Room decoration reflects teachers, sparks student productivity

Savera Zulfiqar , staff reporter

Aside from teaching their respective subjects, teachers at South become interior designers for their classrooms. Often spending more time at South than they do at their homes, teachers utilize classroom space and decor to better the environment for students and themselves, creating an environment that reflects the interests of the teacher.

English teacher Debbie Cohen explained how classroom decor evolved over her years at South with the growth in population.

“Our population has increased, and some rooms are being sent to other areas [and] other departments,” Cohen said. “The English Department used to have a whole other hallway, [but] now it’s been shifted around as people moved around. We’ve been asked to share rooms more often.”

Cohen, however, also had her own classroom when she had started working at South but now shares with two other teachers. She discussed how the shift impacts what goes into decisions made for a classroom.

“I’ve actually been teaching in the same room for 14 years,” Cohen said. “A few years ago, we started having to share more [teachers]. I’ve been trying to include the other people in the choices that I make for the room.”

Along with taking the opinions of other teachers into account for the classroom, Cohen also acknowledges the feelings of the students. This is put into consideration in order to improve their learning experience.

“Having a comfortable space for students to learn that makes them feel welcome and keeps them feeling like this is a nice place to be is actually really essential, so learning spaces are key,” Cohen said.

For sophomore Sophia Lau, Cohen’s classroom created a lasting impact on her view of her teacher in her English 273 Honors class.

“The classroom decor made me like Ms. Cohen even more,” Sophia said. “She is always laughing, and is making us laugh while helping us better understand whatever we are learning. Her classroom matches her warm personality.”

According to Lau, the classroom environment changes her outlook towards what she’s learning and how she works while in the class.

“Classroom decor affects my attitude, attention span and energy, “ Lau said. “If the classroom is dull looking, I feel bored and less motivated to learn. If the classroom is vibrant and interesting, I will be more motivated to learn and feel like my creativity is stimulated.”

Across the hall, English teacher Katrina Prockovic also enjoys enhancing room atmosphere with classroom decor. Prockovic, similar to Cohen, had a classroom to herself when first teaching at South.

“My first year here I also was in one room so I was really fortunate to be able to have a single room and also there was an encouragement to decorate it, and I felt very comfortable doing that,” Prockovic said.

Current student freshman Madeline McGrath and sophomore Briana Sobecks, a former student of Prockovic, both enjoyed Prockovic’s classroom styling, stimulating their creativity.

“I like when rooms have interesting decorations, like posters related to the subject or curriculum,” Sobecks said. “I also like seeing books because I enjoy reading, and books make me feel at home.”

For McGrath, Prockovic’s room was a fresh change amongst other less personalized classrooms, creating a positive image of the class.

“When I first walked in, I thought it was a cozy, welcoming classroom, as opposed to other rooms that had no decorations,” McGrath said. “Her classroom led me to view her as a creative and fun teacher.”

In addition, Sobecks, Lau and McGrath collectively believe that classroom lighting massively impacts a classroom’s feel as well as a student’s focus.

“I would prefer a classroom to be well-lit without the lighting being too harsh,” Sobecks said. “I also prefer when classrooms have windows. My favorite aspect of the classroom is creating a cozy, community environment in order to learn the most effectively.”

Lau explained that she also likes the natural touch in a classroom and softer tones that she believes to create a homey feeling.

“I absolutely detest the white panel lights,” Lau said. “We already look at our electronic devices at school a lot, so it doesn’t help to have that light always around us. I prefer natural light. I feel more comfortable and more alert in classes where there are windows.”

For ESL teacher Robert Cowell functionality is important for him when making decisions about the classroom he teaches in. He uses his classroom space to store tools that will help students do work.

According to Cowell, he uses number lines, calendars, history books and colorful posters to brighten up the room.

“If the environment is cheerful, is bright it would affect the student’s mood and mindset as the student enters the classroom, and then hopefully for the rest of the class period,” Cowell said.

John Cowlin, Film studies and junior English Studies teacher, utilizes furniture and desk arrangement to provide style and function.

“These rooms are abominable with the lights and the walls,” Cowlin said. “The rooms need color; they don’t really have color.”

According to Cowlin, when his room was being reconstructed, he decided to shift away from his previous classroom design that had shelves with memorabilia to a classroom without shelves and maximized space. This enabled him to think of his classroom in a new way.

“I felt like it was kind of chaotic,” Cowlin said. “I was trying hard to make it look interesting but it really wasn’t leading to anything. [I like] color and big things.”

According to Cohen, Prockovic, Cowell and Cowlin, they believe the main focus for classrooms for teachers is to allow functionality while allowing a classroom to be an inviting and inspiring place to learn.

“The more a space can afford teachers flexibility and how they use it the better.” Cohen said. The most important thing that goes on in a classroom is teaching students. I spend a lot of time in a classroom and I want it to feel homey: I want it to be homey for me, and I want it to be homey for the kids.”