Teacher Tip #5

Beautiful classrooms can be expensive. I’m here to tell you:

Quit breaking the bank.

Don’t spend money on making things pretty.

There’s definitely pressure in the elementary world to have cute, imaginative, vibrant classrooms. I understand it. Kids are cute, so we want their learning environment to mirror their cuteness. Nevertheless, I’m here to let you know, there’s no pressure to spend money on making things cute, or pretty, or fancy.


Well, let me remind you that a beautiful classroom does not equate to rigorous teaching, or an abundance of learning. Teachers are great because of how they teach, not how they decorate their classrooms. Secondly, as students get older the decorations get more and more minimalist, if present at all. If secondary teachers feel no need, or receive no push, to decorate their classrooms neither should elementary teachers. Finally, you earned your money, spend it on you. If you want, and can spend hundreds, or thousands, of dollars on a new theme with bulletin boards, posters, bins, and chairs to match, go for it, but most people I know have tighter budgets–and that’s okay.

In fact, here are some tips and ideas for creating a great learning environment without going over budget:

  • Paint. If you can get permission, and if you plan to stay in your room for awhile, invest in paint. Hire a student for a mural, or simply sponge paint the walls. Choose colors carefully (think calming colors). If you paint your room, it looks happier, brighter, and more spacious–and you only have to spend money once.
  • Make your own posters. Fancy posters are great and durable, but they can add up quickly. Handmade posters are not only cheaper, but they can also be transformed into living documents that promote student participation and an ownership of learning–added bonus!
  • Skip the teacher store. Teacher stores are magnificent; however, even with a discount, they’re pricey. Instead, try the Target dollar section, Dollar Tree, the 99 cent store, or a craft store for items that add color, or provide other sources of classroom decor. You’re spending money, but it’s a lot less money.
  • End of the year swap. Instead of throwing things out, exchange items with other teachers at your school. You get new items, you get to clean out your closet, and you don’t have to spend anything!
  • Craigslist. My first year of teaching I wrote a post letting people know that I was starting my teaching career and needed supplies. You would not believe the response! A couple of places I had to drive a fair amount of time (60-90 minutes) but I received so much in return. I even found a retiring teacher who gave me a ton of primary supplies. Only one person asked for money–$20 for a mountain of books and stuffed animals. People are generous, especially to teachers, seek them out, especially at the end of the school year (think retirement).
  • DonorsChoose: a platform for teachers to write grants to receive much needed supplies, or supplies for augmented and/or special learning. Over the course of 5 years I received over $5,000 worth of items through DonorsChoose. I received markers, colored pencils, 10 sets of primary books, a bookcase, playground equipment, math journals–you name it! It’s a little bit of work–you have to write a proposal, thank the donors, and send pictures, but it’s more than worth it. I mean people are donating to you, you should send them a thank you note and a picture, right?

This is just a sampling of great ways to save money and still manage to have a little pizzazz in the classroom, or a great way to get some basic supplies without breaking the bank.

Teaching is an incredible profession. It is rewarding, dynamic, and always an adventure. However, it’s incredibly difficult work too. Therefore, I advocate finding creative ways to bolster the learning environment while still keeping that hard-earned cash. 💵💵



**On secondary classrooms: I want to note that I have seen some insanely beautiful secondary classrooms; however, the bulk of what I have seen, and the driving experience that has been shared by every secondary person I know, is that classroom decor is not nearly as rich and the pressure to have thoroughly decorated classrooms is non-existent in comparison to elementary folks. I want to make sure my earlier comment doesn’t offend; my lens is overwhelmingly elementary and I can speak to my experience that the pressure or the push feels grander than what I have heard or noticed in the secondary world.

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