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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, and author of Meditation in the College Classroom: A Pedagogical Tool to Help Students De-Stress, Focus,...
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Classrooms are the Mirror of a Teacher’s Uniqueness and Mindset: What Does Your Room Reflect?

Recently, I was listening to a podcast featuring investor and philosopher, Naval Ravikant. He spoke about how success was simply an extension of one’s authentic self. For example, a business, a blog, a podcast ideally are reflections of that person’s passions, interests, and uniqueness.

Instantly, I connected that idea to teachers and education. A teacher’s classroom setup - the pictures and posters on the wall, the rock chair, the carpet on the floor, the yoga mats, the funny and inspirational quotes posted, the music playing in the background - these are mirrors of the teacher’s uniqueness and personality.

The classroom décor is a direct reflection of the teacher in the room.

This is especially evident at the Ron Clark Academy, a renowned model school that provides professional development in Atlanta, Georgia, where teachers tell an artist about themselves and how they want their classroom painted and designed. For instance, a teacher’s classroom might feature superheroes on the wall or literary characters.

The education department chair at Wesleyan College and my colleague, Virginia Wilcox, designed her own model classroom for teacher candidates to become inspired and creative about possibilities for their future classrooms. The room features a closet wall that “leads to Narnia”,” an actual treehouse, flexible seating, and modern furniture. What child wouldn’t want to spend time in a classroom like this?

But this classroom speaks volumes about Virginia, her love of literature, her creativity, her willingness to take teaching risks, her desire for community, and for students to feel relaxed and comfortable.

While schools may stay online this fall due to the pandemic, for students in physical classrooms, the environment will play an even bigger role in the coming months as students will likely feel anxious or uneasy about their return and changes in school guidelines. Student desks and chairs will have to be separated by six feet or more, and teachers will face other classroom setup limitations but still will retain some creative licensing. For example, a teacher can still decorate the walls, hang something from the ceiling, create a new, comforting, and inspiring theme, etc.

Though teachers may not be able to paint the walls with literary characters, they can still add items that inspire, excite, relax, and comfort children. Consider bringing in elements from the natural world to inspire and uplift students. Items such as plants, water features, class pets, wood carved knick-knacks, and rock arrangements can do wonders to create a positive environment. These elements remind us of the innate goodness, beauty, and interconnectedness all around us.

Time a minute to reflect on the following question regarding your classroom:

  • What does my current classroom design and setup “say” about me?
  • What do the items on the walls and floor, the colors of the room, the decorations, the seating, reflect about my uniqueness and personality?
  • How would I feel if I were a child spending time in this classroom?
  • What parts of my personality, uniqueness, and passions are “missing” from the classroom and how can I add them without requiring large amounts of time or money?
  • How can I bring in elements from the natural world (plants, small fountains, aquariums, etc.) to inspire and uplift?

Take these answers and allow them to color your future classroom design. Set an intention to gradually add uplifting and positive touches to the classroom that truly reflect who you are inside.