As secondary teachers, when it comes to decorating we often don’t know where to start. Sometimes, we just don’t have the time or energy to devote to another long project with possible minimal returns. So we leave the same things up year after year until they are yellowed and frayed – just like our nerves.
Our students deserve better from us. Although it is not just our students who benefit from having a deorated classroom. We deserve spaces that are calming and welcoming. Heck, most of us will spend a large piece of our lives pacing holes in the carpet in that very room.
When we decorate our classrooms and bring a bit of home to school we can create a safe place for ourselves and our students.
1. Turn Off the Lights
I know that most of you have sat under the harsh lights at professional develop meetings for hours on end, while your temples pulsed with pain and anguish. It may have been the person speaking but I’m sure the lights didn’t help. Turn them off.
My students absolutely love to have the lights turned off. I have lamps and Christmas lights to light the room and it makes a crazy difference in their attitudes and behavior. They are calmer and work diligently even on the craziest days. Plus, it gives them a needed break from the over bearing fluorescent lights.
2. Hang content related posters and other fun pieces around your room.
I love to use anchor charts in my classroom. They allow my visual learners to imprint the concepts we are learning. It also allows students to quickly recall ideas when we are doing literature analysis. For a free characterization chart click here and check out my other posters on Teachers Pay Teachers. Your walls are valuable teaching space. Don’t waste it!
3. Bring in old furniture and pillows for a comfortable room.
I give my students assigned seats but they are free to work anywhere in the room during independent reading or work time. They often work in my two reading corners or along the perimeter of my class. I have some old furniture that was so graciously left by a precious teacher but I have added a camp chair and a few pillows. These spots are frequently visited and I often have to prevent a student from making their home in one the reading spots. But, they are a popular option and prove to be a safe place when some students are facing hard days at home and at shool.
4. Add personal touches that reveal your humanity.
I have a few pictures of my family and even my diploma to add some dimension to my desk area. My kids enjoy seeing the pictures that I change out regularly. I even made a growth mindset poster to help myself and my students survive our failures with grace and determination.
“In our classroom you are not defined by your labels. You are not smart, dumb, beautiful, an outcast, a jock, a nerd, miss perfect, a partyer, or any other label. You are an individual made up of beautiful atoms and brilliant ideas. You are a learner, a thinker, and a world changer! The only thing that defines you is how hard you work.” -Mrs. J
5. Keep your desk neat and organized.
Students are always searching for people to trust. If you can’t find a student’s paper or you frequently have stacks of messy papers mingled with 10,000 Sonic or coffee cups the students will perceive you as being unprepared. They will no longer trust you to provide a safe space for their learning.
By no means does this mean you need to be the master of organizational strategies. It just means your need to have a system that works for you. I have tried several and I will share them with you soon!
How about a classroom tour while we are at it?
What other suggestions do you have about decorating your high school classroom?