. As I gathered my strength and felt better, I then turned to walk through the corridors and observed more positive signs all around me: “You’re braver than you know,” “Believe in yourself,” were themes scattered throughout the building. We’ve all seen various designs of classrooms and hallways around other schools; some minimalistic, some cute, some busy or cluttered, some empowering and encouraging and some more sterile. It makes you wonder if the contents in your building and on your classroom walls really makes a difference in your school? It turns out, according to experts, that it does.
Going for Gold
This year our high school decided to adhere to the Habits of Mind Traits as our rally cry and theme for the building. We put the traits on the back of our school t-shirts, and all throughout our building are very wonderfully made banners that individually shout them out as well. One day after a seemingly harmless prank that some juniors pulled on photo day, I was quite upset as it cost me a lot of effort to fix. That day, I kept walking by one of the banners down the hall with the trait “Find Humor.” I kept thinking to myself, “I can’t see the humor in this at all.” But, after awhile, I began to change my mind. While I was still unhappy about the situation, it helped me to refocus and realize that things could always be worse. Perhaps if those words of encouragement had not been in the hallway, I would not have been able to laugh (ever so slightly) at the moment. In that instance, our environment changed my perspective.
Many studies and workshops have been conducted on the physical environment of the classroom, and one such study begs the question of the hazards of too much clutter. In some studies, experts have found that in the younger grades, too many colorful objects on the walls can actually distract the child and cause them to be off task more often. It was found that older ages, such as 6th grade or higher, were not distracted by the walls at all. Most agree, that a room conducent to learning should involve posters, and other such objects that enhance the lessons and reinforce positive learning, and that a classroom or hallway environment should not be so busy that it causes hyperactivity and/or inattentiveness.
Most experts agree that over-stimulation in a very busy, overly-decorated room is bad, but what about the minimalistic rooms? Could they be just as harmful? It doesn’t take long to walk through schools and see very minimalistic rooms and hallways. They seem to lack warmth, invitation and excitement for learning, but are they wrong? No matter what your stance is on the matter, most experts agree that if it’s on the wall, it needs to be there for a purpose. More natural environments do tend to have a calming effect, but many wonder if the bare walls could be used to instill prior knowledge or reinforce previous learning. It seems that a balance between minimalistic and overly cluttered is the best case scenario.
Your Class, Your Style
It seems that at the beginning of every year, the one thing that many teachers look forward to is decorating their room. . In my room, I have my shelves filled with photos from musicals or plays that my students put on, group pictures, awards from debate tournaments and such. It makes me feel wonderful to have photos of my own kids on my computer desk and little Christmas gifts students have given me over the years on my walls and shelves. Your room is just as much about learning as it is about being your “home away from home.” It is your room, and you spend a lot of time there, making it your own is important to your mental health as well. Making a room too comfortable, can however detract from it’s purpose, which is to work towards and achieve goals. Find the happy medium in making it your world and theirs; make it comfortable, but not too comfortable.
The style of décor you choose for your room is important. It’s important that the environment is conductive to learning and productivity, yet is also warm and inviting. Try changing your thoughts on your classroom environment, and see if it’s something that might actually help you maintain your student’s attention a bit more, and fill their hearts with words of success and achievement. Remember, that words of encouragement in the halls and on the walls helped me in my time of need on more than one occasion, and it just might help your students as well.