As we teachers are making our way into our classrooms after a nice long summer, the moment is ripe for
start with a blank slate
It's so hard to know what you have to work with when your room is cluttered with all you earthly possessions. I know I would miss a lot of the magic a room has to offer if I kept all the furniture and trinkets as I tried to re-jig my classroom.
Here's what I recommend:
* Fill your recycling bin! take all the posters, Bristol boards, construction paper and whatever else off the walls.
* pile up all your chairs, and if you can't move them out (or don't want to waste your arm strength), just shove all the big furniture to one side. (here's my secret tip: my boyfriend generously offers me one day of volunteering at school at the beginning of the school year, and one at the end of the year. It's priceless).
* Organize your possessions. Games all in one pile books in another, books together in one area. That allows you to see how much of each thing you own- sometimes we forget what our classroom library looks like because we have different categories of books all over the place.
Here's what my classroom looked like when I first walked in.
Since all the furniture was mainly piled together, I immediately started taking down everything from the display boards. Another reason this is important: you get to see what colors work best in the room. Since my room is painted light yellow and light blue, I'll use dark blue as an accent color- goodbye red!
* As a teacher, you have the power of deciding so much in your classroom. You can decide what makes it up on the walls, if you have tables or desks, what type of seating is available, everything really. As items make it back into your room, seriously evaluate if they are a must, or if there is a better way of doing things.
Teacher desk: do you need it? do you use it? how many times a day do you sit and work at your desk? is it just a spot for clutter to gather? How else could you organize your space?
Walls: Are you putting things up that you won't refer to all the time? Is it appealing to students? (I have hate towards cheesy clip art) Would the same message be more meaningful if it was student created? Is it meaningful to students? Are you putting things up because you always have, or because your colleagues do?
think like a student
Both you and your students are spending the better part of your day in school, in your classroom. In my school board, most kids eat lunch in their classes too- meaning they spend more time in the class than teachers do! It really is your home away from home.
So why not make it feel that way? I want my students to feel like they own the space, which is why I put up framed pictures of them playing or reading. Its also why there are plants, lamps, and comfortable seating around. Making your class into a comfortable, homey environment isn't difficult, and makes a big difference in the tone of your classroom.
It's also important to critically evaluate the implicit message your decor sends to your students. You may or may not have guessed I am opposed to teacher desks, and that's because I feel the message behind a teacher desk is: I am the teacher, and you are the student, and I am more important so I get a big imposing desk only I can sit at, and you get small tables you must share, and that is how child-adult relationships should be. Teacher desks say a lot!
Keep in mind...
These are some of the principles that guide my design decisions in the classroom. No classroom is flawless, and it can be demanding to break habits, and work with the permanent characteristics of a classroom, all while accommodating large class numbers, but it can be done when thinking creatively. Start small, but start!
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