A few days ago, I saw a We Are Teachers post on Facebook about how teachers are tired of spending their own money on their classrooms. The post got a lot of comments, including my own, in which I said:
This post brings up some important points beyond the obvious that teachers should stop spending their own money on school supplies, but also that by doing so, they are both hiding and perpetuating the problem. While I would not want my students walking into a classroom with bare walls, the expectation that every classroom should be decorated to the nines has got to stop.
That comment also got a lot of likes and replies. Some teachers felt pressured by social media or other teachers to spend too much time and money decorating. Others shared helpful shortcuts. Some were just venting their frustration.
Clearly, it was an emotionally charged topic, so decided to do a video.
It’s important to understand why you may feel compelled to decorate your classroom like it is going to be featured on HGTV so that you can feel good about scaling back (if that is what you decide to do).
I will also give you some practical tips for how to decide what should and should not go into your classroom.
Here’s the transcript if you prefer to read:
Hey there, teachers. This week, I want to talk about a Facebook post that I saw a few days ago. It was from WeAreTeachers, and it was titled Teachers Share Why They Aren’t Spending Any Money on Their Classrooms This Year. And I made a little comment on it. I said, “This post brings up some important points beyond the obvious that teachers should not be spending their own money on school supplies, but also that by doing so they are both hiding and perpetuating the problem. While I would not want my students walking into a classroom with bare walls, the expectation that every classroom should be decorated to the nines has got to stop.” And as you can see, it got 195 likes and a bunch of comments, and I thought that merits of video. My name is Rachel Lynette. You might know me from Minds In Bloom, from Teachers Pay Teachers, or from my newest venture, Teach YourSelf Care where I blog and do videos all about teacher self-care.
Today, I want to talk about how you decorate your classroom impacts your self-care in a few different ways. Just to be clear, I’m not teaching anymore. I don’t want to pretend that I am. When I was teaching, I did really enjoy decorating my classroom. I liked making a warm place for my students that was fun. I made a really cozy book nook and a nice circle area. Front area looked really good. And I really enjoyed that. But I will say that was in the days before Pinterest, and we all decorated our classrooms to one degree or another, but we didn’t have themes. That wasn’t a thing. The idea of having a tropical theme or a rainforest theme or a pirate theme or whatever else, that wasn’t really a thing. And I think maybe we need to think back to those days because classroom decor has, perhaps in some cases, gotten a little bit out of control.
So why do we decorate our classrooms? Well, we do it for the students, right? And I know I’m saying we, when I don’t decorate mine anymore, but once a teacher, always a teacher. We decorate for the students. We want a warm, we want a welcoming environment for our students that’s conducive to learning. And that makes total sense. When teachers overdo it, when they put a lot of color and every square inch is decorated, a lot of the people said on that thread, that that is really hard on some special ed kids, on kids with autism or attention deficit disorder, that all the bright color is really overstimulating and can really hype them up. And so that’s just something to be aware of, which I’m sure most of you are aware of, but I just wanted to point that out. If you’re looking for a reason not to go crazy with the decorations, overstimulating, your students is a darn good one.
Of course, there’s lots of other reasons. One of them is for yourself, for your own self care, right? This is your work environment. So of course you want it to be a pleasant place to work, a place that you look forward to coming to every day. Bring in plants, dim the lights, put in some posters, personal pictures, whatever makes you feel at home. That makes sense. But there’s some other more insidious reasons like, I’m doing it because social media, everybody has these amazing classrooms and I feel like I have to too. Or because other teachers at my school, maybe in my grade level, have really decorated their classrooms to the nines.
Well, it could be that those teachers are married to spouses that make a lot more money than a teacher’s salary, and they have a lot of discretionary cash. It could be that they don’t have kids of their own at this point in their lives, or they’re not going to graduate school or other things that you might be doing that mean that they also have the time to decorate their classroom. So it’s really not fair to expect, if you are say a teacher who has student loans or is only depending on your teaching salary, it’s not really fair for you to think that you’ve got to spend that money. It can be good just to look at your reasons. And I really encourage you to really try hard to get off that comparison bandwagon. And we all know that comparison is the thief of joy. Just decorate to a level that you are comfortable with, that doesn’t take a huge amount of your time and that doesn’t take a huge amount of funds, of which you might not have a lot of.
Now that we’ve talked about the why we decorate a classroom, let’s talk a little bit about the how. And I just want to give you a few quick tips that will help fully save you some time and some money. So when you’re thinking about decorating your class, here’s a good thing to start with. Start by writing down everything that you think you need in your classroom, everything from what posters will go on the walls, bins that you’ll need for your students, centers that you’ll need all, those things that go into the classroom. Then look at your list, which is probably pretty big, and circle all the things or check mark all the things that are absolutely essential, like you really have to have these things. If you don’t have these things, then your classroom is just not going to run smoothly.
So that might be things like you probably need a jobs chart. You probably need books for your classroom library. So circle those and then go through again and put check marks next to the things that you’d really like to get, but they’re not absolutely essential, you don’t absolutely need it. I know this is really hard, but you should probably just cross off those superfluous things. Because, I mean, if you happen to get some for free or you can find them super, super, super, super cheap, that’s fine. But I hope that you won’t go out to Target and buy those things that don’t really impact your students’ learning or the classroom in a really big way if you are short of funds.
So some ideas for acquiring those things. Now, maybe you can get away with not buying anything. And if you can, awesome sauce, good for you. I really applaud that. But I think that most teachers are probably going to spend at least some of their own money on their classroom. So just want to give you some quick ideas for that. I’m sure you already know about thrift shops and dollar stores and garage sales, so I’m not really going to talk about that. One really cool thing I saw, one of the comments, somebody said that their district did a swap and shop, where they had everybody bring their materials that they no longer needed or wanted. And they put them out on tables and then everyone just run around and took what they needed. So then you got rid of things that you no longer wanted and you could get all new things, or at least new to you. I thought that was a really good idea and a good way to reuse.
Another thing to think about is when you are making things for your classroom, really think about the time that you’re spending and what you’re making. I mean, yes, you could cut out and laminate a cool shape, a flower or fruit or whatever your theme is, for your book bins or for name tags, or for all that, and spend a lot of time doing that. Or you could just use your paper cutter and use colored squares and rectangles of paper, and it would go way faster. And honestly, your kids probably won’t care that much. So really think about those times that you can save money and decide what’s really worth it, what’s really worth spending the time to do. Will it really make my classroom that special? And go for both the low-hanging fruit and those things that have the greatest impact, and let everything else go.
I think it’s fine to be a minimalist. You can still make a warm, happy classroom without a ton of stuff that’s all matchy-matchy and Pinterest perfect. And just a little reminder. I know you know, but it’s really you, the teacher, that brings the warms to the classroom. It’s your love for your students, your dedication and everything that you do. Thank you so much for spending some of your incredibly valuable time with me. I hope that you will subscribe to this channel and maybe watch some of my other videos.
Go out there and be the amazing teacher that you are, and remember to be kind to yourself.
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