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Gail S Hennessey's picture
Gail Skroback Hennessey taught for over 33 years, teaching sixth grade in all but two years. She earned a BA in early secondary education with a concentration in social studies and an MST in social...
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A New School Year- Decorating the Classroom - Helpful or a Distraction?

Importance of decorating your classroom - A new school year is beginning.

I read a recent study by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University that a decorated room is distracting and  can negatively impact the learning of our students. Although they don’t say teachers should go to a bare classroom, it is suggested that teachers think about whether “some of their visas displays may be distracting to young children.” 
See link on the study: The study involved a group of 24 kindergartners so this may also be different for middle school students, 6th graders being where I spent my teaching career.
I truly believe that a classroom should be an inviting place. Yes, we have lots and lots of responsibilities placed upon, and it seems more and more each year but  I think "bare" walls are not something you should have in your classroom. So, especially for new teachers....I say decorate your room, even if you teach high school! 
I believe that displaying world landmarks of places I have visited stimulate kids to ask about places in the world. Inspirational quotes are there for them to look at and quietly reflect upon. I always displayed things relating to the current unit of study in history. Additionally, I displayed great unit test performances and also included an area of most improved for the five weeks. There were articles about current events posted in the room as well as an area of personal things such as my 6th grade report card and my 6th grade photograph, and, of course,  photographs of my husband. I also had bears, all sorts and sizes and all things purple displayed near my desk area.
My thoughts are that a classroom is our home away from home and I wanted mine to be inviting not only to the students but me, too.  I always believed that students, if they weren’t interested in what I might be saying, might find SOMETHING of interest with the many visuals displayed in my classroom.
What are your thoughts? 
or THIS?
or THIS?

On the topic of a new school year, I'd like to share one thought...focus on the positive!

As a classroom teacher for 33 years, I know that there are days when this thought is difficult at best to accomplish, but it really is something to keep in mind...even on those difficult days.  Take a walk during your break, have some photographs of your kids, husband, significant other, something you can gaze upon to bring back your positive state of mind. Eat chocolate(for me-Butterfingers!)

Try to find something that happened during your day that brings a smile, not a frown, as you leave school to go home. There were many days, when I'd arrive home, dragging myself into the home, down with what may have happened that day. The negativity zapped me of my energies. It wasn't a good thing and certainly not healthy. It took me a while to realize...focus on the positive!

Another important thought as you begin your school year...try and align  yourself with positive teachers and other adults during the day. I remember having a team where at break time, two of the women would complain about the kids, the administration and everything else. I eventually stopped joining them at break time and started to walk. Stay clear of such negative people, they will only bring you down. A few years later, I had several new team members, the negative teachers had left. WHAT a difference. When those of us on my new team would leave the building at the end of the day,we'd be laughing about something humorous that we'd experienced that day! What a difference this team made on my day and my life. So-seek out those that help you accomplish this goal-focus on the positive!

I wish you all a wonderful school year!

Gail Hennessey