Every new school year, the age-old debate about classroom decorating comes around. You can enjoy classroom decorating, or you can not, and still be a phenomenal teacher! A pretty classroom doesn’t make you a good teacher…or a bad one.
I personally fall in the camp of enjoying a bit of classroom decorating, for many (if not all) of the reasons I’ve listed in this blog post. However, some of the very best teachers that I’ve ever come across have not given two hoots about what their classroom looks like. And that is exactly the point!
Just as our kids are all so wonderfully unique, so are we too, as educators! And how special it is that our kids get to experience such a range!
Reasons why you might want to decorate YOUR CLASSROOM:
- You enjoy the creative outlet and/or getting crafty.
- You want to cover up unappealing parts of your classroom e.g. peeling walls, mouldy carpet. Below are just some of the many old classroom features that I've worked hard to cover up over the years- and a couple of creative ways that I've found to do exactly that!
- You enjoy changing things up, in the same way that you might enjoy a change in your home décor.
- Your current displays are in need of replacing- perhaps they’ve faded in the sunlight or have general wear and tear.
- For whatever personal reasons, you might want the ‘distraction’.
- You spend a large portion of your life in your classroom, and so you want it to be a space that you enjoy being in each day as well.
Does this make you a bad teacher? No. Be intentional with it and keep the kids at the centre of any decisions that you make in your space, but enjoy it!
Reasons why you might not want to decorate YOUR CLASSROOM:
- You don’t have time- perhaps you are away on holidays, perhaps you are looking after your own kids, perhaps you have other commitments.
- You don’t enjoy decorating and/or you aren’t particularly fussed if everything matches.
- Your classroom set up worked well for you last year, and you don’t want to change it.
- You don’t want to spend your own money on your classroom.
- You can’t access your classroom during the holidays.
- You’d rather spend your holidays doing other things.
Does this make you a bad teacher? No.
I do believe that whether or not you enjoy (or believe in) classroom decorating, there are non-negotiables for setting up ANY classroom space.
I haven't always gotten it right. Over the years, I've definitely been guilty of over-filling spaces, creating pointless displays, and everything else in between. But these are the guidelines that I now use when considering anything related to setting up my classroom and/or displays:
- Have an organised and tidy room which will help you to have clear structures and routines. Have clear places for things, lay out furniture to allow for easy transitions, and teach students how to take care of the classroom environment too.
- Make sure it’s not too visually cluttered, so that students are not overwhelmed with information. Select displays that are most important, and don’t be afraid to take displays down if students aren’t using them. If using decorations, be mindful of how and where you use them. Don’t over-use.
- Co-construct with students- wherever possible, put displays up WITH students, so that they understand how to make use of the displays.
- Ensure it is developmentally appropriate- if on the younger years, choose fonts that are easy to read and reinforce the skills that you are teaching. For example, I only use script for fancy titles, I avoid fonts with a mix of uppercase/lowercase, and anything that students will be copying (e.g. days of the week, numbers) are in an easily readable font.
- Don’t laminate for the sake of laminating- displays rarely need to be laminated. By printing on heavy card or paper, you reduce glare and noise bouncing off the walls, and can recycle once you’re done with it.
- Ensure it meets the specific needs of YOUR students. For example, sit where your students will sit and check that they can read the displays that you intend for them to use. Or if teaching a student with sensory needs, you might need to consider your use of bright colours.
Have a clear place for everything, with resources easily accessible.
Prioritise displays that students actually use, and consider whether it's necessary to laminate wall displays. Ensure fonts are developmentally appropriate.
Reduce visual clutter and lay out furniture in a way that will allow for easy transitions.
Please feel free to share this blog post with any teachers who might find these thoughts helpful- whether that be because they are feeling guilty for enjoying decorating, or overwhelmed because they feel pressured to decorate.
Either way, I hope this is a helpful reminder that a pretty classroom is not what makes a good (or bad) teacher!