Though I've been out of the classroom for a month now, many of you have just begun your vacation. Whether you take an honest to goodness break from all things school (like I try to do every other summer), or you immediately immerse yourself into summer coursework, PD, and planning for next year, it's likely that one day (or even one night in a dream) you'll start thinking about your classroom's theme, decor, and/or arrangement for the upcoming year.
Maybe you'll be changing grades, buildings, or even districts, or you'll be staying right where you are, but you want to freshen things up a bit. Perhaps your school is being renovated requiring a temporary move to another room with an expected mid-year return to your original once improvements are complete. Possibly you've been told that a student requires room modifications to allow wheelchair access, a visually calmer environment for behavior management, or frankly you're just not pleased with how a center was underutilized during the previous year.
Like many of you I've loved the eye candy and visually inspiring pins to be found on many teachers' Pinterest boards and pages. Ideas for storage and organization, bulletin boards, guided reading, instruction via manipulatives, links to TpT products, and colorful art projects have all found themselves re-pinned by yours truly onto my own "Teacher Tips" and "Cute Crafts for Kiddos" boards. But when it comes to classroom decor, my professional bias prevents me from pinning much of what I find on Pinterest or kindergarten blogs.
You've seen my classroom over the years:
Bright yet unifying color on the wall, display and learning areas labeled, lower shelf storage covered by neutral curtains on tension rods, and decor that changes each month to accommodate concepts, themes, and seasons:
Though anchor charts, student artwork and theme displays change throughout the year, their general locations and unifying backgrounds do not, which becomes an expected visual template that my Super Stars utilize. Math concepts and work can be found in our math corner which contains a learning center, bulletin board display and manipulatives. Our word wall is a dominant feature of the room, and patterning/sorting/classifying elements (or student artwork) are displayed above the students' desks.
Now imagine my room if we added multiple borders of polka dots, neon animal stripes, feathered boas (don't worry, I love Fancy Nancy too) seven different patterns of fabric for wall displays, seating cushions, beanbags and seat sacks, a word wall backed by twenty-six different pieces of scrapbook paper and my shelves full of supplies (in clear tubs) were uncovered. For a final touch, imagine all of these displays in a room half the size of mine, with floor to ceiling staple boards, every inch of them covered.
I understand wanting to have an inviting, educational, visually appealing and inspiring classroom. I appreciate textural elements and the use of color, but: too much of a good thing is ~not~ a good thing when it comes to setting the tone, feel, and efficacy of a kindergarten classroom. Sure, polka dots and neon animal stripes are cute, and I certainly indulge in my own match-y match-yness as I create center tags, utilize pocket charts and select trim for my boards, but there comes a point when the cutesy factor competes for attention with the concepts being taught, and *that*, my dears, is when the line has been crossed.
Your Poem of the Week chart is awfully cute with three different layers of colored/patterned borders, and you've used an additional textural element on top of that (oh, the boas are big this year according to Pinterest), but now your math display isn't as "eye-catching," so you're having to add a row of jingle bells onto your pointer for students to use as they work with the 100 chart. Oh wait, now THAT's too distracting and students find the book center "boring" because you didn't create four stand-up Chicka Chicka Boom Boom trees surrounded by beanbag chairs that you turned into "coconuts" by purchasing brown fabric with which to cover them.
Congratulations, you're stuck in the gimmick that has become your students' learning environment and it's my guess that your students are expecting their room to be more entertaining than experiential.
Your classroom is a place for all students, even the easily over-stimulated or distractible ones, to feel welcome, safe, and engaged. Accosting their visual, auditory, even olfactory senses because you've decided that your classroom should look like a child's birthday theme party on steroids isn't appropriate, no matter how cute you think it might be. How many boys want to be surrounded for nine or ten months by Fancy Nancy? Girls Ninjago?
B-a-l-a-n-c-e dear colleagues, balance. You were provided with a classroom not for the purpose of indulging your inner Decor-Fairy, but to educate, enable, and facilitate your students' learning. Their academic, behavioral and social needs come before yours.
In case you're worried, I'm no boa-hater. I find a green one essential every March.