This chapter offers some ambitious ideas for decorating and designing your classroom. As a CPS elementary art teacher for grades k-8, I have already been given the opportunity to set up my democratic classroom. My classroom is a production studio; it is filled to the brim with supplies, posters, books, and student artwork which enhance the art making energy of the room. It is inviting and colorful; there is an abundance of objects and collections to look at. In addition to some school wide rules, I have established specific routines and expectations that help manage student behaviors which begins by making sure all students are an integral part of my classroom community. I see 850 students a week and 1480 by the end of the school year, therefore I am extremely organized and have a system for managing and keeping student work/materials. As you can imagine, my very small classroom is crowed but cozy. I noticed that the author failed to mention that administrators will have specific expectations for your classroom, so some of the “personalization” that the author mentions will be lost. Some admins require lamps, curtains, word walls, rules, library check out system, objectives, and specific colors for bulletins boards so that each classroom will be consistence. Lamps and curtains are an excellent way to add a “homey” feeling. The administrators will come into your room with a team of 5 other lead teachers who will use a checklist to make sure you have everything; sometimes they will do this while you are teaching. f
While the physical environment of my classroom is important, it can be a facade or a superficial way of determining a democratic inclusive classroom. The atmosphere is the essence of the community I aim to create. The atmosphere of a classroom is the most important aspect of creating a democratic community space, is the nurturing aspect of teaching. I see many different grade levels with many diverse learners. It is extremely important that my personality is just as bubbly/inviting as the physical environment, maybe even more so. I know it seems cheesy, but a smile can go a long way! I know veterans who say “Don’t smile till November,” but you can smile and still be an authority figure. Greeting your students at the door for every class sets the tone. Asking how their family/older sibling is doing is a way to show you are sincerely interested in their lives. Calling home to say something positive is sure to help all students succeed. I know a teacher who has special cards called “Call my Crib” and uses them when a student has a successful moment. Having an incentive program such as a classroom economy is a great tool for behavior management. Knowing their names is even better, but let’s be honest, I can’t possibly know 1,480 names. It’s a scientific fact, your brain doesn’t have the capacity to hold that many names at once. I treat my kindergarteners very different from my 6th graders. I make up songs for everything when teaching primary, this appeals to my verbal students and is playful. With middle school I like to engage them with silly catch phrases and “pair &shares.” Additionally, “Wait time” is important for ELL and SPED students and is sensitive to their needs. Your mannerisms and nonverbal communication can say a lot about you and how you are feeling.
What do your mannerisms and nonverbal communication say about you?
What type of energy and atmosphere do you want to create?
How will you create it?
What does my classroom say about the culture and environment I have created?