Shift the Focus: From Cute to Kids

I came across a few posts today written by Matt Gomez , Stacey Schubitz and Angela Watson that got me thinking about the emphasis teachers (including me) tend to place on preparing “cute” and “perfect” classrooms each year.

I just wanted to share my thoughts on the topic with you guys. As a veteran teacher, looking back, I have made the mistakes of spending way too much money at School Box and other retailers buying borders, cut-out letters, name plates, etc. I remember equating success with having my entire classroom set-up, with parent information folders, business cards, and small goodie bags on every desk. My class list was outside on beautiful bordered paper and framed in black. Yep, I did that. It is bittersweet when I think about all that I had done for my 28 students- part of me misses that and the other is completely over it and realizes the insanity of it all.

I would never discourage new teachers from preparing their classrooms in this way because it makes coming back to school special for the families in our schools. Two of my kids who are still in elementary always talk about the things their teachers did to prepare for them. It has a place.

However, here at Simply Genius, I believe that everything we do should be intentional and have a purpose. Expressing one’s unique personality in the classroom is to be celebrated and encouraged. I would even extend this to creating products for your classroom. Just like we eat with our eyes, kids like to have materials that look nice. They aren’t as particular about it as teachers can be, but it is a nice touch. I also believe that your family should get just as much of your time and energy as your classroom and your students. 

Everything we do in the classroom should be directed at helping our students become self-directed, independent learners and thinkers. So I use that question as my compass when I am making decisions about the classroom. Through this lens, I can ensure that my classroom is student-centered. From the procedures and routines I establish to the position of the furniture, every decision comes back to the learners in the environment. If something does not align to this belief, I modify it, ask for help, or throw it out.

My advice to you as a new teacher would be to start the year with a minimalist approach like Stacey suggests in her post. I would encourage you to develop lasting and meaningful relationships like Matt because they last longer than cute stuff of the moment. Finally, Angela Watson reminds us to not let the idea of perfection from your colleagues or Pinterest make you feel your students’ work isn’t worthy of being shared.  So share it, celebrate it, in the here and now.

Every year you will improve upon your ideas and presentation. Allow for that growth. In the meantime, remember that you are a learner along with your kids. You are their role model of how to handle perfectionism, failure, resilience, and grit. Sometimes the most impactful lessons we teach don’t come from a “cute” craftivity or “cute” classroom, they come from real and imperfect people and experiences.