Some weeks I make a home cooked meal for dinner every night and spend my evenings composing well-written posts for you all to enjoy.
Other weeks I have hummus for dinner for three nights in a row and barely post my “Teacher Tuesday” before the clock switches to Wednesday.
Balance is the name of the game.
Thankfully, my classroom is finally, finally done! All anchor charts are laminated, posters are hung, and fidgets are organized. It took a lot of time, money, and love, but I am so excited about being able to teach within a warm, inviting environment for here on out.
You might remember, I was assigned a former computer room/office to use for my high school-level small group special education classes just before the start of the school year. When I first met my miniature room, it looked like this.
Day one involved bargaining with the janitors for better tables and chairs and a whole lot of dragging furniture around.
That night I scrounged in my attic and my parent’s basement for classroom supplies, grabbed what I could, and then put in a hefty Amazon order. I always budget about $500 a year to go back towards my students and classroom; this is normal among teachers. I see it as an investment in my student’s educational experiences, as well as my own professional experience.
Now, it looks like this!
When I first discovered “classroom decor” posts on Pinterest a few years back, I was so annoyed at how little there was for A) special education classes and B) high school classes. I love reading and watching teacher blogs and vlogs, but it’s not really appropriate to apply tips and tricks suggested by a 2nd grade general education teacher to a special education high school program. High school classroom decor pins are few and far between, and special education classroom decor pins are even harder to come by. This experience made me really eager to finish up all my organizational projects and post/pin all the classroom decor ideas I’ve found to be most useful and effective for my population over the years!
Here’s the view from my desk today, one week into the school year:
Kind of pink, I know. I like to keep my desk facing the door for a better vantage point.
Since I teach small groups of 7-9 special education students throughout the day, I have a pretty small room. I’ve found that it’s super important to create several different seating areas to use during Academic Support sessions, when every student might be working on a different subject and task.
I splatter painted some letters from Michaels and taped up some anchor charts I picked up at the Dollar Tree years ago to decorate the wall above my most secluded work area. This spot is great for distractible students who need frequent refocusing prompts, since my desk is right next door. I was also able to tuck an old set of Sterilite drawers I’ve had since college beside this table to hold extra tissues, cleaning supplies, and bulletin board supplies.
I like to create big calendars where I can plug in upcoming assessments and school events as they pop up. I use chart paper to do this, and some months I get artsier than others. This was not a pretty calendar month, but wait until October!
I also hemmed an old set of curtains I found in my attic and hung them with an old shower rod I found in my parent’s basement. Upcycling at it’s finest!
I used a bookshelf that came with the room to create a self-serve supply center. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s being interrupted while I am working with a small group on a skill lesson by a 16-year-old who lost his pencil. I keep this area super organized and label what I can so it is easier for kids to grab and go!
I managed to scavenge some old 8.5×11 Sterilite drawers, dollar store baskets, and Ikea containers from my own collection of old classroom decor to set this area up. I provide pens, pencils, all kinds of paper, spare folders, page protectors, index cards, scissors, colored pencils, a stapler… basically the whole Staples back to school section for my students. I also have a pretty solid collection of gently used YA novels for students to skim when they finish their homework. All I ask for in return is for all students to respect our supplies and classroom.
Oh, I also hung an enlarged copy of our school’s wildly complicated block schedule above all the supplies.
I decided to make one of our bulletin boards into a wall of awesome. So far it’s just a bunch of printed out memes and a student’s abstract doodles, but I have high hopes. As a non-grading, tutorial based program, I don’t really have any student work products to showcase, so I’m trying this out this year!
Right as you walk in I created a work pick-up spot. My students all take different course levels, with different teachers, at different times of day…so it’s hard to keep track of who needs to do what when they come in for supportive tutorial time. Whenever I have a few students working on a similar project or task, I like to keep copies of the assignment and any helpful resources on hand; I also like to keep some mandalas, sudoku, and crosswords around for kids claiming that they have nothing to work on. I store all this in this hanging pocket organizer that my mom got me years ago.
I created a small group work area with some 10th-grade curriculum-aligned posters on the wall. I like to keep my classroom decor as applicable as possible, so I stuck with a world map to support their 10th Grade World History work, and a periodic table since all 10th graders take chemistry at my school.
My next work area sits below my self-serve graphic organizer board. I print out multiples of my most handy, age-appropriate graphic organizers and reference sheets, tuck them in page protectors, and hang that on the board. I totally stole this idea from a veteran teacher I used to work with!
I used old Sterilite stacking cubes and zip ties to create a little extra storage beside my teacher desk; this is where I keep binders, games, text books and fidgets. I also use one of these crates for student IEP files behind my desk (not pictured for privacy reasons!)
I hit up the dollar store for some fidgets this year, as well. I used to not believe in fidgets for older kids, but I’m giving them a shot because some of my students really do benefit from sensory experiences throughout their day. I made some kinetic sand, ordered some squeezy balls on Amazon, grabbed a party pack of off-brand play dough at Dollar Tree and even created some sorting bins with dried beans and old buttons. I store everything in dollar store containers. So far my students have loved it!!
I hope you’ve enjoyed peeking into my high school special education resource room! I love my job, even when I have to be a jack of all trades, teaching four subjects at once:) I really believe that creating a warm and organized space helps make students feel safe and supported.
Now You Tell Me…
- Do you remember your favorite teacher’s classroom from when you were a student? (Ah, 8th grade Latin…)
- Any suggestion for cheap/easy sensory toys and fidgets? My students are really enjoying these!
- TEACHERS! Fave graphic organizer?