Bringing the World to My Classroom

In Medias Res:

Last year, I covered a whole wall in salmon roll paper. And then I took white roll paper and crumpled it up as a trim.  It was cute for approximately 9 days.  (And then someone told me it looked like toilet paper).


Cassie in various seasons of salmon.

Cassie in various seasons of salmon.

It just didn’t feel right.

As I look to this new year and a whole new class (World Literature), I thought I would spice it up (literally, my students should be introduced to both Mexican food and Asian fusion, maybe even sushi).  Which is why I was compiling pictures from Instagram’s around the world at 2 am. I scrolled through @humansofny and their current 10-country trip through most of the Middle East and parts of THE CONTINENT of Africa.  There are so many people, ya’ll.  There are “humans of” in a lot of countries, cities, and places of interest.  I found quotes from people that mapped worlds in their ideas.  With world literature on the horizon, a grade level up, and a first-time EOC (not a common exam), I needed a way to immediately introduce the world to my students. And that’s what this classroom is.  It’s the world into focus:

My desk area.

My desk area.

Party in the front AND the back.

The class motto this year is, “A tiger does not lose sleep over the opinions of sheep.” My students are always worried about the haters, but in this class, AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT. The only plant I’ve ever been able to grow indoors is on that desk.  As you can see, she’s Rapunzeling.  Her name is Laverne.  Shirley is the cactus with the flower bow in her hair.

Guys…I made these bulletin boards with dollar tablecloths from Walmart and Duct tape.  Because no one ever said you had to spend a million dollars to make your classroom cute.  Use what you have, and believe it can be pretty.

Good People

Good People

On my desk, I keep an assortment of unwashed mugs, dried out dry erase markers, a math standards lesson manual (because I like the way she puts emphasis on standards), a recommendation mug from my coworker, a hand-colored mug from said coworker’s child, and there are probably at least four dried-yogurt-remnant spoons in my desk that I still need to bring home.  Pictures of my parents are on my filing cabinet, not taped to my desk folder holder.

Weekly Jotter

Weekly Jotter

Because I get really overwhelmed, really quickly, I only jot things down by the week.  If I do anything more than that I will be the train, the tracks, and the person trying to be smashed at the station.

image 4

My favorite thing about my classroom update is my HUMANS OF THE WORLD WALL. I stole this idea straight from @humansony and found pictures of real people from all over the world and real things that they said.  I want my students to know that other people are struggling, or other people are shining and just because you’re in a place, doesn’t mean you have to be that place.

image 5

My mom made the HUMANS OF THE WORLD wall. She’s quite blurry, but my Mom has told me from diapers that the most important thing a person can carry is kindness.

image 3 image 2


A bit of a detailed look at the mapping and the taping, and the pinning.



Anne Frank made the wall along with a few other famous people, Mark Twain, Aung San Suu Kyi, Martin Luther King Jr., Bob Marley, and Nelson Mandela.  I still need a few people from South America if anyone can point me in the direction of a wonderful story/quote/phrase and the person behind that profoundness.

image 10

This used to be the poetry corner, until it became the corner where my students stuck all their notes to me. And what can I say, I love them and I love the love. It also has a great poem by Dorianne Laux called “Savages.”  I got that chair at Habitat for Humanity and it has always been a winner, winner, chicken dinner in my classroom.

image 12

Bookshelf Number 1 (Other not pictured, but huge).

I hoard all the tissue paper quotes that I could possibly find.  This one says, “Look closely at the present you are constructing.  It should look like the future you are dreaming.” Alice Walker said that because she’s a child of hard work.  The map next to the tissue paper poster is the literary map of North Carolina.

That is my classroom this year.  I hope it breeds an understanding of the world, and in it breathes children who try to understand and try to cultivate a personhood where they don’t look down on other people for their cultures, their belongings, or their patch of land. I know, officially, that I will be reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (YES YES YES) and Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.  Send good vibes our way.

11 thoughts on “Bringing the World to My Classroom

  1. cricketmuse says:

    Very impressive. Students are fortunate to have such a caring and creative teacher. With four years until retirement (possibly) I’m starting to streamline and jettison accumulated STUFF. I have Dollar Store vinyl quotes around the walls and meaningful posters about reading and writing, but not a lot of wall space since I managed to convince admin I needed a white board on every wall (used to share room with two other teachers). Hope your year is fabulous–sounds like you are off to a productive start.

    • Cassie says:

      I feel ya on the whiteboard. I have two walls of it and on one of the whiteboards, they threw a smartboard up there so I have small whiteboard space on either side. I really have that one wall that you see to decorate.

      The teacher I work with on my team has a lot of years under her belt and she has the vinyl quotes and meaningful posters and I love her room. It always makes me feel good to be in there. She has these AWESOME Shakespeare posters in there as well and they are like 17 years old, but beautiful! You have to keep all that stuff because some of it is just wonderful!!

      • cricketmuse says:

        Last year I decorated my Shakespeare poster with a real birthday hat and tossed up on the wall a batch of his created words (alligator and puke are always popular). Now that they are repainting the walls we are receiving great hints about tacking stuff up on the walls. We are being issued “teacher tape” *glances of suspicion*

      • Cassie says:

        I love it! And that is very strange. I would like to know where and how I can get this “teacher tape.” As if putting teacher in front of it makes it worthy.

  2. Amanda says:

    A couple from South America: Michele Bachelet (first female president of Chile, I’m probably spelling her name wrong), Alberto Granado (physician and childhood friend of Che Guevara), and, of course, Gabo (he was born in Colombia! He counts!) And don’t shy away from Che, either. If you can find quotes from his early years, before he was widely known as Che, they do a lot to explain how he developed the ideals he did. Actually, if you read THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES, it’s like a guidebook to learning how he became the man the world knows him as today. There was something in that book (I can’t remember the exact quote, and I can’t find it in a google search, either) about how he finally understands that sometimes the only way to facilitate change is through violence. And reading that book, comparing it to the events in Syria and in Lybia, you can see that’s still true today – but not always (think Ferguson). Does that make sense?

    • Cassie says:

      You are THE BEST. I’m going to get that book and read up. Teaching more about him could really foster some amazing discussion about the ways people protest and how people of the world have facilitated change in so many different ways. Ah! I’m so excited to learn more.

  3. Bea says:

    I love what you have done in your classroom, and on a budget too! Good thinking. I will keep my eyes open for some good posters related to reading and world lit, and if I find any, I will send them on to you. Have a great school year, you and your children/students.


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s