Friday, September 4, 2009


"The older teachers shook their heads and told me my room looked overstimulating, which means they are totally jealous because I have the most insanely beautiful classroom ever, of all time...I'm sorry, this room is so fun, it's sickening. I feel sorry for any kid who is not is this room."
--Educating Esmé, page 25
This quote makes me laugh a little bit now, for a couple of reasons. After having more years of teaching under my belt, I realize my experienced colleagues were probably right. There is truth in the notion that it may be best not showing all of your cards and pulling out all your stops the very first week. Some children really are distracted by lots clutter or color. Most importantly, an environment should feature contributions by the children, not just be your personal art show. That said, I also met many experienced colleagues who also made "the most insanely beautiful classroom ever, of all time!" I can't help but think of a teacher I met on the road many years ago who advised, "When you set up your classroom, you should set it up as if preparing for a deity." Whatever your faith background, it's easy to appreciate the preciousness of the children we serve, and the hope that the little child shall lead...that potential is part of why we're there, and I do think it is appropriate to set the tone for their arrival with a sense of celebration. It's also a celebration of how hard you have worked to be there, too, you first-year superstar!

Here are a couple of real world teachers who pull their rooms together with panache:

I always think of being a teacher as being a professional sharer, and wow, Mrs. Beth Newingham in Troy, Michigan really is one heck of professional. She created a crazy helpful generous website with tons of photos, clearly using themes to build community in her classroom. Look at her room during last year's sports theme. Who wouldn't want to be on Team Newingham? I do feel sorry for any kid who is not in this room. Visit her themes and then explore the whole site to remember why this is what we decided to be when we grew up.

Look at Mrs. Spurgeon's Kindergarten in Del Lago! Clearly a garden where children grow and grow.

Inspiring, huh? Newbies, you don't have to reinvent the wheel if you check out Mitch Katz's sample classroom floor plans, and you can channel your inner Nate Berkus with this "classroom architect" tool.

As you put your room together, consider the big "reveal" of the incredible chocolate room in the original Willie Wonka movie with Gene Wilder. Do you remember being a kid, saying "ooooh!" when there the camera panned across the whole delicious scene? The opening of the door was the beginning of a world of possibility. Overstimulating? Yeah, maybe. So what? Whether you dress you classroom for success in the spirit of Meis van der Rohe or a disco rave or somewhere in between, let it reflect a piece of your style and your enthusiasm and your welcome. Work your inner Wonka. Build a world using your imagination, and it can only inspire the children to use theirs. And anyone who takes a picture of their classroom and shares with a link or describes their classroom set-up idea in the comments section below will be entered in this week's drawing for a copy of How to Get Your Child to Love Reading. Good luck!

1 comment:

Katrina said...

I just finished rearranging my classroom! I moved some book shelves around and set up a small room divider, pulled around our clasroom couch to create a more defined library space (we're a small private school and don't have a school library). We have four tables rather than desks where students sit. The best thing about them is that they easy to rearrange or move when plans change and it really encourages group work. We have four computer stations and lots of corkboard to hang up student work. My favorite thing, even though it's small, are the four "focus" signs, one on each wall. I had my old signs up for several years and just made new ones. I simply used Print Shop (which has super cool fonts) to make the signs, laminated them and hung them up in the center of each wall. Inevitably, during class, a student's mind and eyes will wander around the room and *hopefully* land on one of the signs, an easy and gentle reminder to get back on task without my needing to say anything. I thought it was a bit hokey when I first used a similar idea during my student teaching, but all of my students have all responded very well to it. I also use stoplight circles as an easy way to redirect a whole class if they get a bit out of hand. It's so great to remind everyone to get back to work or to redirect their conversations without using having to single any one student out. I'll take some pictures on Tuesday, our first day of school, to share for anyone who is interested.
(btw, I didn't mean to type so much, but I always feel like my classroom is an extension of home).