, if a walking path is clear and uncluttered, if a rug’s location looks inviting, if I will be able to reach for something easily or I’ll have to hang over the side of a desk or bookshelf to get there, if the afternoon light will be too bright on a desk, if the room will be too gloomy on a cloudy day, if there’s a comfortable place for me to sit when I’m alone working, if there’s an obvious place for me to gather with groups.
Is all this necessary? No, not really, and I don’t mind. But I used to mind. Every August I’d start to dread going back to school. It’s not fair, I used to think. I’m not getting paid for all this work, all these free hours. But something this summer shifted. I’ve realized — embraced, really — the fact that even this kind of work — moving books and hauling furniture — is creative. I’m creating a space that will stage all kinds of further manifestations of creativity: ideas, discussions, projects, posters, friendships, experiments, and more cycles of trial and error. This time of year is my chance to create and curate another part of myself — the physical space that hosts my professional life. So I go back to work knowing that creativity has many faces, that I can let go a little more, and get lost inside my creative process in an old space that, this time around, is feeling brand new.