This time of year, teachers start getting excited about the coming year. We plan with dreamer’s hearts and chronically rose-colored glasses about how the upcoming year is going to go. We often do unnecessary crafts at this time to kindle the fire of that enthusiasm. Dining room table? What dining room table? That is where all my magic next year stuff lives. If you are not a teacher and you see a friend doing this, be careful not to rain on their parade by reminding them of anything they may have said last October or May.
A quick peek at Pinterest traffic will reveal that much of this enthusiasm is focused on setting up and decorating the classroom. In fact it itches at our skin all through in-service week as we obsess over what things we should do to get our classroom ready for the big show.
Some teachers will embrace a theme for decorating their room. Some campuses have a school-wide theme that changes each year. This is primarily an Elementary School phenomenon, but you get a few oddballs in Secondary.
Every teacher is different and while there are wrong ways to do things (If you aren’t sure, you don’t watch the news), there are a lot of different right ways to do things. A theme may suit you just fine. No real disaster will befall you, and your students will love it. Room themes are not my thing for the reasons that follow.
1.If your classroom feels like a 5-year-old’s birthday party, your students will act like they are at a 5-year-old’s birthday.
I saw a link this morning where there was a photobooth in the classroom made to look like a circus tent. Some things just lend themselves better to a party. If you have gone all out, and came dangerously close to making each kid a favor bag related to your theme, things may have gotten out of hand. I’m not saying that learning shouldn’t be fun or colorful, but there is a such thing as too much. Remember you will spend more waking hours there some days than at your own house. Would you decorate your house like that for a year?
Don’t get me wrong, as far as themes go, Circus is something I can dig. It leaves plenty of room for vintage feeling prints of animals or strongmen with curly mustaches, signs that say “The Greatest Show on Earth” and such. Let’s face it, many of us already use popcorn as a class bribe, and that would give it context. As ring leader, you do your best to nurture the talent of your stars so they may reach great heights. At the other end of the spectrum, you have a few wild beasts to tame. Every classroom is a circus, I’m just not sure we should advertise.
2.You need to leave room for the curriculum.
Have you ever been to a dance put on by a church and heard the expression, “Leave room for Jesus.” Well just as forgetting to leave room for Jesus can lead you down a path of unbridled lusty insanity, if you aren’t careful, forgetting to leave room for curriculum will do the equivalent to your school year. You are designing this space to optimize learning and retention, right? If you’ve no room to put up anchor charts or other visuals from your lessons, or those visuals shrink against the loudness of your other decorations, then you have not achieved this goal. A theme can be harmless, or it can lead you down a rabbit hole of large themed props to compete with what is really important. If you did leave room for curriculum, did you also leave room for student work to be displayed? If your room is a shrine to your craftiness with no room to praise kids’s work, you may again have lost perspective.
3.So that you don’t become a hoarder and destroy your house and marriage.
Teachers spend a lot of their own money on school stuff each year compared to people of a lot of other professions. Some might say that we make up for it by wearing inexpensive and frumpy clothing, at least so goes the stereotype, but I digress. An eclectic decor equals less spending.
What kind of insane person wants to buy brand new border and decorations each year and either waste money by throwing it away or store all that hoping it will come back around? The answer is a hoarder. If you have ever known a hoarder or watched a show about one, they have shopping problems, which many teachers already have. But that won’t happen to you, your stuff is “organized” in Sterlite containers. You used a label maker! Don’t go down that road. It is paved with unopened bags of Dollar Store purchases and broken dreams.
Follow this rule: Only buy things that are completely consumable(like pencils) or things can be used year after year.
4. Maybe I’m a sore loser.
My campus and coworkers are fantastic, but I question their taste. We voted on this year’s theme. The theme that won is about surfing.