A Pretty Classroom Isn’t What Makes a Great Teacher

The beginning of the school year has arrived. Students are turning up early, bag spots and lockers are being sorted and families are happily waving goodbye after six weeks of slightly torturous hell holidays.

On the teacher front we are madly getting set for the year ahead.

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Oh God! Oh God! Oh God! It’s all too much!

Printing, laminating, brainstorming, researching, planning, cutting, thinking, pinning, sorting, mental ruminating, checklist…ing and a little bit more laminating (there’s always more laminating to do).

The start of the school year is quite a big deal for teachers.

This year I’ve been incredibly lucky to have two graduates in my team – one fresh out and the other moving into their third year. Both are committed, enthusiastic and genuinely excited about their work.

But, there’s been something unexpected that has come up while watching them (and various other staff in our primary school) as they prepare for the year ahead – the pressure to have a picture perfect room.

Office Panic

Even before they wander down the challenging, funny, exciting, creative and tough road that is teaching, they’re unknowingly getting caught in an incredibly dangerous landscape: Pinterest and Facebook Teaching Groups.

Here’s an insight into what’s been attacking my eyeballs, ears and head for the last six weeks:

Yes! Class welcome poster and door all done and dusted! 

My reading corner all set up with amazing cushions! #homemade #DIY

Class hall of fame wall finally completed!

I’ve seen some great values walls out there – any ideas on how to build and fund a wall?!

OMG! Brain-based strategy wall is now fully decorated!*

How do you fix a laminator that has swallowed a sheet?!

Does anyone know where to find a waterslide or retractable hammock that could be used in my reading corner?

Seriously.

(Okay, two of those I didn’t actually see).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a classroom that is full of colour, silliness, excitement and inquisitiveness, and these digital groups can be amazing for ideas. But, they’re also amazing at invading your headspace with guilt and pressure.

And teachers definitely don’t need to put more pressure on themselves.

Especially when they are just beginning or establishing their career in education.

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Mr McGregorson** just can’t take another Pinterest fail.

But, if the beginning of the school year isn’t about having the most pristine/awe-inspiring/nerve wrecking/creative room from Day One, what is it about?

Those brilliant individuals who will fill it up each and every day.

Yes, they need a space that allows them to question and wonder.

Yes, they need organisation, space and inspiration.

Yes, they need colour and brightness.

But what they really need is a teacher that actually cares about them and wants to get to know them.

Head Nodding.gif
Y’all heard right – relationships matter.

You could have the greatest room with the greatest reading corner (with a hammock AND a waterslide) but if you don’t know how to connect with your kids you’re really missing the point. (Any space can become a perfect reading corner – just give kids a book they may interested in and the freedom to choose where they would like to comfortably read).

Sometimes we are getting so caught up in making our rooms look like we are great teachers that we miss opportunities to actually be great teachers.

(Sidenote: When we know our kids, our workload and stress can be reduced:

Less time thinking about how to engage kids + reduced behaviour management issues + shorter report writing times = happy teachers).

Don’t stress if your room isn’t Pinterest or Facebook Perfect. Instead, put that energy into getting to know the kids in your room, finding out about them and discovering their stories.

Find out how you can connect their experiences and understandings with the concepts and areas that will be coming up. Personalise their experience in the classroom.

That’s what great teachers do.

 

*I’m not going to lie, this one confused me…isn’t every strategy you use brain-based?
**Not really Mr McGregorson

 

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