When I first started teaching, around 2011, a new social media platform called Pinterest was all the rage. The basic idea is that each user would be able to create and save (pin) content to their boards. This site took off with many people, especially teachers. Almost overnight, teachers found an outlet and an audience to share their cool classroom decorating tips and ideas. All the teachers in my school were implementing cool arrangements and ideas they saw on the site, all except for me. I didn’t really buy into the importance of classroom décor at the time, but I was wrong.
How your classroom looks matters. It’s certainly not the ONLY thing that matters, but it matters enough to warrant paying attention to for a number of reasons.
- Your room is a reflection of you
The reason classroom appearance matters is because it’s a reflection of you. Everything in your classroom says something. I once heard a Latinx student mention that her history teacher only had posters of white males on the wall which made her feel like her culture wasn’t valued. Conversely, a teacher that hangs pictures of current or former students might send a message that she cares about them as people.
This extends beyond decorations. Have a pile of ungraded papers piled up on your desk? That says something, too.
- Your classroom should be arranged to be practical
The way your classroom looks sends a message, but it should also make your classroom easier to use. For example: Are the desks arranged in a way that is conducive to movement? Class mailboxes look nice on Pinterest boards, but they are also an effective way to return work and help students keep track of papers.
- It could help academically
The purpose of school is to learn, and the space students learn in can help. For example: in math class, there are a ton of equations that students need to use. Find a space on a visible wall that students can reference to see them. This works with other quick content knowledge as well.
Studies have found that while too much decoration can be overstimulating, rooms with no color or display items are associated with low academic achievement.
(Note: Students need to be taught to reference content around the room. Just putting it up won’t yield the results you want.)
- You spend a lot of time there
Teachers and students will spend a large percentage of their time in class. It should be a space they enjoy being in. Teachers shouldn’t be afraid to add touches that make the environment more welcoming and comfortable. Every person who as an office decorates it with the goal of making it a place, they want to spend time. Teachers should take this approach as well.
Classroom appearance may not be your favorite thing to do but it is important. You wouldn’t go to a job interview disheveled, or poorly dressed so why would you keep your classroom that way?