i’ll do it my shui

When I first heard of feng shui, I thought the idea was laughable. An ancient Chinese secret says the direction my couch is facing could change my life? That’s a good one. Years later, I can’t say I believe in qi or polarity or the eight trigrams, which are a few things that Wikipedia tells me I know nothing about. And although I still get a kick out of the fact that the term’s pronunciation sounds like something fabricated by Harvard undergrads during their rambling conversations in the course of an all-nighter marathon beer pong tourney : “Oh, yeah, feng is pronounced fung and shui is pronounced shway – I SWEAR,” I am prepared to say of this exotic room layout hocus pocus: umm, maybe… maybe there’s a kernel of truth in it.

You see, I’m old enough now to have lived in enough homes and experienced enough furniture shuffling to know that it feels different to sit on a couch when it’s pointed east than when it’s pointed west. The phenomenon is even more pronounced, for me at least, with the direction of a bed. Maybe it’s my internal compass that senses direction and then somehow influences my thoughts and feelings. Maybe the tug of the earth’s magnetic field affects my moods depending on my alignment to it. Maybe it’s only the change in perspective and the different angles of light. I just don’t know. But the point is that somehow I can tell the difference.

Students can, too. And since my students and I spend hundreds of hours in my classroom each year, I think it’s important to maximize our experience with respect to environment as well as content.

Right now the question on my mind is not: in which direction should I align the desks and tables? That question is moot. Everything must face the chalkboard, where the projector and the SMART Board also reside. Okay, my hands are tied there.

The question that nags me is: how can I make my room awesome by altering the way it looks and thus the way it feels? And I mean in a way that is not feminine (sorry, gals; I love what you do but I gotta be a man in the classroom) and not too “school-ish.” I’m particularly concerned about the four walls and the ceiling. They should be unusual because they form the “container” that contains us and, in a way, our thoughts. They should help to transport students from trivialities to a higher plane where reason and constructive imagination reign. Is this a facet of feng shui? Beats me. But indulge me while I call it my shui.

These thoughts cast my mind back to my middle school art teacher, Mr. Brown, aka Joe Eddy Brown (featured in the first photo above with a representative piece of his artwork). Anyone who went to Glen Crest Junior High in the 70s, 80s or 90s should remember him well. He is a local legend renowned for such unique practices as retaining a student’s shoe (just one) as collateral for the borrowing of a stapler. His classroom looked like something from a postapocalyptic steam punk futureworld:

I want some of that magic. Not necessarily of the steam punk variety. But something different. I want mind-blowing ideas for decor, decor that grabs kids by the throat until they trill, “UNCLE! I’m ready to learn!”

One idea I have is to tape colored tissue paper to┬áthe plastic filters of my room’s ceiling lights in cool patterns that look something like the lampshade in this video, only more geometrical than organic in design. (Last year I used these magnetically affixed colored light filters, which were better than nothing but baby blue in color, not so manly or in any way cool, and they sagged like loaded diapers.)

Another idea is to have students create banner posters featuring, in large script, possibly stenciled, a word or a phrase that they find meaningful (and that I approve) to represent them on the wall for at least a month or two.

Another idea I have is… sure to come along soon. Right?

When I was in high school, I decorated my bedroom with some strange things – like a Coke can that I had partially crushed and then pried open and peeled carefully into a dangling spiral shape. I mounted this plus a lamp with a red light bulb, among other things, on the ceiling. Countless hours I spent lying across my bed with my head hanging to the floor, gazing up at my bedroom ceiling, imagining life lived upon a world upside down. That was fun!

I’d like a spritz of that fun for my classroom.

Yet the ideas I’ve found thus far on the internet are not manly or nearly worthy of Mr. Brown nor of my shui. So I continue to brainstorm. And I hope you will post some of your ideas below (please).

And you’ll do it your shui and I’ll do it my shui and together we’ll have a whole mess of fun shui!


(Photos by: Tanit Jarusan, Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County, NH, elainevdw)

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