I have always decorated my classroom. I want it to be homey and a place that is welcoming and somewhat comfy for my students. But my past decorating meant hanging cool posters, adding a reading lamp or two, and buying some plants to replace the ones I killed the year before. I’ve also arranged and rearranged my desks so many times, I can’t even remember all of the configurations.
Lately, however, I’ve been feeling a little inadequate. I see the amazing classrooms of other teachers on Instagram and Pinterest and I feel like I’m not measuring up in the classroom environment department. My classroom looks like a dungeon compared to many that I see, and I want to run out to buy new stuff. I’ve even looked online to see how much it would cost to buy some chairs and tables. I was thinking that if I bought a few things this year, I could add a few more next year, and then I might have a classroom that looked like the ones I was drooling over. My seating would be flexible, my walls would be IG and Pinterest worthy…
And then I shook my head.
My job is to educate and when I actually have spare time, I need to be thinking about the best way to engage my students, not how to wow them with the decor of their classroom. Isn’t what they are learning most important? Or will they actually learn more if my room looks more like the coffee shop from Friends than a classroom? I really didn’t know the right answer. I still don’t.
As I was pondering this, I saw a blot post from Kayse Morris of Teaching on Less about why flexible seating didn’t work for her. When I read about her experience with this, I felt like she was echoing my thoughts and concerns about making things too comfy for my teens. She tried it and found it didn’t enhance learning, so she went back to the basics because, as she says, “that’s where the magic happens.” Her post made me feel better and started me thinking about happy mediums and following what I know to be true for my teaching.
I do not, for one moment, think that those who create amazing classroom spaces are not putting learning first. It’s just that I know I don’t have the time and energy (and don’t want to spend the money) to do that. So as I plan my latest classroom “revamp”, I will be thinking about the following things:
1. Everything that I use needs to enhance, not detract from learning. It’s great to use things that make your room cozy, but most things should be learning tools – anchor charts and posters that act as visual reminders for your students. These, thankfully, are cheap. I keep a ton of chart paper, markers and post-its on hand for making anchor charts and the construction of them is also an effective learning activity.
2. Too much “stuff” can be distracting for some learners. We need to be aware of that and keep it simple or have some “quieter” spaces.
3. Anything that helps me and my students stay organized is a good thing and so new items that will do so will go to the top of my list!
4. I don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars to make my classroom a place that students want to be. I will continue to find inexpensive ways to make my classroom a great space for my students, but I’m going to stop feeling bad about my OK-looking classroom, because I know that the learning that happens there trumps anything else. The lessons and activities I use and the relationships I cultivate will go a whole lot further than any decor item I could buy.
So there it is. I will be redecorating before the school year starts, but I’m going to try to keep my Pinterest-envy at bay. I’ll keep you posted!