Your Classroom Design Impacts How You Feel About Teaching

by | Mar 26, 2018

Classroom design. It’s our surroundings and our students’. It’s our organization, our arrangements, and our things. And, it has an impact on how we see our careers in education.

You Can’t Buy Happiness.

It’s true. I think. Although, I did read an article recently that suggested otherwise. But I digress.

Whether or not we can buy happiness, we CAN buy things. And things have the ability affect us. The ambiance and aesthetics of a space have a proven impact on our well-being. The scents, the colors, the images, the lighting, the layout, and the overall feel of a classroom can play a role in our day-to-day outlook.

Passionate teacher

The Classroom as the Third Teacher

In the Reggio Emilia approach to teaching and learning, the classroom is considered the third teacher. This refers to the classroom environment as a flexible space in which teachers and students learn together. It also means that the learning environment reflects the values we want to communicate to our students. Can you say that is true in your classroom?

Most teachers don’t have permission to change the physical color of their room or the budget to experiment with flexible layouts. The fact is that most classrooms are institutional in their aesthetic. Manilla. Plain. Many classes are overfilled which leaves little room for experimentation with seating. However, there is always something that can be done. And you don’t have to spend boat-loads of your own money at Target or become a Pinterest-worthy teacher to add some flair and make your classroom more uplifting.


A while ago I asked the AMAZING Joy in Teaching Facebook Group to share the things they surround themselves with in their classrooms that help them get through the tough days. Their responses inspired this post.

Here are some items you might want to consider for your own classroom:

(images are clickable – some products are affiliate links)

A Comfy Chair

Please imagine if you will a scratchy grey monstrosity on wheels, with exposed foam and layer upon layer of sticky duct tape covering each of the arms. This was my last teacher chair. The very few minutes I could squirrel away to sit in it were not restful and did not make feel good about my position or how I was supported. If your school doesn’t supply a good office chair you can get one pretty inexpensively and make the most of the little rest time you get.

Motivational Signs

I loved when one of the members of the Joy in Teaching Facebook Group offered up a sign with her mantra as a piece that gives her a boost during the school day. You can find all kinds of motivation in posters and signs that can offer you and your students an added nudge of positivity throughout the day.

Display Your Students’ Artwork with Pride

Instead of just tacking or taping up drawings your students do for you, make a special display area. Give your students the pride of seeing their artwork in a frame. I have several of these in my own home. These frames are uniquely front-loading so you can quickly change out what’s in them and you can store 50 pieces of artwork which allows you to store your students’ artwork neatly. They are a great investment.

An Essential Oil Diffuser.

I have used these in my own classrooms for years. They add a subtle scent and relaxing properties that can help to inspire a calm and productive work-space. There are lots of different kinds on the market with different features like lights, sounds, and USB plugs (to go right into your school computer). This one comes with the oils to get you started right away.

Some fragrances may aggravate students with sensory sensitivity, so making sure oils and fragrances are safe for your particular classes is important.


When your organization is on point your head is clear and you are more focused on what needs to be done. And school is messy, kids are messy, and when papers stack up and the day gets away it’s nice to have a system. These carts are fantastic, I even have one at home, they are mobile and they help keep everything in its place.

Your Environment Impacts Your Outlook

Support in Education to build resilience against teacher burnout

Although resilience is internal, our external environments play role in our outlook. I know this first hand. I have taught in A LOT of schools. 15 different k-12 schools (my first year was 7 of those), 3 different universities, and a handful of community organizations. I am no stranger to the public school shuffle. And, although there were some really great classrooms and fantastic teachers and students at all of them – after a while I stopped “moving in”. Each school I was shuffled to I hung less personalized material, I unpacked my boxes a little less, and my roots didn’t take hold as much. In retrospect, I can see how this impacted me. The external often represent what’s going on internally. as I placed less-and-less of myself in my classrooms I also felt less-and-less connected to my schools. Making the effort to bring pieces that represent who you are into your classroom lets your students connect with you more and also can give you a boost just when you need it.

Your Classroom Is Your Second Home

desk organization

Teachers on average spend over 50 hours a week working. Your classroom is your second home. For some of you it probably feels like your first home. Make it your own. Hang that picture, buy that silly conversation starter toy, grab your favorite mug and let your roots take hold. Consider your surroundings and place things within it that make you smile and can lighten your day. And when those tough days come, that we all have, know that you have a few things to grab hold of to help you through.

Looking for more information on teacher resilience? Check out the Joy in Teaching books.

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