I Trashed My Classroom and it Worked Wonders!

Hello, my name is Melissa. I’m 42 and this is my first year teaching. After my kids were all in school I went back to school and got my post-bac certificate almost two years ago now. I was lucky to get my class this year as the school needed someone to take a 4th grade teaching position for a staff member who decided not to return due to COVID concerns. This was two weeks before school started. 😳 And let me tell you, this year is a doozy! For a first year teacher, I’ve been tossed into the deep end from the high dive. I’m keeping afloat and I wouldn’t change a thing. Not one tearful breakdown, not one counseling session, not one argument. Do I want to loop? No, don’t be silly.

Ever since my own children were toddling around, every March 17th the leprechaun’s have paid us a visit. They’ve tossed freshly folded laundry everywhere, marked up the house with green goop, and caused all sorts of mischief that required picking up and cleaning. It’s the highlight of the month. So, why not try it with my students?

I’m teaching 4th grade and have a majority of non-believers. It’s risky attempting this type of prank, but as I sat in my room and 6 PM Tuesday night, I knocked a stack of books down on to the floor and there was no turning back!

The view from the door.
If you’re able to zoom in you can see green footprints and paint on the desks.
My room phone was even off the hook!

As I walked out of the room around 6:40 PM I drew a mustache on my classroom photo and scratched out my classroom expectations. My husband came and wrote on the board and drew a pot of gold. I locked my door, my adjoining classroom door, and sent a warning email to all the people who needed to be in on the plan. I let them know I was going to be “late” and come running in right before the last bell. Completely flustered like I forgot something and had to run back home. The custodian helped me block out my window on the door, but what I forgot to do was remove the chair from outside my room. My room has a window from the hallway that’s partially covered by a small curtain. Only the top 1/4 is open, but it’s pretty high. However, not too high for a kid to climb on to the chair and peek in.

Wednesday morning I was killing time at a local coffee shop before I planned to arrive at school. I got an email from a co-worker who said my kids could barely contain themselves. So, I headed to school and ran into the building like a hot mess. When I rounded the corner to the classroom I profusely apologized for being late. I had forgotten something at home….I couldn’t finish before I was interrupted with comments about our classroom being trashed!

Now, a quick side note. Quite a few of my kids have an incredibly difficult time working together and cooperating. I can’t play card games, battleship, anything multi player. It has to be individual. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to team them up and it ended in someone being suspended for physically fighting. I stopped trying and have focused on individualized activities.

We walked into the classroom, and let me tell you what. I deserve an Oscar! I played all the kids like a fiddle. A few jumped to accuse me, but I pleaded, “Why would I do this! Now I’ll spend my whole morning cleaning this mess up!” We surveyed the damage and to my shock the kids started cleaning up! I didn’t even have to ask. They were working together to flip desks over, pulling them into the right configuration, cleaning off green footprints, placing books back onto shelves… THEY WERE WORKING TOGETHER WITHOUT FIGHTING!!! It was magical!

A few grabbed their iPads and took pictures for evidence. They demanded I called Scott, my husband and School Resource Officer, so he could come and investigate the damage. I was also told that I needed to go grab the Principal. Then, they started yelling out suspects. Oh my word the yelling. SO. MUCH. YELLING. We attracted attention from all over our side of the building.

The suspects were our school counselor, the night custodian, the librarian, the other fourth grade teachers, the leprechauns and so many more! They did a great job of finding evidence to support their claims.

I was sure it would take me a long time to calm the chaos and it did. I told them the counselor sent a video and asked me to show the class. While the investigators took pictures and examined the evidence the rest of us watch the Gingerbread Man and the Leprechaun. It’s a great book about a tricky leprechaun who plays tricks at school. That riled them up a bit more as they had music class soon and the first class the leprechaun trashed is the music room!

All day, whenever we left the room, they set their iPads up to record the room. When we returned they had to check their video to see if the culprit made an appearance. During lunch as we stood in the lunch line our room was the talk of the school. It was funny to listen to the students retell the event. It worked out greatly in my favor that we had two power outages during the school day. There was lots of talk about leprechauns breaking the electrical lines.

Since everyone was in investigation mode, math was great!! As we tackled multi-step word problems the students were all about figuring things out. SWEET!

Despite the chaos, it was a great day! The kids were excited all day long. For a small amount of mess, we made a great memory and hopefully a positive step toward cooperating and working together! WIN WIN! Now the next day was more normal though mummers of accusations were still shared. I had a student say she was bummed today was probably going to be so boring. Personally, I was looking forward to it!