To me, a classroom is like a restaurant. The decor may be spectacular, but it’s the food served that matters. Put another way, it’s not so much what the classroom looks like; it’s how good the teacher is. Many will disagree with me, but those who believe the classroom matters are missing the point of a good education.
If I were an elementary school teacher, I would ask a parent volunteer to decorate the room. Or I would invite the parents in the classroom to draw lots and team up with some other parent to take turns decorating the room on the theme of the month. That would free me up to teach.
A chalk board, an overhead projector, a white board or an electronic board would be my choice to get students thinking about school from the time they walk in. I would be interested in building vocabulary for starters. When I was a kid, the teacher would write a new word or two on the board for us to learn. It was an activity to do the minute we walked in and got settled at our desks. My favorite word was “bamboozle.”
Daily math facts and problem solving were also daily challenges with which we started the day. Later, when we were old enough to compose a sentence, the teacher taught us the mysteries of sentences, their elasticity and complexity, which we had to imitate through practice.
Spelling was always important. The list of words and types of problems we could solve were on a sideboard as were some of he most interesting sentences we had learned to construct by ourselves because we had learned the functions of the grammar involved.
As we advanced through the grades, the best teachers were not those with wonderfully decorated boards but those who taught us well. My favorite math teacher was always the one who first explained what he was about to teach, modeled an example on the board with detailed explanations as he solved the problem, had us work on a series of problems while he checked how well we were solving, and stopped us when he noted that we were having problems, whereupon he went to the board to re-teach what he had taught while alluding to the errors we were making as he oversaw our work.
Decorating, as much as it can be lovely, is not what teachers are hired to do. Decoration that is the work of students, however, is most important because it highlights the students’ work, progress and ingenuity, and if it is done at all, it has to be done fairly.