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Teaching Tips for Making Your Classroom Your Own

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Have you ever felt overwhelmed or bogged down by the endless information, resources, and inspiration we have at out fingertips? In this modern era, with a simple search on Pinterest, YouTube, or Instagram, our screens are flooded with tons of ideas and photos on just about anything you’re looking for. While on one hand, if you’re looking for teaching tips or classroom decor inspiration, this can seem great. But on the other, it’s very easy to feel like you’re not doing enough. If you’ve landed here a time or two, you’re not alone! Let’s talk about simple and effective tips I’ve discovered to help you make your classroom your own.

This image says, "Teaching Tips for Making Your Classroom your own!" and includes an image of a teacher standing in her classroom.

What Does ‘Making Your Classroom Your Own’ Really Mean?

This image shows a teacher looking at a laptop.

What does making your classroom your own even mean? I’m talking about creating a space that is uniquely reflective of you and your teaching style. You can gather up all the information on “ideal” classroom learning environments, decor, and teaching styles, but ultimately – there’s got to be enough of YOU in there to really make it work.

 I absolutely love the fact that there is soooooo much information available to us through the internet and technology in general. I also love the world of teacher blogs and all the collaboration that those allow. But, I have to be careful not to try and be someone else or do what someone else is doing just because it seems “perfect”. This is a BIG but for me, and something I must be mindful of as I’m scouring the internet for teaching tips and tricks.  I don’t know about you, but for me, it can be so easy to see something spectacular on a blog, Pinterest, or on YouTube and immediately feel like I NEED to be doing it. While this might seem innocent at first, when this happens, I don’t feel like we are being the best teachers we can be.

My Personal Story

In this image, a teacher is doing celebratory hand motions with her students.

Now don’t get me wrong, I use lots of ideas from the internet.  But, for me, it’s all about finding ways to make these ideas my own. This has allowed me to be the most authentic in my classroom and ultimately made me a better teacher. But I’m getting ahead of myself here!

Before I explain my How To – let me give you a How Not To example. One summer as I was preparing for my first year of teaching kindergarten. I was a crazy reading lady trying to get as much information as possible. In my search, I stumbled upon the Whole Brain Teaching concept and started digging. I was so excited to find some great primary-level videos on YouTube of teachers using WBT in their classrooms! This is great for me because I am very visual. 

I loved it, did more reading, tried to learn more, and then school started. I couldn’t wait to share it with my kids. But what I found was that I was trying to “be” just like the videos I had seen. For me, it felt unnatural and a little forced. I realized that I was breaking one of my cardinal rules – Make it Mine! 

The Solution – Make Teaching Tips Your Own

So after realizing this, did I chuck WBT in the trash can? No way! This was good stuff and would definitely benefit my kids! But I tweaked it and made it mine. I realized that I didn’t have to use the same type of voice inflections and the same over-the-top movements to keep my students just as engaged as the class on YouTube. In fact, I felt as if I were performing for my students and I knew that was not an act I could keep up for 180 days!

Trust Yourself

In this image, a teacher is looking at a book and her lesson plans.

So how do I make it mine?  Well, first and foremost I go with my gut! I feel like my gut instincts are usually pretty good. I have learned to trust myself and go for it. Sometimes it seems crazy and sometimes much less fanfare and excitement than I had planned. But going with my gut also means I must be flexible.  Sometimes my gut changes an activity right in the middle of the lesson. I have to say that those have been some of my best activities and some of my best days teaching! You know yourself better than anyone – trust yourself!

Learn From Others – Don’t Be Others

Second, I realized, I am a researcher.  I like to blame this on law school – but I actually see the roots of it back to childhood. By researcher, I mean that I like to find everything I can on a subject matter. Now sometimes this is constrained by time, but I do what I can. This is where the world of teacher blogs and Pinterest comes in so handy! 

However, what I do with all that information is the key. Instead of trying to be like what I read, I choose to be a learner and then doer in my own way. My motto here is “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”. I tuck away those nuggets of information that work for me, make sense, or that I just really like. If I disagree with something or don’t like an activity, I don’t just “throw out” everything. What ends up happening is that I can take great teaching tips, ideas and activities but use them in a way that authentic to my classroom. 

Putting My Own Spin on Teaching Tips

I quite often take ideas from two or three different places and use them together to create an activity that works for me and more importantly works for my kiddos. Do I ever find an activity and print it off and use it my room, absolutely! I also love to share and plan with my amazing team of teachers, but I don’t always do the same things just because everyone else is doing it. What works for one set of kids might not work for another. Not to mention, things tend to change from year to year as well! Do we teach the same concepts – absolutely!  Do we all do identical activities – nope.  I love that I work for an administration that supports this too.

Personalized Teaching Tips in Action

Here’s another example of teaching tips and ideas that I morphed into my own lesson perfect for my room and my kids!

This image shows an example of one of my teaching tips where I took an idea that I found online and made it my own.

I knew we would be learning about the parts of a sentence.  I started “researching ideas” and I found tons of great projects and ideas for teaching this concept to students. One of the cutest and most popular was a sentence strip that looked like a baseball player. His arms were a “noun and verb” and his body was the sentence strip. His hat had a C to symbolize a capital sentence and his shoes had all the possible punctuation marks. Super cute, right?!

But in my head, I just kept coming back to the idea of “building” sentences using a construction theme.  So I created a lesson on my interactive whiteboard. It was based on the idea of a “blueprint for building a sentence” and included all of the same things the baseball guy did but with a fun construction theme. However, I still was thinking about the super cute Sentence Boy.  So I turned that into these cute construction workers.

So that is kind of how my brain works when I am planning.  Instead of throwing out the cute craftivity or changing my gut instinct to go with a building theme, I just merged them and made a few changes.  This was a great lesson and we referred back to our construction workers all year!

Making Teaching Tips Work By Staying True To You!

Last, I stay true to myself and let my love of teaching drive me. There are some AMAZING teachers out there. Sometimes I find myself thinking – if only I was like {enter your favorite teacher blogger here}. The problem with that thinking is that I don’t really know that person. I don’t know what they are like or how they teach. But I do have my “vision” of them. I am really good at putting together my “vision” of what others are like – and for some reason, they are usually close to perfect. That’s a lot to live up to! 

This image shows a teacher that smiling with her students.

I have to step back and remind myself that I am not someone else – I am Amy and I just have to be me. I believe that our kiddos are smart and they know if you’re fake or if you’re real. When it comes down to it, they just want a teacher who loves them, believes in them, and pushes them to be the best they can be. So this year, relieve yourself of the pressure of living up to what you think someone else is, and just be yourself! 

When I do all of these things together, I end up being the teacher I want to be and a classroom that fits me – and my students! And don’t forget, this applies to classroom decor, lessons, and everything else in your room! No need for a Pinterest-Perfect Classroom, in fact, I don’t even think they exist! If you’re in need of more encouragement for the classroom, be sure to read this post next!

Looking for More?

Check out these posts for more ways to show up better in the classroom as the best teacher you can be!

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Looking for some teaching tips that will help you to make your classroom your own this school year? In this post, I share some of my favorite tips for avoiding comparison traps and tweaking lessons, so you can make your classroom your own.

Comments

  1. Heather W says

    This is such a great post! I know many teachers feel overwhelmed that they aren't doing everything they see on Pinterest. However, just as you stated, they don't need to! I maybe use 10% of the things I pin, but I always have ideas in my head and fall-back activities that I know I can go to if needed. Thank you so much for validating my feelings with this post! I'm off to pin it now! 🙂
    ~HoJo~

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