You know those fluorescent lights found in most schools around the country? I’m happy to say that you won’t find them in my fifth grade classroom at Davis Elementary School in Carrollton, Texas.
I was lucky enough to get my classroom a lighting makeover, and the results are amazing! My students are better learners, they have more confidence and their moods are more positive overall. Let me explain.
The Problem With Classroom Lighting
Last year when I was teaching, my room had two windows and a couple of light switches—a pretty typical classroom setup. But lighting was always a challenge. If I wanted to use my SMART Board, I would have to dim the lights in a certain way and then adjust the lighting from the windows just so. It was a constant battle to get it right.
I also experienced a lot of headaches. I’ve actually always had headaches—it was just something I’d grown accustomed to. Of course, I never thought there was a tie between lighting and headaches—until I experienced it for myself.
Last year, I changed classrooms and had a brand-new lighting system from Acuity Brands put into place. (You can learn more about their classroom lighting here.) In my current setup, we have four main lighting options, which we call scenes. The first is when all the lights are on, though I can adjust the colors and tone. The second is when the lights are dimmed in the front, perfect for when we’re on the SMART Board. The third option dims the lights just in the back, so it’s perfect if someone is presenting.
The last option is my favorite. It’s when the lights are dimmed way down. We use this a lot of times when students are coming back from specials or recess. It’s amazing how it can calm students and get them ready to learn again.
Importance of Mindfulness
This last lighting option goes hand in hand with a big effort my school has been making over the past several years with regard to mindfulness. You hear a lot of schools talking about this, and we are definitely using it and seeing great results.
It can be hard for kids to control their emotions or frustrations throughout the day, and we teach them that breathing and being mindful can help them cope. Telling a student to “get over it” is never going to be the answer. So when you can give them an outlet to calm down, it can make a huge difference. Now combine this with the tool of better lighting, and you can really see a difference.
Bringing New Confidence
Lighting goes beyond mood, though. It has definitely affected academic performance for my students. A lot of my students will say that the lighting gives them better grades. Of course, I tell them it’s not just the lighting—it’s THEM! But it definitely relates.
The kids have more confidence, and this helps them perform better. For example, we have special lighting we use during test taking, and my students absolutely love it. It helps them focus and feel more secure.
And I’ve done the comparison of grades before and after the lighting. It really has led to better grades and test scores overall.
I definitely don’t miss the fluorescent lights. I’ve never seen students take ownership in their learning like mine do. I know it helps them produce their best work in my classroom, and as a teacher, that’s what you want!