After a one month hiatus, I am finally back! Thank you for your patience as I was in the U.S. visiting my family.
Now that the new school year is approaching–for me, it begins at the very end of July–I wanted to write a few words on decorating classrooms. For me, this is a very important step to the new year. Why? Because kids literally judge you by the way your classroom looks when they walk in the door. New students look around and ask themselves: What will this teacher be like? Will he/she be mean? Will he/she be fun? Will he/she give me something new to learn?
First year teachers at my school are usually so busy getting themselves organized with their lesson planning that they end up neglecting classroom decorations. Finally, at the tail end, they throw up a poster with the class rules and perhaps a small bulletin board with some construction paper quotes. Leaving your classroom bare or under-decorated tells the students either that you are too busy for them, that you are lazy or that you are boring. Sounds harsh? Well, remember how you felt as a young child, looking back. Whether you acknowledged the decorations explicitly or implicitly, chances are you gained an impression of the teacher from the layout of the classroom.
Other teachers, usually the bitter ones, seem to pick out their posters based upon the already-anticipated flaws that they imagine their students will have. They have fun, colorful posters that blare loud messages such as “No Homework, No Life!” or “You are Responsible for You!” Granted, it is important to have at least one or two reminders concerning appropriate behavior in the classroom. Since I go over the rules on the first day, I leave the rules up on my white board in decorative fashion for the first month, along with a poster encouraging students to make right choices. However, don’t be afraid to have a few posters that are simply there for fun, beauty and enjoyment! When students walk into your classroom and every poster is behavior-related, the students then also get a negative impression of you. They think to themselves, “This teacher is really uptight about the rules. He/she doesn’t really care about me as a person unless I can keep up with all of their procedures.” (And, I’m sorry to say that they’re usually right, aren’t they?)
The best types of decorations combine inspirational (not dictatorial) messages alongside fun, interesting content posters. Also keep in mind that students enjoy interacting with decorations. Try making a bulletin board where students have to respond by writing on it. Students enjoy keeping track of time and events, so make one bulletin board a special announcement bulletin board, where you place a fun calendar, post flyers, and hang cool news articles that will be of interest to them. The key is also color. In a high school classroom, decorations do not need to be wall-to-wall the way you see in an elementary classroom. However, the space should be well-used, with some strategic placements in order to keep the classroom from looking like it contains blank walls. Use the decorations to reinforce rules, introduce lesson plans, give further information about lesson plan topics or to inspire kids to achieve more. Once your classes get started, allow kids to contribute to your decorating process, displaying their work and their posters that they create.
When you decorate your classroom well, students should get the impression that you care about them as people, that you have interesting things to teach them, that you will be fun, yet organized and disciplined. I have heard so many teachers along the years say, “I’m not their friend, I’m their teacher.” I agree that you are their teacher and agree that you are not their peer. However, that should not stop you from building positive relationships with your students and getting to know them as people. Show this attitude in your decorating process, and try to reflect it in your teaching style.