Recently my daughter got her first teaching position! I was so excited! Not only had she worked very hard to get to this spot in her life, I was so proud she was walking in her mama’s footsteps! She was so excited as she was finally getting a break from college coursework, and she could decorate her own classroom! And the first words I heard were…Mom, did you see those pins I sent you from Pinterest? I want my room to look like that! This is how I knew it was time for “Mommy University, Session 1”.
Here is the thing…nothing is wrong with having a room that could be featured on Pinterest! As a matter of fact, as a teacher, I used a year-long theme each year (which somehow always ended up being Jumanji or something Chris VanAllsburg!), and I would say, my classroom was always cute! My best teacher friends and I would spend hours discussing how we were decorating our classrooms, make plans, and work together so that one of our rooms didn’t look better than the others! Probably some of the best days of my teaching career!
What we had to remember, however, is that cute is only going to take you so far…yes, cute and welcoming for children is important, but the most important thing is that the room functions for your work and is conducive to learning. What do I mean by this, let me share.
Over the years, I received students with many different backgrounds and needs. Some came to school ready to learn…you know those kids, they had their backpacks packed a week before school started. Pencils sharpened, crayon box labeled, a parent who offered snacks or other supplies as needed. Others did not come quite in the same manner…these were the students that you knew would require extra attention. Sometimes those super cute classrooms with all of those decorations, pillows, extra items to look at, can be a distraction to kids like that…before you know it, those kids will be running through your beautiful book corner, hitting each other with pillows.
Another example I have seen is that room that everything has a place and is should be in its place at all times…but then students arrive. This is the teacher that wants to send a student to the office on the first day because they put their crayons in the desk instead of in the bin where you felt they belonged.
I know I am being a little silly here, but I can say I have truly witnessed these things happen…so my advice for you is this…your room should be cute, welcoming, organized, and FUNCTIONAL! To bring this back to real time, let’s get back to my daughter’s first classroom. We went to the teacher supply store, Office Depot, Target, and Michaels’ to get EVERYTHING she wanted for the classroom. We spent hours preparing our plan and decorating the walls…and she worked with a big smile on her face! She was so proud of how the room looked. Then, I asked, what are you going to do with student finished work? How will you organize student take home folders? What will you do with these curriculum items you will need weekly as you plan? The smile quickly disappeared.
Having said all of that, this is how I directed her and all of my teaching staff to prepare their rooms…hope this helps!
- Make a plan. Do not go out “shopping” for items until you know what you want to do. If this means researching on Pinterest, visiting other classrooms, or simply designing your own decor, do it! That time invested will save you time and money in the long run. Know what you need to buy, how much you need to get, and exactly how you will use it. I suggest taking pictures of your room so you won’t forget what it looks like.
- Know if there are prohibited items that cannot be used. One of my returning teachers had gone out over the summer and purchased items to make her room beautiful. I actually was jealous that my classroom had never looked that good. However, as the assistant principal and I walked the halls before opening the school doors, she pointed out to me that the decor the teacher had bought and/or made could not be used because it was against fire code. And telling her totally devastated her. So, check before starting!
- I recommend standing in multiple places in your classroom and visual how each area you see will function with students present. I stand at the door and scan the room, I stand at the front and scan the room, and I stand at the teacher desk/workstation and scan the room. I always tell my teachers that if when you stand in those areas you should be able to see all students and they should be able to see you. There is a whole “underworld” of shenanigans happening in your classroom on a daily basis and if you can, control as many as you can. Don’t provide opportunities for your students to get in trouble…they can do that all by themselves without your help. I promise!
- Think about the “not cute” stuff…the classroom organization system. Where will students put their things when they arrive to class? How will you collect homework or takehome folders? How will students keep supplies? How will you collect work? You will have more binders than you will ever want to see, how will you store these appropriately and in a manner that you can access them easily? What do you do with things you need but don’t want students to have access to? Ask yourself these important questions as you begin to organize your room. If you don’t know what to do with things, students won’t either. My motto is a clean and organized room is a well functioning room!
I love the cute, teacher decor that I see each day as I walk the halls of my school building! Some rooms, I could set myself up in every morning and work in their all day! But cute is not the only thing a teacher needs to think about as he/she prepares their classroom for 20 little minds and a year of successful teaching and learning! Now go sparkle, my friends!
Here is one of our favorite classroom organizational tools. Click on the picture below to check it out!