Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Cute Classroom?

There's some discussion on Twitter, blogs, and Facebook about classroom cuteness. Have you been on Pinterest lately? My  goodness, there's a ton of cute there. A.TON. There are some really great ideas, and I love that teachers can share with other teachers clear across the country and around the world.

But in some ways I don't love it.

Many teachers are really focused on their classroom decor. I get it. I'm in my room all day and I want it to look good! I want to be surrounded by the colors I love, and I want my environment to be inspiring. Sure, I've gotten some good ideas here and there. But I guess what sets me apart from some of the classroom fashionistas is that I want everything to be functional. I'm in that room to teach.

I do spend time thinking about how I want my classroom to look. Absolutely. I am certain that part of the issue is just a matter of taste. I'm not a fan of having every single thing in my room match to a fault. I know that some people love it. But it's just not a priority for me. Nor are lots of the other ideas of seen. In two weeks I will have 30 little people in that room with me. They will need to learn to read and write and add and think and communicate. My focus really needs to be on what will help my students. What part of the environment will be inspiring to them? What things can I include in my classroom that will make them eager to learn and comfortable working with others?

My room is very clean. It's organized. It's coordinated color-wise. But not everything matches. It coordinates. My favorite color is blue, so as I've gathered things over the years, I've chosen blue whenever color is an option. I knew my students would love to read in beanbag chairs, so I chose blue ones. I needed little baskets to put crayons in, so I chose blue ones.  I have tons of pointers that students use to read the room and I put them in a blue container. I have a few blue chairs, a blue carpet, and I did make a blue valence for each of the small windows in my room.

Confession: This summer, my daughters wanted to make bunting (you know-- the string of flags) for their rooms. We are swimmers and I had made a mini-set of "backstroke flags" to decorate a bathroom years ago. So we pulled out all the fabric scraps and got to work. I made a long string for my classroom because it was a fun project to do together and I have no need for bunting at home. That's my big, fancy, frivolous item for the year. It serves no purpose but to look cute. I spent an afternoon sewing with my daughters, which was fun, and the expense was minimal. But I didn't set out to make that decoration for my room, it just happened.

I have made lots of classroom labels that are cute, too. It started when a couple of friends asked me if I would whip up a few things for them. I made labels with a ladybug theme for Kara, and then someone asked for monkeys. And another friend loves owls, and someone else wanted robots. And suddenly I was making a new, *cute*cute*cute* set of labels practically every week. But the labels are functional. They are for print awareness, letter identification, and they support children who are learning to read. The labels aren't just cute. They serve a purpose.

I'm a great multi-tasker, I really am. I have four children of my own, I read multiple books at a time, and I almost always have food in the oven, clothes the washer, and a million ideas in my head. All at once. But I just don't feel like I can focus on creating a boutique-style classroom and an amazing curriculum at the same time. There are issues of time and money to be considered. I really want a Boogie Board for my students to use, and I'd like some iPad minis, and I'm working on researching apps that are appropriate for first grade. I'm busy planning new lessons for the Common Core and I'm trying to cram in a few more professional books before school starts. So in these last days before school starts, I'm probably not going to be buying ribbons or making seat cushions or mod-podging anything... unless I can figure out how to work it into a lesson!

I read something on the web (I can't even remember where I saw it or who said it, sorry!) about first impressions, and the argument was for over-the-top cute decorating, "because first impressions are so important!"

When children and parents walk into my room in two weeks, I will feel a little pressure associated with that first impression idea. I want my room to look good, and maybe even a little bit cute!  I'll be nervous. I want students to feel at home right away, I want them to see books that they can't wait to read, and I want them to feel excited about the year ahead. I want students and parents to see a classroom in which children come first, and where technology, science, literature, collaboration, creativity, exploration, critical thinking, art, communication, and individual ideas are valued. I want them to see a place where students can learn, grow, think, feel accepted, rest, work, and thrive.

Yep, the pressure's on. Perhaps if I start feeling too much stress this week, I'll just take the edge off with a little craft. I'm thinking tissue paper flowers sound like a relaxing project...

Of course I'll post pictures of my room when it's done!

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