I think I am afraid that teachers don't believe classroom environment is important. But that might be a myth. Are there teachers who don't think environment is important? I would guess there are. But why? It's not valuable? It detracts from the kids attention or engagement? It's rudimentary for their grade level? I say 1-that's not true, 2-only if you let it, and 3- it is even more important, the older the students get.
I think you can debunk the myth that classroom "decorations" are not important in 3 ways.
1-Kids notice, which gives it immeasurable value.
I hear comments that kids make when they walk past my room. "Cool!" "Did you see that?" It gets their attention. They see it, and it makes an impression. Isn't that our goal? Isn't that why we got into teaching- to make a positive impression on kids and the future? "Decorating" does it. And whether or not they consciously make the connection between time spent creating an environment, and your love for them, that connection is still there. One of the greatest compliments I ever got on my classroom environment was when my niece Olivia showed an Instagram post of my classroom to her friend. Olivia is 14. My classroom made enough of an impression on a 14 year old, that she showed it to another 14 year old. And her friend's response was "That's her classroom? How come our classrooms never looked like that?" It made an impression- they noticed. And yes, it is one way I show my love for them, and for learning.
2-It creates a feeling of welcome and engagement.
You can add decoration without busyness. Often, busyness in classroom decoration comes from adding random items without thought. That's the opposite of creating environment. It's hanging unused, manufacturer's posters, using too much and varied color schemes, patterns that clash, etc. It can become overwhelming. When you start with a plan for color, use cohesive materials, are inspired by a place or things you love, it becomes an environment that gives others a feeling of warmth and caring when they enter it. It's welcoming, or exciting, or fun. We all want to be places that are welcoming, fun, relaxing or exciting. And when kids enter your classroom, feel those positive emotions, and experience that sense of caring, they will want to be there. It's your first step in building relationships with them. If you feel that environment will be distracting, give them time to absorb it. Explore the room with them. Show them the details you have added and how they will use them. Let them touch stuff if they need to. That distraction will dissipate, and what will remain is the feeling of care you have shown to them.
3-It's for all ages and subjects.
Going back to my story of Olivia and her friend from #1- I'll say it again. They're 14. Do you know what 14 year olds are like at home? They don't like their parents too much, and often show their irritation with all things familial. Their main hang out is their bedroom. With the door shut. Their phone is never more than 6 inches from their bodies at all times, including when they're in the bathroom. So when a 14 year old shows their friends something ON THEIR HOLY GRAIL OF A PHONE, it's a big deal. And when said 14 year old friend responds with "Our classrooms never looked like that." it tells me that is is still important, even though she is starting high school. The theme of a classroom will change, or the color, or the scope of the environment. But the time put into the preparation, the love you are showing the students, the sensations you are creating are still important to those children of all ages that we are serving. As they get older, I believe it becomes harder to retain the sense of love, excitement and joy in learning. That's when environment and those first impressions become even more important. It's one more hook to draw them in so you can do your job: changing the world through the children you touch.
Now, to all of you non-decorators: I get it. Creativity is hard work, and it might not be work that interests you. That's the reality of it, and honestly, it's what makes the world go 'round. But that doesn't excuse you. You just need to get help. I am not interested in learning how to fix my car. I take it to a mechanic because getting around town IS important to me. I hate science class. It's fascinating to me as a part of God's creation, but I don't want to learn it or talk about it. So I get help because I have to use it and teach it. I research, I ask questions, I read. It's the same thing with classroom environment. You're not excused from it. It's still out there, like this big dead end, to borrow from the always great "When Harry Met Sally". So get help. Ask a decorating teacher- you know some. Read, research, ask questions. Decorating teachers LOVE to help you, in the same way that science teachers LOVE to talk science. Let them.
If I have convinced you that classroom "decoration" is important, come back again later this week. I'll give you a few easy ways that you can actually implement to make it happen.
Thanks for reading!