So how do you totally nail your classroom setup?
Perhaps you’ve just graduated from uni, and have been offered a classroom role at a local school. You may have even relocated to a different city or town to follow your teaching dream. Maybe you’ve been on the relief teaching and short-contract rounds for a while and you’ve secured your own class in 2020. Or, maybe you’re returning from a stint teaching overseas or a period of maternity leave.
Creating your ideal space is one of the most exciting tasks at the beginning of the school year! An amazing classroom setup will inspire your students to love learning. A functional, well-configured classroom will truly buzz.
A Blast From The Past – Memories of my First Classroom Setup!
When I was offered my first classroom teaching job I was elated. It was all a bit of a blur. It was three days before school began in January 2007. I was given a Grade One class, and my new classroom was a disused preschool room. It was a huge, play-based learning space with a kitchen and bathroom, but nothing else. The staff had a packed professional development schedule on the three pupil free days leading up to the start of school, so I had very limited time in the evenings to allocate to my classroom setup. The whole experience was a bit overwhelming, until I received the best classroom setup tip ever.
It’s Okay if Your Classroom is a Little Bare
I was making displays and trying to get them ALL up, moving desks and chairs up from the back shed, trying to paint a bookshelf that looked older than I was… and it just wasn’t all happening. My next-door teacher (who became my unofficial mentor) lived next door to the school. One evening, she popped over the fence to grab something from her classroom, and discovering me still there, overheated and stressed, she gave me some sage advice:
“You don’t need to have heaps of ‘stuff’ up. The kids and parents don’t expect to see a fully functioning classroom on the first day. You’ll collect heaps of student work to display within a couple of weeks. Leave yourself space to go with the flow once your kids are in the room,” she said.
Hearing this I felt extremely relieved of the pressure I was placing upon myself to have a perfect, Pinterest-worthy classroom (although admittedly there was no Pinterest then!).
Teach Starter unfortunately didn’t exist yet either. The time I used to create everything from scratch could have been better invested in learning about my new class; their needs, quirks and prior experiences.
Using one of our many Classroom Theme Packs will give your room an instant boost, saving you heaps of time.
Beg, Borrow and Steal Your Way to an Awesome Classroom Setup!
Often when teachers are engaged by schools, it’s due to enrollment growth, and they are in fact establishing entirely new teaching spaces. This was my experience as a first-year teacher: I had a brand new classroom which was literally empty. Not so much as a single blob of Blu-Tack on a wall. If this sounds familiar I’ve got three words which will help you nail it at classroom setup:
You may have been allocated funds to purchase equipment. If you haven’t, have a chat with your admin team to see if they will release some money for you to purchase needed items. In my case, the school had a classroom resource fee for each child and each teacher used this money for classroom purchases.
Visit the library, resource room, other classrooms, the sports shed, the office – anywhere in the school that you may be able to borrow resources from for your classroom setup. Physically going to these places will give you heaps of ideas on what you need, and what you can save money on by borrowing. It’s a great opportunity to get to know your new colleagues, too. Mostly, school staff are a caring bunch, and they’ll be all too happy to help where they can.
I’m not suggesting you actually steal items from anyone! Make sure you visit some other teachers in your school, particularly those with rooms similar in shape and size to yours, to steal amazing classroom setup ideas. Where has the teacher put the desk? What does the entryway look like? How are resources stored? How are walls utilised for diplays?
Make it Feel Warm
How often have you heard house-hunters describe the feeling of finding the right place by saying “It just feels like home”?
We want our students to have that warm fuzzy feeling of belonging when they walk into their classroom. That feeling doesn’t come from a perfectly curated ‘grammable space; it comes from a familiar and welcoming purpose-built space made with them in mind. Your amazing classroom setup will set the tone for the year you’ll share there together.
Having the students’ names visible in the room is a great way to make them feel at home. Regardless of their age, they’ll love seeing a little piece of their identity already incorporated into your classroom. We have heaps of lovely door displays, birthday charts and group organisation resources available. Either download them as part of a classroom theme pack for a coordinated look, or pick and choose for an eclectic fun vibe.
Let Your Personalities Shine Through Your Classroom Setup
It’s no secret that I love butterflies. That very first year of teaching, when I had that vast empty space to fill, I taught an integrated unit on insects in Term One. Within a few weeks, butterflies, dragonflies, mosquitoes, bees and other minibeasts adorned my walls in glorious colour. I was so glad that I’d taken my mentor’s advice and kept the room minimally decorated – it really gave the students’ work space to shine!
Some things about your new classroom will inevitably be inflexible, like the location of the whiteboard and the phone. Use their locations as clues as to how the last teacher had his or her room configured.
If you have a neighbouring classroom with adjoining doors, take a look to see where the teacher has placed his or her desk, student desks, noticeboards, display boards and laptop table. If it’s working for someone else, why not give it a go yourself? You can always tweak things to suit your needs throughout the year.
Don’t clutter up your desk with lots of gear. It will become very full, very quickly. At minimum, you’ll need a pen canister, an in-tray, stationery storage and space for your laptop and diary. I always loved having my desk facing the door, close to a wall with a book shelf within arms reach. You end up with so many folders of resources that you’ll need quick access to.
It would be remiss of me to write an article on classroom setup without mentioning seating arrangements! But this topic could warrant its own separate blog post (for each type of arrangement!). As this is trending at the moment, we have flexible seating resources to support you if you decide to take this route.
Read about how a Grade Four class and their teacher organised their flexible seating arrangement classroom on this awesome blog by Cassie.
As a general rule of thumb, anything you purchase using school funds (the stuff you claim back immediately by submitting a receipt), belongs to your employer. It will have to stay at your school, even if you transfer.
Anything you purchase privately, but for use in your classroom, is yours to keep as you move about into different rooms and even if you change schools. Keep your receipts for these classroom setup purchases, as you may be able to claim them at tax time (check with your tax agent).
If you’re eyeing off an amazing classroom resource that you couldn’t bear to eventually leave, consider buying it yourself.