My Experience with a Pinterest/Instagram Classroom

For the last 5 years, I have definitely bought into the Pinterest and Instagram classroom decorating trends. I bought the Pacon bulletin board paper/wallpaper, I hawked out the Target dollar spot, I moved to flexible seating, and more. My intent with this blog post is not to be all "I hAvE a PiNtErEsT cLaSsRoOm" but rather reflect on my choices over the years and hope that I can share some tips and lessons learned along the way. :)

If you want to read my review of flexible seating and how you can furnish your room on a budget, check out my blog post here.

1. In trying out the wallpaper in the classroom trend, I learned that concrete walls and I are Foes 4 Life. I tried clear tape, masking tape, frog tape, Command strips, and Velcro. None of that worked. None. I know some of us are not able to use hot glue, but that's the only thing that has worked for me. It holds up through humidity, it doesn't leave sticky residue, and the kids are more than willing to pick it off at the end of the year. Some people have said they used the blue painter's tape and hot glue on top, but even that did not work for me. My room also gets very humid sometimes which causes everything to billow out.

2.  Trying out the latest trends does not have to be costly. This example is more specific to an English classroom, but book pages from old books (that were going to be thrown out anyway) are a super easy, inexpensive way to decorate. In the first picture, I created a book page design up the wall with the quote "Books are just worlds waiting to be opened." When I transitioned to the Harry Potter room, I used my Harry Potter Syllabus Template to create this cascading wall. I put some on the ceiling so that it looked more magical. My overall point with this example: you can decorate on a budget. Do not put yourself into debt trying to create the perfect classroom.

3. A huge trend I've noticed on Instagram is that in trying to make the classroom look aesthetically pleasing, sometimes we add too much. Too many things and props and knick-knacks. At the end of the day, we need to do what's best and most conducive for our kids. When I started decorating, I thought, "Every table needs to have something nice!" See the table in front of the couch? Within one week, that little vase was broken, the red books found their way to the floor every, single day, and the clipboards were under the couch along with who knows what else. Does it look good? Yes. Is it practical? No. Can the kids handle it? Maybe, if I invested enough time in procedures about where to put stuff, but then I realized that would take time away from my teaching. So, this year, I'm eliminating a lot of the clutter. Speaking of clutter, pillows take up a lot of room. The good thing about pillows is in flexible seating mode, they can be used or comfort and work surfaces. However, they can get in the way. Teenagers are also proven to want to throw pillows, believe it or not. Who knew? In sum, clutter is just that: clutter.

4. I have a love-hate relationship with my classroom couch. In many ways, it's so nice to watch kids comfortably sit on the couch, doing their work. I personally am my most productive on my couch. I am writing this blog post on my couch (at home). I like comfort, but just like with my students, it's easy to become a couch potato. It's easy to check my phone. It's easy to get unmotivated. My seniors would sit two to maximum three people on the couch at one time. My freshman...they would cram four to five. It's okay to say no to your flexible seating and "turn it off" so to speak. If something isn't working, eliminate it. They will want it back, and you can give it back when you think it's appropriate to do so. The comfort of the couch or any other flexible seating is not what's best for kids if it distracts them from their learning.

5. Although I do not have any traditional student desks and chairs in my room anymore, I will say this about school-issued furniture: it is meant to last. A school chair or desk will seldom break, if ever. They are strong enough to withstand years of experience with students. Kitchen tables, bean bags, couches, and all of the other "unique" seating arrangements we buy? Not so much. These bean bags are popping at the seams, some of my wooden chairs literally snapped in half, and more bulbs than I'd like to admit from my hanging lights were shattered. If you are one to take things extremely personal or be devastated when items get broken, this might not be the move for you. Now, if kids are being deliberately and intentionally disrespectful to the furniture, that's different. The vast majority of my items were very quickly worn down or accidentally damaged. I held no grudges.

6. I spent (too much) time planning out the layout of my room until I was happy with it. That red chair in the corner troubled me. Where do I put it? It found its way into that corner, and it didn't stay there long. In my mind, I imagined a kid would move the chair or switch seats if the lesson required them to see the board. Some did. Some didn't. I lost some kids this way, so I realized that the chairs and seating arrangements need to have an accessible vantage point. This was another example of it looks good, but it's not the best option for the student.

6. One of the Instagram trends I hopped on was the "ditch the desk" movement. I was like, "Yeah! I don't need a desk. This desk is too big anyway. Plus, I like standing. Be with the kids more." So, I had the custodians come and get rid of my desk. I didn't need it anyway.

Until I did. I found myself and my junk pouring out all over the classroom. I needed a home base, so I bought this little desk on Facebook Marketplace for $15. It has drawers for storage, holds my stuff, and I don't regret bringing it back one bit.

7. In no way do I think that a classroom needs to be decorated. I teach for a summer program in a blank classroom. There are no posters or anything, just chairs, desks, and a projector. I still love it just the same as I do in my classroom. The kids are not negatively impacted by the blank space. At the same time, I love seeing the looks on my kids' faces when they see my room for the first time. I love turning this space into something magical, and I have complete authority in doing so. I'm grateful that my administrators are so supportive. In education, there's so much beyond our control, but my classroom and how I decorate it? That's all me. I have control over it, so I enjoy spending time and investing in how it looks. Does that make sense? I hope it does <3

I've been in the Teachergram world for almost 5 years, and I'll be the first to admit that I have found myself caught up in so many of the trends. I learn an incredible amount of strategies and ideas from the hundreds of teachers that I follow. The more years that I spend in education, the more I learn, the more I reflect, and the more I adjust. 

With that said, a Pinterest/Instagram classroom is beautiful in many ways, but what's more beautiful is the relationships we build and the work we do. Let us never forget that. Pedagogy before pretty.