It’s more than just a room to deliver a lesson, more than just a space where kids will sit to take a test. It’s your classroom: the place where you and your students will be spending a considerable amount of time every day, every week, for most of the year.
For those just starting their teaching career, setting up your room so that it meets your needs and that of your students’ might seem like a daunting task. So, NYSUT asked teaching veterans for some advice:
“Look and promote different ways to encourage kids to think of their classroom as their home because you want them to be comfortable there,” said Kellee Bonenfant, a teacher at Troy Middle School near Albany who’s been an educator for 30 years.
Rachel Murat, the 2020 New York State Teacher of the Year, agrees.
“Make sure that you have a homey environment that is welcoming for the students when they come in,” said Murat, a Social Studies teacher at Maine-Endwell High School just outside Binghamton. “It’s great to have snacks if you can, because when kids are hungry they don’t focus as well.
Murat added to pay particular attention to the flow of your space.
“It’s great to have student artwork and great to have posters about what you teach. (But) you want to make sure it’s not too busy because for some kids that’s going to be anxiety-inducing and distracting.”
As a special education teacher, Bonenfant often incorporates balls, jump ropes, super-hero figures and other non-traditional learning tools into her lessons, and she encourages new teachers to not hesitate introducing into their classrooms items that take learning to places “beyond paper and pencil.”
Bonenfant also said in preparing your class for a new year, it’s worth reaching out to the community.
“Sometimes, people out in (local) businesses, when you say you’re a teacher and you work for such and such school, they will give you things for free or discount,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to use that.”