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Jan. 9, 2017

A Classier Classroom

by Neva Taylor, Entertainment Editor
A common misconception about Blair is that it’s easy to get lost traversing the halls because of the school’s size. What really makes it hard to find your way is that all the classrooms look the same. Imagine if each room had its own unique decor or theme, making them easy to distinguish not just by the number on the door, but by what it actually looks like.

Picture the ideal learning environment. Are the walls covered in inspirational clichés that say, "You can do it," pictures of landscapes or funny quotes? Are there windows to let in natural light? Is it just four blank walls, painted puke-beige? Thankfully many teachers are trying their best to make their classrooms a little classier, one poster at a time.

There are a few ever-present staples of the Blair classroom. They all feature the lockdown, shelter and emergency exit signs beside the door. Every English classroom has at least one "READ" sign, and most classrooms have the same rules and regulations poster which states the general rules that students should follow while at Blair. None of that can really count as decor, so some teachers have gone above and beyond to make their classrooms more exciting and less drab.
Ms.Sloe's science room is filled with pictures representing what she teaches about - life itself. Leah Phillips
Ms.Sloe's science room is filled with pictures representing what she teaches about - life itself.

Blair science teacher Darcy Sloe is at a disadvantage. Her science classroom has no windows, making it even harder to create light and excitement. One wall is covered entirely in calendar cut outs of cute baby animals. There are baby birds, polar bears and elephants, all in their natural habitats, looking cute as can be. The wall opposite is papered with illustrations of fruits and vegetables in the shape of everyday objects, like a squash or a strawberry in the shape of a dog.

Even Sloe’s ceiling is pleasing to the eye, providing a place from which mobiles of atoms and origami double helixes can dangle. The bright and lively room hopes to breed equally bright and lively students. "I teach about life and how life exists and I want my classroom to reflect that. I hope it'll inspire the kids to be engaged in what we are learning too," Sloe explains.

Although colorful classrooms seem to have a beneficial effect on students, sometimes it can be too much, causing distractions instead of concentration. "I find it a little distracting because the pictures are everywhere, but I like them - especially all the cute baby animals," said junior Kanani Jiang.

While decorative classrooms do make for a more engaging learning environment, some teachers fix up their rooms for themselves just as much as for their students. Blair English teacher Sandra Jacobs-Ivey loves spending time in her uniquely designed room.

Jacobs-Ivey accredits her teaching mentor for her colorful classroom decor. "When I started teaching 28 years ago, my mentor decorated her room with bright posters like mine. Even though I didn't have a lot of money back then I made posters out of wrapping paper and glitter, just to bring some life into my classroom," she says. Jacobs-Ivey wants kids to feel safe and comfortable in her classroom. She believes that school should be a place not only to read and take tests but also to be creative and express new ideas.

Jacobs-Ivey's classroom is covered roof to floor in something. That something could be a poster, a painting or even a giant potted plant. There is almost no visible wall space that isn't covered by something. The room gives off a warm orange hue thanks to its red, yellow, pink and orange color scheme. She likes her classroom to remind her and her students of the sun. "My mentor had a sun in her room and I loved it, so I wanted to embody that here," Jacobs-Ivey explains.

Even in her sunny room, the thing that stands out the most for Jacobs-Ivey's students is the skeleton. Ms. Skelly hangs directly to the left of the door, making it the first thing you see as you walk into class. She has a blonde wig, black shirt and pink shorts, and a dagger protruding from her chest. "She is the interminable student," Jacobs-Ivey says. "The student who never left school. Now she just holds whatever book we are reading at the time."
Ms.Jacobs-Ivey wants her room to entice her students to learn more. Leah Phillips
Ms.Jacobs-Ivey wants her room to entice her students to learn more.

Goofy, silly decorations like Ms. Skelly are what make the classroom a better place. They make kids enjoy learning. Maybe not enjoy it, but at least not want to jump out of a window because the class is so boring. Livening up the classroom with decorations does help with attentiveness in the classroom. Senior Karuna Nandkumar, a student of Jacobs-Ivey's, really appreciates the extra effort her teacher has put into the classroom. "I always have something to read, and I guess in English class that is the main objective," she explains.

Keeping kids engaged is exactly what Jacobs-Ivey and Sloe want to accomplish. Both teachers acknowledge that sometimes the posters and paintings can be distracting but the benefits outweigh the negatives. "If I have to have a kid not paying attention in class, at least he's reading one of my posters about being positive or striving to be the best you can be, at least somehow they are learning something," Jacobs-Ivey explains.

Hopefully more teachers will follow the example set by Sloe and Jacobs-Ivey. In some cases it's not that kids don't want to learn, it’s just that they have no interest. Posters with role models or paintings of places that one might wish to visit some day can inspire students to put more effort into their schoolwork. These are the things kids want in their classrooms. Oh, and Ms. Skelly. Everyone needs a skeleton in their classroom, too.



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