Classroom aesthetics: What is your classroom saying?

The first days of school, regardless of geographic location, are all pretty similar. The objective is quite often to provide students with an introduction to the class and a framework to “see” the roadmap for the year. Teachers regularly accomplish this task by giving some sort of a syllabus to students and parents that details objectives, provides a timeline, and states the expectations of the course. We spend a significant amount of time getting our words just right, so our teaching philosophies are clearly articulated to students and their families. However, all of this energy is wasted if the classroom does not exude these values the moment a student enters.

The posters and work on the walls and ceiling, in addition to the arrangement of the desks, including the teacher’s, come across much “louder” than anything the teacher may say or explain on the first day. One should not have to read a syllabus to get a good understanding of what a student can expect from their teacher; the classroom’s appearance is a portal to the teacher’s beliefs, especially those regarding the learner. Yes, teachers have little time to worry about these details, especially with all of the initiatives introduced at the beginning of the school year, but these particulars are some of the most important to consider. We must ask ourselves, what is my classroom saying to students? What message is it sending? Blank walls, a “graveyard” seating arrangement, and faded grammar posters or world maps may not communicate the message we had intended.

We all know initial impressions are hard to break, which is precisely the reason the appearance of our classrooms should be designed with great purpose and intent. We would most likely not go out on a initial date in our pajamas, so we must make sure our rooms are “dressed” on the first day in a manner that screams the values and expectations of the class. So, prior to the students’ arrival on the first day, stand at your door and let the classroom speak to you. What is it saying?