My latest obsession has been setting up my new classroom for next year - I have a whole theme planned out, flexible seating arranged, and interactive bulletin boards and I AM SO EXCITED! (If you follow me on Instagram or have watched my latest YouTube videos, you can attest to that!)
You see, past two years I have been out of the classroom on a special teaching assignment which included teaching at a different elementary school each day (13 schools total) in classrooms grades TK-5 (3 classrooms per day). [If you haven’t already heard this whole story, check out this video to see the lessons I learned as a high school teacher in elementary classrooms…]
DISCLAIMER - I have to admit that, yes, I have spent more than $50 on my latest classroom setup. This all comes over a period of 10+ years of collecting things, and out of pure excitement to get back to what I truly love about education - being in the classroom with teenagers and helping them discover and develop their own voices.
Over the years of my career I have moved in and out of a great MANY classrooms, and have learned a few things about making the space a comfortable and friendly place to learn. The biggest lesson I can share is that VISUAL CLUTTER = EMOTIONAL CLUTTER & DISTRACTIONS!!!
Here are my TOP 3 TIPS to give a classroom a cohesive look and feel in order to minimize visual distractions and maximize the comfort of everyone.
TIP 1: GIVE THE WALLS A SIMPLE & ATTRACTIVE LOOK
Most walls in classrooms are drab and industrial looking, so teachers often try to cover them up with fun colors and interesting things to look at. While the posters we purchase and create are cute and fun, sometimes too much is just too much…
A very easy (and cheap!) way to calm the look of a room is to cover many parts of the walls with the same look. I used Fadeless shiplap paper to wallpaper the front corners of my room and a couple other large wall spaces, and let me tell you what a difference it made! Immediately, the entire energy of the room shifted in a good way, and the space began to feel more homey and comfortable.
The best part? The entire roll of paper was only $24 on Amazon and I still have some to spare!
TIP 2: COVER STORAGE SURFACES WITH A CLEAN LOOK
After I put up the shiplap paper in my room, a HUGE eyesore stuck out - my metal storage cabinet. This thing is 20+ years old and shows the wear and tear of moving from room to room and being clunked around with other school furniture.
Now, I could have sanded the whole thing down, primed it, and painted it, but I have two children under 5 and quite frankly I’m not into that kind of project at this juncture.
Instead, I headed over to Walmart and picked up a roll of chalkboard contact paper which I used to cover the doors of the cabinet - WHAT A DIFFERENCE IT MADE!!!
There are so many different patterns and colors of contact paper you can get - I just ended up with the chalkboard because black is a neutral part of my room decor.
TIP 3: WARM UP THE SPACE WITH LIGHTING
Fluorescent lights are quickly becoming the bane of my existence (hooray for migraines), and as such I have a whole lighting scheme in the works for my classroom…
The very first thing I did was put strings of lights up around the bulletin boards and whiteboards and it really warms up the room!
String lights are EVERYWHERE, so you can find them super cheap, especially if you look at the dollar store around the holiday season… Here are some string lights from Amazon that should do the trick - I don’t have these particular ones in my classroom, but I use similar ones in my son’s bedroom and he loves that they are dimmable by a remote control. :)
BONUS TIP: MAKE SURE EVERY SINGLE THING IN THE CLASSROOM HAS A PURPOSE FOR BEING THERE!
Like, really, though. Channel your inner Kon Mari Method and get rid of anything and everything that doesn’t currently serve a purpose. Once I got rid of stuff that I just wasn’t using (and likely won’t use in the foreseeable future) I finally felt like I had space to breathe. Plus, a few of our new teachers got a nice little classroom care package from me!
I can’t wait to see what everyone’s classroom facelifts look like! Please share them with me - tag @thecaffeinatedclass on Instagram and I’ll be happy to share your post with my followers!
If you’re looking for something a bit more substantial (like a complete classroom overhaul, perhaps?) check out this Classroom Design Challenge by Ashley Bible at BuildingBookLove.com - it’s pretty awesome! You can also see what others have done by searching the #classroomdesignchallenge on Instagram… Have fun!!