It’s back to school time, that time of year when teachers are both groaning over products being marketed towards them (signaling the end of summer) and filling up their wish lists. Getting my classroom ready used to be one of my greatest pleasures, and since I have “back to school” multiple times a year, I had time to take joy in it. This has totally changed—for the better. Keep reading to find out why you might want to take the same approach.
Reason 1: The simple fact is how you spend your time is how you spend your life.
I’m not saying you should get rid of that box of manipulatives you use when you teach adjectives. But, if your classroom has a theme and you fill it with items because they happen to match that theme, maybe rethink that. How much of your life do you want to spend organizing, cleaning, and caring for STUFF? Stop putting the newest shiny object in your cart. Yes, step away from that Target aisle. It doesn’t serve you or your students. Decrease what is using up your time to increase the time you have in your life.
Reason 2: Your students crave connections, not word walls or posters or color-coded everything.
White space denotes simplicity and freshness in advertising, so why not have the equivalent in your classroom?
Instead of packing it full of eye-catching displays and organization supplies, make less be more. Say no to that obsessive little consumer that demands something colorful from Target to be “happy.”
Here’s a hint: you don’t need a lot of organizational supplies if you cut down on the products you have. Go “spark joy” all over the place! Besides, your students already have enough in their life (and on their phones) competing for their attention. They don’t need exposure to more stuff.
Reason 3: Students remember how you make them feel, not what you put on the classroom walls.
Also, teachers don’t get paid enough. It’s almost a slogan, and it’s not likely to change. So, resist the urge to buy decorations and focus on content instead.
When I think back to my days as a student in elementary, middle, and high school, I can’t remember anything on the walls. I don’t remember the educational props, the educational toys, the reward stickers, or any of that. I don’t even remember specifically what I learned, though I learned a lot. What I remember is how my teachers made me feel. Chances are it’s the same for a lot of people. So, save that hard-earned money for something else.
I’m not saying that all of this ultimately works for everyone. Only you can control how much of it will work for you. I’m just here to tell you that it’s a grand, freeing feeling to let go and spend more time on connections with students rather than the appearance of my classroom.
Read more about teaching adult ESL!
- How to Stop Homework from Devouring Your Time
- Teachers: Stop Martyring Yourselves!
- Adult ESL: Honest Tips From the Trenches
- 3 Ideas for Inspiring Shared Gratitude in the Classroom
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I have to admit. The title caught me. I thought, “why should I invest the bare minimum into my students?”, but as I read the article I couldn’t help but nod my head and agree with all of your points!
Just because we don’t invest monetarily, doesn’t mean we aren’t invested! I think it’s easy to hide behind the trendy posters, resources, textbooks, etc., but what’s really important is the connection and relationship we build with our students. After all, that’s how you meet needs, not through a color-copied past-tense verb worksheet!
Rike Neville says
Exactly! Also, just because we aren’t spending money on classroom decorations doesn’t mean we aren’t spending it on our students. Whenever we pay for a subscription to a journal or invest in a course to further our knowledge, we are spending money on our students.
I hadn’t thought about “hiding” behind trendy posters, resources, and textbooks, but I think you are right. It happens. Making those connections and nurturing those relationships can be an intimidating commitment. And with the push to get students through the book and into the next level, we often feel like we don’t have the time and end up prioritizing the language end goal over the people trying to learn.