Have you started checking out Pinterest for ideas on how to decorate your classroom this year?
We all want a good looking classroom. I know. Really, I do! However, I’m going to suggest something that might make you feel a bit anxious: don’t sweat it!
Seriously, think about how you feel when you spend lots of time and energy and, yes, money on having the best decorated classroom. Now think about how you feel if the students mess it up, or, worse, ruin something. Pretty awful, isn’t it?
Think about why kids may not show appreciation for all the hours you’ve spent on having a lovely classroom. I often hear teachers blaming parents or children who “have no respect”. I’d like to suggest another reason: Students don’t necessarily value the time you’ve spent on décor, because you have spent the time on décor.
Let me put that in terms of another of Roe’s Rules: the person(s) who put the most work into the room, have the most appreciation for that work.
It used to infuriate me when kids would mark up a lovely poster I put by the pencil sharpener, or when they would ignore a beautifully composed bulletin board. One day I thought, to heck with it (using a more adult idiom), I’m just going to let the kids do it. I was busy, after all, planning lessons, taking a class, and being a single mom.
I took down that lovely bulletin board and left it blank. When the students completed some work, I had the students put some of it up. I didn’t spend time making a brilliant anchor chart, we completed one together, and we put it up.
Soon we had a room “decorated” with the work the students had done, and anchor charts cataloging the skills we were learning. And before long, I noticed my stress level had gone down a bit. I wasn’t constantly feeling under-appreciated.
That’s all well and good, but let’s face it, there are a lot of pressures on teachers to have a well-decorated room. We also know that those pressures can lead to stress and burn-out! So what can we do about it?
Let’s look at some of the pressures we put on ourselves regarding room decor and what we can do about it.
What will parents
think of me?
If your school has a back-to-school night, you might worry that parents seeing a bare room will think less of you. Here are some ideas on how to cope with that.
- Have a well-organized room and label where everything is.
- On the bulletin board, put a sign that says “watch this space for how we are learning”, or something similar.
- Put up a display of things the students did last year – photos of the room or of children working (blot out faces) – with a note about how “we learned so much last year!” or “Some of the wonderful things we look forward to learning.”
Students will worry
that I won’t be any fun!
One of the best ideas for the first day of school, besides teaching procedures, is to show students what they will be doing and learning this year. Make it seem like the very best movie trailers, or make it a show of “coming attractions”. Your attitude and enthusiasm will show them that they have nothing to worry about.
What will other
teachers think of me?
Let’s face it: teachers can help other teachers have unrealistic ideas on what they should do. They can be a serious source of peer pressure! Stand firm and say something like:
- I am so excited about showcasing the students’ work this year!
- I decided to take one bit of stress off my plate.
- I want to make it our classroom this year.
- Wow, your room looks terrific! You must have spent a lot of your summer planning lessons. I guess I was not that organized.
- I’m spending my time now planning really terrific units.
The principal will
look sideways at me!
Explain to the principal:
- Students have not been as appreciative of your decorating efforts in the past and it led you to feel a bit of resentment for them.
- You want to have a truly student-centered classroom this year and having the students help with the décor is the first step.
- You want a pleasant room, yes, and you want to spend more time planning really effective lessons this year.
- Research has shown that classroom walls that are too cluttered interfere with student learning — see Association for Psychological Science and Carnegie Mellon University
Stress leads to burn-out and burn-out leads to a whole lot of awful things that happen to our bodies and our souls. Quitting teaching is the least of it! We can remove some of those stressors!
Remember, effective teachers do not spend their time making the classroom look like it should appear on the cover of Better Schools and Classrooms, even if there was such a publication. Effective teachers plan for effective classroom management and effective instruction.
And to be the most effective, we have to set some of those stressors aside!