Is Your Instagram Worthy Classroom Sending the Wrong Message?
I’m not sure what got into me this year, but I just had an awakening one morning and made a personal declaration. No more! I, literally, go into more debt every summer in order to have a classroom that impresses parents and pleases my Principal. Mind you, the Principal/school system does not supply any of the tools, supplies, or resources necessary for this beautification. Yet, the expectation is there. THEN, I gave it further thought. I really hate to say it, and I am a part of this “little problem”, but I think that we teachers are to blame for this. I really do. What do you think about this? Honestly. Are we trying to live up to having Instagram-Worthy classrooms? Are all the coordinating….EVERYTHING….necessary? Who began this trend? Why have so many of us followed suit?
Pick an Instagram (IG) page of any teacher that you can think of. Actually, choose a few. Scroll through their posts. What do you see posted? I know that I witness some of the most beautiful classrooms that I have ever seen!! What about you? I’m talking coordinating everything! I see freshly painted tables- tables from Ikea. Posters inside of picture frames. Couches that have been refurbished with new cloth coverings. Coordinating curtains and valances. Tires that have been turned into flexible seating options. Brand new books on newly purchased book shelves. Book bins. Reading Buddy baskets/buckets with lovely Cricut cut-outs. Do you want me to keep listing what I have seen? LOL I can’t type that much. My carpal tunnel is shouting for me to halt my drama! ha ha Here is a link to my IG page. You can see that I am trying very hard to stick to my guns about not spending more than I need to on my room. Teach Me T on IG
Who is Driving this Phenomenon of the Beautiful Classroom?
I can more than guarantee that all of this beauty wasn’t free. I can also guarantee that the schools and school districts did not provide the monies necessary to afford such jaw-dropping beauty. Well, let’s talk about it. Who is to blame for this turn of events? Are we, the teachers, behind this drive? Are the schools/school systems to blame? I realize that we often say that our classrooms are “our home away from home” and that we want it to be pretty and comfortable for that reason. However, to what cost? What message do you think that all of our purchases, decorations, and designs send to parents? Students? Fellow teachers? School systems?
Honestly, my mind is in a whirlwind with many thoughts on this matter. I’m not sure where to begin. I could talk about the impact that it has on fellow teachers. What if you are a teacher that cannot personally afford to have all of the newest and nicest decor? What if you simply can’t add to the teacher expenses column of your spreadsheet? Perhaps you are a single parent, or have student loans to repay, or work for a school system where the salary isn’t very high. I actually do have a Teacher Friend that posted a very emotional post on IG about this. She shared that she was going to stop scrolling through because the other posts made her feel bad about herself since she could not afford to dec her room out like others were doing.
Is my classroom a reflection of how “good of a teacher” I am? Think about how many times someone has commented on someone being “an amazing teacher” based on the decor of their classroom. Is that really a testament to how effective and powerful a teacher is? Is a beautiful classroom all that I need to be considered a great teacher? Your thoughts on this? Am I REALLY an amazing teacher just because my classroom is ah-mazing?!
Heading back to what initially inspired this post was a question that I posted on my Facebook page. I wanted to know if teachers were spending their own money on classroom resources. Someone shared with me that they had seen a story about a teacher standing on the side of the road with a sign stating that she would work for school supplies! Bold and standing ovation-worthy! Then, I thought about it… Yeah, schools don’t supply ANYTHING anymore. When I went to school, my mom purchased very few school supplies for me. She didn’t really have to. Fast forward to when I first began to teach. I didn’t buy paper or other basic supplies. Yes, I had to “add” decorations out of pocket, but I did have supplies.
Okay, I breezed past that comment. Actually, my first full-time teaching positions cost me almost a full balance on a credit card. I had no money. I was a fresh college graduate with no income and loads of student loan debt. The room that I was given had been a storage room and it didn’t have any windows. I didn’t have ANYTHING, but was expected to turn it into something spectacular. So, what other choice did I have? Did I have a choice? I wanted to impress my Principal- didn’t I? I wanted to be offered a full-time contract. So… didn’t that mean that I needed to create a classroom that was beautiful and inviting. Didn’t it? What other option(s) did I have? What options do we have as educators? Did I create my own issue of over-the-top teacher expenses?
Are We to Blame for Our Teacher Expenses?
Today? What does today look like for you? Stop and think for a moment. What are your out-of-pocket teacher expenses? My today looks like me whipping out a credit card every summer to get my classroom ready for my new students. Or, it’s me putting items back that I would normally purchase for my home or daughters, and using that budgeted money to buy school supplies. I’m not talking about shopping sprees in Target or Ikea. [Although, I’ll admit that sometimes I wish that I could. Those classrooms are beautiful. But, honestly, I can’t see myself spending money on that scale for rented or borrowed space. I don’t intend to teach forever.] I’m talking about the nuts and bolts that I need to work with my students. Yes, at times, I am guilty, too. I often want new borders and fresh bulletin board paper. I want matching baskets, book buddies, and fresh posters to display, too. And, yes,… You got me. I want Instagram-worthy classroom photos for my class reveal, too. It may not happen because I truly am sticking to my guns about not spending that money on my classroom. I have set a personal goal for getting out of debt within the next year or so.
Maybe this declaration is on me. Maybe the school doesn’t owe me beauty. Just a place to teach? Something in the middle? Who benefits from all of the fabulous and fancy, but definitely not free, decor? Principals? I think so. It makes them look great! Parents ooh and ah as they walk through for tours. The Superintendent is impressed and offers many pats on our Principal’s back. We receive kudos and adoration from fellow teachers. All of this adoration and recognition then perpetuates the cycle. You can’t stop having a beautiful classroom at this point. Surely, you have to maintain this look, or out do yourself the following school year. It can be a never-ending cycle of spending. It can also be exhausting and overwhelming.
What are your thoughts? Are we sending the wrong message(s) with our Instagram-worthy classrooms? Are we creating our own issues for rising out-of-pocket teacher expenses? Are we sending the message that we don’t need pay raises? After all, many of our Instagram pages look like no cost was spared. To someone on the inside scrolling through our personal magazine layout, this might convey that we are exceptionally well paid and not in need of “more money”. I don’t know about you, but I would love a raise. Actually, strike that!! I would love to be paid my worth. Teachers, we are worth it! Genuinely, we don’t have to paid in “humble” wages because “that is just the profession”. Society has created this myth that teachers don’t need much and perhaps we have not done enough to change that narrative. We are the backbone of every aspect of our world and society- every type of teacher. Why are we amongst the lowest paid? Why do we have to prove our worthiness every year (TKES anyone?!)
So….. before you hit the “post” or “post now” button, consider what message your image is sending. Think about how it might be perceived, and about who might be viewing and interpreting (or internalizing) that message. To all of my Superhero Teacher friends, you are invaluable!
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic!