I am fortunate enough to have been offered a permanent job at my main placement school from my Schools Direct course so I have been able to see my classroom and picture how I would like it to look come September for what feels like far too long. As part of getting my room ready, I have had a few wins and made one very big mistake.
Lesson #1: Teachers are territorial beings.
After being a total nomad for a year and staking a claim on one corner of the staff room for all of my teaching files, resources and other tidbits…I was told which room would be mine next year. I had been teaching in that room for a couple of lessons here and there and could easily envisage where I wanted various displays and resources etc.
However, I forgot to consider my colleague who had recently returned from maternity leave who had had that room for the last couple of years. Unfortunately, she is being moved to another classroom on the other side of the school in September and understandably is rather perturbed. I got over-excited in the last week of term & began to put displays up on empty boards, and dispose of the old croissant behind the bookshelf. Yet, I forgot to think about the impact on my colleague who was in the process of great change in her working life & being the careless kitten (see: over-eager trainee teacher) I am, I stepped on her toes. Fortunately, I work with some amazing people and this lady in particular is a real bloody gem. We talked about it and worked it all out but I felt mortified when I thought about what I’d done.
So when it comes to moving yourself in, don’t forget to wait until someone has moved out.
Lesson #2: Enlist the help of loved ones.
On the first day of my Schools Direct course, my tutor addressed the cohort and stated, “if you currently have a partner, you won’t be together by July due to the stress of this course; it will drive you apart.” Determined and stubborn enough to prove them wrong we didn’t just stay together…we got engaged!
So, what did I get him to do on our first day off together of the summer? Come in and rearrange the classroom, of course! He was fantastic, as always, and came up with a great seating layout for the room. It was also great to have a fresh pair of eyes in there to see how things worked, to foresee any possible issues or just give a bit of encouragement.
Lesson #3: Think about what matters to you.
What do you hold as fundamental, non-negotiable elements of your pedagogy? How can you incorporate them into your classroom? For me, encouraging a love of reading is key and something I feel very passionately about. I was determined to utilise all of the space on offer so once the walls were full; I turned to the windows.
Tiger (the posh/trendy pound shop) is my go-to place for all things quirky. I bought some customisable bunting for my engagement party a few months ago and had lots of left over decal stickers so decided to put them to good use.
I am thinking of encouraging pupils to add to this during tutor time or in our English lesson that follows a library lesson.
Lesson #4: Make your life easier.
I wanted to dedicate some space in my room for collecting homework so I created a ‘homework check in’ area at the front of the classroom. This has a space for each class with a plastic wallet which will allow me to write what homework is due & when & for who. Each group then has a magazine holder which I got from IKEA (£1.50 for 4, I think!), duct taped two together & attached a label on the front. Along each side, I put an ‘arrivals’ and ‘departures’ label to let pupils know when they can collect/drop off their homework. It allows me to just go along and pick up the folder, cart it off for marking and then return it easily.
I’ve also created a ‘challenge wall’ which is an idea taken from the Maths department of our school who teach in mixed ability groups. I took nearly all of these resources from The Bad Pedagogue who has made lots of incredible resources for stretching/consolidating pupil understanding. These activities don’t require you to mark anything supplementary either so it’s a double win!
Lesson #5: Utilise existing resources.
I love chalkboard walls. I always wanted one in my classroom anyway but the amazing lady who had the room before has already done it! Whilst I am planning to repaint/spray the wall; I want to keep the door as it is! I think it is a fantastic resource for pupils across all year groups to use and it demonstrates to pupils that…yes! It is OK to draw on the walls! I’m not 100% sure what I would like to put on the wall as of yet but I am thinking either a breakdown of what each year group is studying that half term but I would love to hear any of your suggestions!
Lesson #6: Make the displays work for your students.
I’ve devoted a wall to my GCSE group who according to their Year 9 data, have rather patchy attendance. As a result, I’ve made sure there are plenty of plastic wallets attached to the wall so that pupils can ‘self-serve’ for any resources they might be missing. Strangely enough, I have this random whiteboard that annoyingly is off centre…so I’ve tried to put it to good use. I’ve attached a whiteboard pen on a piece of string (I am under no illusion that it will stay there) to encourage pupils to ask questions or leave messages about anything they are unsure of!
Lesson #7: Don’t be scared to bring your personality in.
In light of the new GCSE syllabus and in the spirit of #WomenED, I have created a little ‘feminism’ display on the window with a poster I picked up from the NATE conference in Nottingham this year. The speech bubbles around the figurehead are full of quotes from literature and celebrities about why feminism matters to them. I think it is important that there is a bit of you in your classroom!
Lesson #8: Make it somewhere you want to be.
I’m going to be spending 25 hours a week in this room, if not more. If I’m going to be spending that many hours in my classroom, I’d at least like it to be somewhere that I want to be. I’ve got bunting up & a cloud chalkboard (all from Tiger!) which has the ‘word of the week’. I’ve got cards from students and colleagues around the room as well as bright, colourful displays. I have a reed diffuser (99p from Wilkos!) which makes the room smell lush and students always comment on how nice it smells. I almost never have the lights on in favour of having the curtains open and letting the natural light pour in.
Lesson #9: Know where to shop.
By all means not necessary but something I enjoy doing nonetheless! I love going into Tiger, Søstrene Grene, ASDA’s reduced/offer aisle, Wilko’s, IKEA etc. to see what little bits and pieces they have for the classroom. I also use raffle tickets as a behaviour management strategy – when names are pulled from the raffle ticket jar, they then get to pick a little prize. I made these bags for about £1 each by buying things from a mix of the shops above.
Lesson #10: Team English is always there to help!
Honestly the best resource I have ever discovered. This bunch of beautiful & generous individuals provide endless resources, ideas and support. So if you don’t know, now you know. Go and follow them!