Classroom parent: “Hey, I’m a designer for HGTV and DIY. Can I help you redesign your classroom?” Teacher: HECK, YES!
This was a real-life situation recently for one of our favorite teachers on the WeAreTeachers Helpline. Middle school honors math teacher Kirk Humphreys’ classroom space was a little bit like a fishbowl. Formerly a small computer lab, it came with not much space and lots of windows that looked out into the busy library. He knew he wanted to personalize his space to make it more usable and inviting.
Read about all the hard work he and professional designer Suzanne Falk put into this classroom upgrade which transformed his space into one of the hippest, coziest classrooms we’ve seen!
What was your motivation for wanting to personalize your classroom space?
If I’m going to be in my classroom as many hours as I am, I want it to be inviting, not sterile. I want it to be a place where kids want to be. My classroom is a flipped classroom and my students are self-directed in their learning. The class is self-paced meaning they choose what they work on and when they’re ready to test. I want our space to match that teaching philosophy. I want my students to be in control and make the space their own.
So how did your awesome classroom transformation come about?
Well, it’s a lot of hard work. I always want to be proactive about improving my classroom so I had a lot of the basics already. I usually come up with an idea about what I’m looking for, then I look around and I make something happen. For example, I wanted new tables and chairs and found some that I loved from Steel Case. I went to the PTO to see if they would help fund them and they did. I also highly recommend stalking places going out of business—that’s where I’ve found some of my favorite furniture. My tall bar table came from a Quiznos, the two pillars I use as flex tables from a Hallmark store and two super nice Hon chairs from Office Depot—all of them going out of business.
Tell us about the parent who volunteered to pull it all together for you.
One of my student’s moms, Suzanne Falk, is a designer for shows on HGTV and DIY network. She saw on my school Facebook class page that I was painting my room and messaged me to see if she could help redesign my classroom. Lucky me! We talked about what I needed most for my classroom (organization!) and she drew up plans and worked on many of the amazing details such as accent walls and accessories like mason jar organizers. She helped me win a classroom grant from IKEA which provided all new organizational furniture for my classroom. (For more classroom ideas from IKEA, click here)
Now that it’s done, what is your favorite thing about the new room?
I love how my classroom looks and feels like home. It’s comfortable and inviting and I think my students really appreciate the way it feels.
How have your kids reacted?
Just as I had hoped, my kids love the space and have quickly made it their own. It’s so nicely organized now, they can grab what they need- no need to ask, and get to work. They’re very respectful about putting things back and keeping the space organized.
How have your fellow teachers reacted?
They love it! I’m pretty low key about it, but a lot of them have come in and complimented it. I’m very big on sharing the love with my co-workers, and they know whenever I get new stuff I give away all my old stuff.
What is your best advice for other teachers who want to personalize their space?
My biggest piece of advice would be to be proactive. Go out and make things happen. Find out about any grants available for teachers, like IKEA’s. Keep your eye out for any business or store that is going out of business, then just go in and ask. You’d be surprised how much stuff is just going to go to waste, so why not?
Be aware of seasonal decorations in stores that they will most likely just get rid of when they’re though with them. For instance, I’ve gotten Halloween ceiling decorations from Target and other promotional items from stores like Express and Gap. I always figure there’s no harm in asking.
Also, take advantage of social media. I posted pictures of my flexible seating on Twitter. A company tweeted back and said ‘Hey, we’d like to send you $250 in furniture.’ Uh, sure! Tweet out reviews for products you like and want for your classroom. Tweet at businesses and ask for things.
And, tap into your parent resources. You might get lucky like I did!
Do you have an amazing classroom space? Share in the comments below.