For almost thirty years, I spent the day after Labour Day memorizing the names of my new students. I was really good at it. Of course there was always one child who's name wouldn't stick. Often it was a Jason. Not my favourite name. And even more often not my favourite student

. I can say that now I'm retired. But nowadays I can't seem to even remember my own children's phone numbers. I'm old.

I absolutely loved the week before school started. My classroom was silent and a blank slate of possibility. I approached it in much the same way I do when I move into a new house. It was all about setting a mood and creating a style. I dragged furniture in from the Good Will. I painted bookcases. I'm pretty sure I even had a chandelier hanging in there one year. That was the year I brought French Impressionism to my five and six year old charges. Many of them were Mennonites so French culture was a bit of a stretch. That was also the year my principal sent me home for wearing a slip dress to school. He thought I was wearing lingerie. And so what if I was?

Another year I did a whole unit on babies and hung a clothesline across my classroom with my students' baby clothes hung with vintage clothespins. It looked so awesome.

Once I created a whole series on building a house. I divided my students into design teams. There was the architect, the landscaper, the interior designer and the project manager. I raided paint stores for paint samples and old wallpaper books. I collected fabric samples and gardening magazines. And then I had the local hardware store deliver an appliance box for each team. I was in heaven and if I'd realized it, I was in the wrong profession. I wanted to be on the design team.

After they had painted and papered and hung curtains in their houses and created gardens and fences, I had them write up a real estate listing for their property. One house even had a fireplace with flames that moved. I think that one went for the highest price after a bidding war between the grade five and grade six class. The price tag? Two dozen chocolate chip cookies.

I think if someone put me in front of a classroom now I wouldn't have a clue what to do. Times have changed. There was a creative freedom in teaching back then and I adored it. Today I'd probably get fired. Besides I don't have an alarm clock anymore and I live in my stretchies most of the time.

It's been years since I've had a classroom to decorate but it is September and I just started a bathroom renovation. It's Parisian inspired. Stay tuned.

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