Flexible Seating, Pinterest Envy, and Common Sense

Secondary Classroom Decor

I have always decorated my classroom. I want it to be homey and a place that is welcoming and somewhat comfy for my students. But my past decorating meant hanging cool posters, adding a reading lamp or two, and buying some plants to replace the ones I killed the year before. I've also arranged and rearranged my desks so many times, I can't even remember all of the configurations.

Lately, however, I've been feeling a little inadequate. I see the amazing classrooms of other teachers on Instagram and Pinterest and I feel like I'm not measuring up in the classroom environment department. My classroom looks like a dungeon compared to many that I see, and I want to run out to buy new stuff. I've even looked online to see how much it would cost to buy some chairs and tables. I was thinking that if I bought a few things this year, I could add a few more next year, and then I might have a classroom that looked like the ones I was drooling over. My seating would be flexible, my walls would be IG and Pinterest worthy...

And then I shook my head.

My job is to educate and when I actually have spare time, I need to be thinking about the best way to engage my students, not how to wow them with the decor of their classroom. Isn't what they are learning most important? Or will they actually learn more if my room looks more like the coffee shop from Friends than a classroom? I really didn't know the right answer. I still don't.

As I was pondering this, I saw a blot post from Kayse Morris of Teaching on Less about why flexible seating didn't work for her. When I read about her experience with this, I felt like she was echoing my thoughts and concerns about making things too comfy for my teens. She tried it and found it didn't enhance learning, so she went back to the basics because, as she says, "that's where the magic happens." Her post made me feel better and started me thinking about happy mediums and following what I know to be true for my teaching.

Classroom decor for middle and high school classrooms
I do not, for one moment, think that those who create amazing classroom spaces are not putting learning first. It's just that I know I don't have the time and energy (and don't want to spend the money) to do that. So as I plan my latest classroom "revamp", I will be thinking about the following things:

1. Everything that I use needs to enhance, not detract from learning. It's great to use things that make your room cozy, but most things should be learning tools - anchor charts and posters that act as visual reminders for your students. These, thankfully, are cheap. I keep a ton of chart paper, markers and post-its on hand for making anchor charts and the construction of them is also an effective learning activity.

2. Too much "stuff" can be distracting for some learners. We need to be aware of that and keep it simple or have some "quieter" spaces.

3. Anything that helps me and my students stay organized is a good thing and so new items that will do so will go to the top of my list!

4. I don't need to spend hundreds of dollars to make my classroom a place that students want to be. I will continue to find inexpensive ways to make my classroom a great space for my students, but I'm going to stop feeling bad about my OK-looking classroom, because I know that the learning that happens there trumps anything else. The lessons and activities I use and the relationships I cultivate will go a whole lot further than any decor item I could buy.

So there it is. I will be redecorating before the school year starts, but I'm going to try to keep my Pinterest-envy at bay.  I'll keep you posted!



  1. Yes! Thank you for saying what most of us are thinking!

  2. You're welcome! I just don't want new teachers feeling any more pressure than they already do!

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  4. I can't even begin to explain how affirming this post was to me! I too have fallen down the rabbit hole of Pinterest and Instagram classroom inspiration. Theodore Roosevelt said that, "comparison is the thief of joy," and I can testify that my classroom situation this past year caused me too much unnecessary grief. I have been teaching for 8 years and have taken on several DIY organization/decor projects that have made my room feel more homey but, above all, increased organization and functionality. I spend hours in my room (sometimes more than at home during waking hours!) and want to feel comfortable and inspired. Lately, I feel like there has been a real push to jump on the flexible seating/classroom makeover bandwagon and I just can't finance nor justify that cost. This past year I was split between 4 different classrooms due to over-enrolment. I could not control what those rooms looked like, how the desks were arranged (or many times in disarray). I often arrived 30 seconds before most students because I was as tied to the bell shuffle as they were. More than ever, I pushed myself to make the LEARNING experiential and engaging, not rely on a room to stimulate. In September, I get to have my own room again. Will I decorate? Yes. Will I let the aesthetics of my room be a priority? Nope. Will I focus on my practice, student engagement, and diversified activities? YOU BET.

    1. Lydia, thanks so much for your response. I'm glad to hear it affirmed your own thoughts. The classroom sharing is another issue that I forgot to mention. In my high school, we teach three of four periods, and we often have to share our class with another teacher when we have our prep period. I have the opposite issue as you: I have no control over who shares with me, and it may be someone who is a little more traditional and couldn't handle the idea of flexible seating. It can also be a teacher who is still honing their management skills, and having to manage my "decor" is a problem for them. There are just so many factors to consider, but as you said, the most important one is the learning! Best of luck in the fall :)

  5. Flexible seating does not mean comfy cozy! It just means options. In my classroom, I have regular desks, standing desks, round tables, and one cubby desk. Each day, students choose where to work (sometimes with some guidance from me). It's flexible but it's still serious work space, not a lounge.

    1. Thanks for pointing that out, Erin. It's an important distinction.