I teach in a small rural high school in mid-Michigan with around 670 students. I teach mostly math at the high school level, which means geometry and algebra. Because my school is small, teachers may need to pick up classes they do not usually teach, to make sure students can fit the classes they need into their schedules. This means that while my specialty is teaching Algebra 1 to sophomores, I sometimes end up teaching Probability and Statistics, or Pre-Algebra, or World History as well. This makes decorating by my subject area difficult, so I look for other ways to personalize my room.
One of my favorite things is to decorate my classroom for the holidays. My high school students love it. They are big kids, but they are still kids. I start with Halloween, with spiders and ghosts. I transition to fall decorations by removing my spooky items and incorporating colorful leaves and pumpkins. I also decorate for the winter holidays, focusing on a winter theme to keep it welcoming for all. My next project is to put together some decorations for spring, focusing on flowers and rain showers. While I do not have pictures of my decorated classroom, I do have this image of my door from the winter holidays.
A New Look
My classroom began as a fairly typical high school classroom. My room came with individual student desks, and a projector at the front of the classroom in a very traditional manner. One of the things I have been very excited about for my classroom, is our district-wide furniture and technology refresh. My district recently passed a bond with the intention of updating our classroom furniture and technology across the district. Although we did take the opportunity to go 1-to-1 with Chromebooks during the remote learning of 2020, our classroom furniture has not had an upgrade in over 20 years, and our tech is over 10 years old. So I was happy to volunteer to be the demonstration room for the high school and test out new types of furniture and classroom technology.
Now my classroom looks very different. I have a variety of different tables and chairs, so the students can try them all out and we can get feedback on what the best solution for our classrooms will be going forward. I love the chairs that allow students to wiggle around a little, though I have mixed feelings about the rolling chairs.
My projector was replaced with a flatscreen, but that will eventually be replaced with an interactive laser projector. As you can see from this image, the flatscreen has some glare issues, and takes up a large portion of my whiteboard. This leaves me few options when the technology has any hiccups, which in the country, it frequently does.
One of the things I really wanted was standing desks for my classroom. At the high school level, students only get a break from sitting at their desks at lunch, or if they have some sort of Physical Education class. That can make for some restless students by the end of the day. My students loved the option of the standing desk, though they were less enthusiastic about the tall chairs.
It is my goal to make my classroom a welcoming space for all of my students, even though I teach one of the subjects liked the least: math. Math is a difficult subject for many students, so I encourage collaboration during independent student work time. I love arranging my room so my students can work in pairs in particular, so I was excited to have student tables in my classroom, rather than individual desks.
A Personal Touch
I know the teenagers who come into my classroom are more than just students, so I also have a plushie corner in my room. Students having a bad day will ask to cuddle a plushie, or just let it sit with them while they do their work. Sometimes they are not ready to talk to someone, or they just need a little extra reassurance. The plushies can act as both comfort, and signal to me that the student is struggling. I can offer a plushie to a student I see is looking down, which lets them know I noticed, and I care, even when I have 27 other students to tend to in the classroom. Plushies are also just fun, which I love to have in my classroom.
I put a lot of effort into making students feel welcome when they come through my door, and my classroom reflects that. Personal touches that reflect my personality as well as those that show students I value them, help everyone feel comfortable and ready to learn.