Hours of my life have disappeared browsing beautiful classrooms on Pinterest. There is something incredibly satisfying about colour coordinated draw sets, perfectly labelled ringbinders and matching fonts as far as the eye can see. These rooms are always neat and tidy, always light and airy and always… not a child in sight!
Every year, in the last term, as my current classroom starts to look tatty and worn, I start to think about what I want to do with my room for the next academic year. My Pinterest boards have a sudden re-juvination and the message “Psst! You’ve already saved this Pin” appears way more often than it should. So I plan. Out comes the notebook and the to-do list is written. And re-written. The classroom layout is sketched and changed and sketched again. The backing paper is ordered and the borders are out and I get ready to create the Pinterest – worthy classroom – of – dreams. I work tirelessly for days, making more mess than I need; I traipse back and forth from printer, to guillotine to laminator. After a few days of this madness, I step back to review my handiwork, camera in hand, ready to record my beautiful classroom and add to the heavenly online scrapbook. But despite the effort, my classroom doesn’t live up to those high standards. I fret and worry and stress, wondering why my creations (or I should probably say re-creations because I’ve copied everything from photographs) don’t look as pleasing as the others I have seen. And finally, I decide it will have to do because I’ve run out of time or energy or usually, both.
The reason I’m discussing this now- rather than at the end of the year- is because a mini-version of this scenario happened to me this week; at the end of the spring term rather than summer, which is unusual. The root of my jealousy wasn’t a result of my internet browsing, but rather another classroom in my school. To be more exact, my fiance’s classroom! At the beginning of each topic, we aim to theme our environment to reflect the text we will be studying (in his case- The Hobbit). A few weeks ago, he jumped on Pinterest, found an idea and executed it all in the space of a couple of days. And the result is just stunning.
Seeing this sudden spurt of creativity, I thought carefully about my own text (Beowulf) and decided to transform my room into the mead hall, where a lot of the action takes place. I probably don’t need to tell you the rest of the story. I planned, tried and ended up with far less breathtaking results than intended. My initial reaction was to be disheartened and after an hour or so of sulking, I asked myself a few questions.
- Does the room fit the theme I’m teaching?
- Will it inspire the children and aid their imaginations when reading/writing?
- Will it continue to provide an engaging area for learning?
- Will it be useful?
My answer to all of those questions was yes. And then I realised. It doesn’t matter if my classroom isn’t the most amazing, or wonderful, or eye-catching. It doesn’t matter if my displays aren’t the best. My room does not define me as a teacher. I’m always painfully aware that your room conveys a ‘first impression’ of what kind of teacher you are and I always worry about what other people think when they walk through the door. But that isn’t important. My strength might not be displays, but they are colourful, engaging and aid (and celebrate) learning. My pupils love our room and often contribute to the learning environment themselves. Borders are falling off because paper has been added and removed so many times. Drawers are unorganised because their contents are used often. I’m right – this is a reflection of my teaching and it’s reflection I should be proud of. It shows that our room is not merely wallpaper but a working environment. Creating a lovely atmosphere for learning is only a small part of my responsibilities as a teacher; my time is much better spent planning engaging experiences for my students rather than worrying about what others think of my version of a mead hall. The only “WOW” I need to hear should come from my children on their first morning back- and I am sure that is one I will hear on Monday morning.
So, if you are like me; a teacher who strives for that Pinterst perfect classroom, never quite reaching the mark, do me a favour and please stop. Ask yourself the questions above and keep your pupils in mind when you work on your environment.
Before I sign off, I’d just like to say that I love looking at other people’s classroom and displays and take lots of inspiration from the hard work of others (remember collaboration is key!). I’d love to see photographs of your own creations so please leave photos, links and ideas below this post! You never, know -with your help, I might be able to step-up my decoration game!
Until next time,