My first year of teaching I remember trying to create a theme for my room. What would our classroom look like? What teacher would I be known as? Would I be the ocean teacher? The movie teacher? The zombie teacher (too scary)? I asked my mentor finally for help and what she told me stuck with me throughout the years; don’t worry about a theme, worry about the kids.
And so I did. And I never did get a theme. Every year I thought that this would be the year that I would finally decorate and pull it together, but it just never happened. Instead I filled it with books. I filled it with blank walls. Empty bulletin boards and room to breathe. I thought I was a lost cause, the teacher with no theme, until I spoke about it a few weeks ago. I was wrong, I do have a theme.
My theme is students. My theme is room to invent. My theme is books as they threaten to take over every single surface available. My theme is fun. My theme is flexible. My theme is for any child that walks into our room to make this their room.
So I have no polka dots or pastel colors. I have no chevron stripes (even though I love them). I have no meaningful borders or fancy sitting areas. I have furniture we can move and the space to do it. That doesn’t mean I have a problem with those that spend so much time and so much money concocting a theme for their room. It simply means that I am on a different path. One that will never lead to my classroom being featured as something to emulate for its beautiful design. One where I will always choose to spend my money on books rather than decorations.
Yet I do write this post with a few questions in mind to those who do have a theme. Please ponder them if you will. Does your theme allow for students to take over your room? To leave their very own imprint or will their creativity only be shown in designated areas? Do students feel like this is their room or does it say your name on the wall? Does a sign above your door welcome them to your room? Will boys feel welcome in your room? Will girls? Will those who do not agree with your theme still feel welcome? Does your theme inspire all? Does your theme and decorating leave room to grow?
If yes; thank you. Thank you for creating a space that you and all of your students can breathe in, can work in, and can be themselves in. Thank you for creating a space that allows students to flourish and strengthen themselves. For creating a space where they feel welcome and that does not overwhelm their senses. If no, then I have no advice, other than to think about it. Look through the eyes of your students and see how they might feel. See how your room may inspire or stifle them.
I posted pictures of my room earlier this summer and not much has changed. I wait for my students to come in and make our room come alive. Yet, I feel the guilt tugging at me from year’s prior wondering why my room doesn’t look ready. Wondering why my room doesn’t look fancy? Or cute? Or has a theme so that students will know who I am as a teacher. I guess they will just have to find out as we grow together, much like I will.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. The 2nd edition and actual book-book (not just e-book!) comes out September 22nd from Routledge.