I don’t know about you, but I can honestly say that I don’t remember the majority of my college professors.
Now let me just say, it hasn’t been THAT long since I was in the undergraduate classroom, but as with most things in life, memories just seem to fade over time. I could probably count on one hand the professors that come to mind easily from my undergrad days. They are, of course, the ones that had an impact on me for one reason or another.
Thinking back, in hindsight, I can say these are most definitely the professors who had a strong sense of purpose in the classroom. Whether it was elementary math, intermediate history, teaching reading to struggling learners, or behavior management 101, I remember these teachers because they were the ones who were so absolutely passionate about their niche.
One of these professors was my elementary math professor. We’ll call her Mrs. K.
Mrs. K was intimidating. Before she even set foot inside of our classroom, her reputation preceded her. She was a tough New Yorker (absolutely daunting to this small town Kentucky girl). She was to the point, all business, and demanded excellence. For me, her subject was intimidating as well.
At this point you might be thinking to yourself, hold up Lauren… you said *elementary* math. Come onnn. How hard could elementary math be?!
I know, I know. My fear of math was no joke though!
So on the first day of class Mrs. K walked in and said something along the lines of this:
”Many of you in this room *hate* math. You might even say you’re scared of math. But what you really mean is that you hate being *intimidated* by math. It’s my goal this semester to demystify math for you and show you how it can be both relevant and (gasp) fun.”
HA! I believed she would make me enjoy math just about as much as I believed our university basketball team would win the NCAA tournament that year. [yea, the team I root for is not in fact my own alma mater, but my university’s rival, sooo I was on the wrong side!]
Not. Gonna. Happen.
By the end of that class we had listened to Mrs. K provide a (riveting, shall I say) read aloud of Scaredy Squirrel, played with Scaredy Squirrel math centers, and learned how to create several different kinds of math manipulatives using basic, everyday supplies.
And by the end of that semester I was teaching math strategies I had learned in that very class to fellow teachers in a little school next to a banana plantation in Belize.
In one fell swoop my professor came onto the scene and immediately laid out her purpose for us. And let me tell you, she stuck to this purpose throughout the entire semester. I eventually left my time with her with an honest-to-goodness appreciation (and confidence) for that once daunting subject.
So yea, I don’t remember many of the dozens of professors I had while attending undergrad (or even grad school for that matter). But I remember her. And it was because she had a clear purpose. She designed her entire classroom experience with her purpose as the North Star.
When I say the words “design” and “classroom” in the same sentence, you probably think about cute bulletin boards trimmed out with a themed border, posters on the walls, fluffy pillows making everything extra cozy, and the like. Basically all the decor that makes your teacher-heart skip a beat.
But that’s actually not what I mean when I talk about designing your classroom experience. In truth, it goes so. much. DEEPER than that.
Designing your classroom experience is about getting super clear on your purpose for your students. It’s about being intentional with how you want each element of your classroom to be. It’s also about rooting what you do in purpose.
When designing the classroom experience, I think it’s helpful to break it down into a framework of sorts.
Take a look at what [in my mind, at least] this framework looks like.
This is what I call The Teachure Classroom Design Framework. Within this framework, you’ll see six categories, or as I like to call them, pillars of the classroom experience. And within each of these pillars are elements of the classroom experience that we can intentionally influence (i.e. design).
Within each of these elements, there are literally so. many. ways. that we can use our Teachure Trademark to shape our classroom experience.
When we are able to design the classroom experience based on our Teachure Trademark, which is essentially the unique makeup of values, passion, and purpose we bring to the classroom, that’s when the energy kicks in. We feel eager to see our vision play out and bring the experience to our students because it’s based in things we are genuinely excited to share.
Designing your classroom experience goes beyond just getting excited about what’s going on in your classroom. Read on for five more reasons why you should prioritize your classroom design.
Recovering control freak here 🙋🏼♀️. The need to feel control over a situation is probably my biggest personal struggle in this human experience. So it most definitely carries over for me into the classroom.
But I know I’m not alone in this.
There are so many things about our day to day life as a teacher that we have little to no control over. We don’t control the standards we teach. Or the standardized assessments we must give our students. Or the budget we are allotted for our classrooms. Or the amount of parental support we get from students’ families. Or the decisions made by school administration, or the school board even. And the list goes on.
Not gonna lie, this used to be a major source of stress for me.
I used to get super hot and bothered about all of the things that I couldn’t control that were sources of frustration for me. In doing so, I was only focusing on the things I couldn’t change. And that’s a defeating game to play.
I found myself in a negative spiral, inching closer and closer to total burnout.
Until, that is, I discovered how to flex the autonomy I DID have as a teacher [because the autonomy is there and we don’t spend enough time training teachers from the get-go how to recognize and maximize it].
Each of us, as teachers, have the power to shape the classroom experience we provide for our students.
Go back and take a look at that framework again. We have influence over every single one of those elements within each pillar, to at least some degree.
That’s where our control lives. And when we are able to design our classroom experience with intentionality, rooted in purpose, and based on the unique things that drive each of us as teachers, we end up flexing our autonomy to the fullest potential.
Full disclosure here, but I tend to live my life on the hot mess express train. If you know me, then you know I’m a procrastinator. I’m usually running around at the last minute trying to get all my ducks in a row. It’s not ideal.
But there’s one thing I’ve come to make sure I ALWAYS stay ahead of the game with and that’s my classroom design. And that’s because when it comes to stepping foot inside the classroom, feeling prepared > chaos and confusion. Every. Single. Time.
But I wasn’t always this way. I used to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type of teacher. I’m not saying I ever showed up unprepared. I just mean I wasn’t intentional about designing a classroom experience.
I talk a little bit about my first year experience in my blog post The Life-Changing Secret I Wish I Knew as a First-Year Teacher. But here’s a snippet:
I spent that entire first year just trying to get my footing. Teacher prep programs give you all the pedagogical knowledge you might need for the job. Student teaching gives you the practice. But even both of these combined failed to provide me with the direction I needed to just get my own classroom started.
In a lot of ways my “first year experience” extended into years 2, 3, 4… Of course, you figure things out as you go. You learn the ways and workings of the system. The feeling lost and confused part starts to fade. But [at least for me] the sense of overwhelm never really went away.
Until I realized that I needed to actually design the experience I wanted to provide for my students.
This comes down to preparation.
Is it time-consuming? Sure, it can be. Being intentional about designing your classroom experience takes time and effort and brain power. You need to get clear on where you’re at and where you want to go with your students during their time with you.
But the payoff is so worth the cost because not only are you showing up totally in-sync with your teaching mission, but your students are getting the very best you have to offer every single day.
I’ve used this word a lot so far in this post, I know. But “intention” is perhaps one of the most important words in our teacher vocabulary because it means there’s a reason for the action being taken.
I’ll be honest. I’ve had my fair share of times when I felt completely lost and confused about some aspect of my classroom.
You know what I mean… decor to hang on the walls… first week of school activities… classroom management tools… student engagement strategies… and the list goes on. During these moments you could say I felt myself just sort of grasping for straws. I ended up on Teachers Pay Teachers or Pinterest, looking for something, anything, that I could make work in my classroom.
I was trying to mirror those teachers who made my Instagram feed look so picture perfect. I was trying to just meet the standards. Fill the time. Look the part of a Pinterest-worthy classroom.
I was doing everything except being authentic to my own Teachure Trademark.
It wasn’t until I intentionally designed that first element of my classroom experience that I actually felt the difference it makes to be EAGER and ENTHUSIASTIC to share something with my students. And it was because of my own eagerness and enthusiasm that my students mirrored the excitement and totally “bought” what I was “selling”.
For me, intentionally designing the classroom experience has been a process. I constantly think of new ideas and find new ways of bringing my Teachure Trademark to life inside the classroom.
But the key here is awareness. Now that I’m aware of what my Teachure Trademark is, and now that I’m also aware of a system for designing the classroom experience, it’s so much easier to intentionally identify and design elements within my classroom that are so much more authentic than they ever were before.
Taking it back to the college days, I said before that I could remember enough professors to count on one hand. Do you know what I remember about these other professors of mine who stood out to me, even all these years later?
They taught enthusiastically.
They each had their own unique *thing* or Teachure Trademark, if you will, that they had intentionally designed, unique to their passion and purpose in the classroom.
>>> If you haven’t heard about my Teachure Trademark mini-course, be sure to check that out and you’ll probably get my reference above a bit better. [it’s free!]
For my elementary history professor, it was his interactive history notebooks he made us complete each week. For my professor who taught the class about teaching struggling readers how to read, it was her intense focus and system for teaching us the proper way to phonetically recite the alphabet. And for my (since I can’t remember the exact name of the class) behavior management 101 professor, it was his famous one liner approach to managing behavior that still comes to mind whenever I need to hear it: “managing behavior isn’t personal, it’s business”.
When you teach enthusiastically, you deepen your impact on students who pass through your classroom because you are teaching through your own interests, passions, and self-identified purpose.
And let me tell you, students can sniff out the teachers who don’t fully have a grasp on what they are doing or why they are doing it.
I want to shift the way you think about the classroom.
I want you to consider the classroom as being similar to a business. Now, hear me out on this one.
You might shudder at the fact that I just made that comparison and I understand the business world may seem like a far-off comparison to what happens inside of your classroom.
I mean, business is about selling something and making money (not sure about you, but there’s definitely no money being made in my classroom!). But let me stretch your thinking this way.
One way to define a business is as an organization that sells goods and services to customers who want or need them.
A classroom is similar and here’s how - your classroom is the organization and instead of “selling” you are offering up knowledge and instruction free of charge to students who want or need it.
If you were starting or running a business, it would require careful planning and well thought-out ideas in order to increase the chance that your business is “successful”.
A classroom is no different.
So, it makes sense that we should consider applying some of the same strategies we would use when starting a business to starting (or re-thinking) our classroom design.
So how do we start applying business strategies to the classroom design process?
Well, don’t go signing up for business school just yet. I’ve created a course to coach you through this process and here’s what it looks like.
In the Design Your Trademark Experience course, I take you through a 5-phase process for designing your classroom experience. From your Classroom Blueprint to your Launch Plan, we take a business approach to classroom design.
We start off with your Classroom Blueprint, which is a strategic method to help you identify your priorities in a simple and visual way.
Then move into the Ideation phase. This is where you can use The Teachure Classroom Design Framework to start brainstorming ideas for what each pillar of your classroom experience might look like.
Then I’ll coach you through developing your Classroom Experience Journey Map. This is the point where you can take a realistic look at what either your day or class period looks like.
We’ll follow that up with the Element Design phase, where I’ll introduce some strategies for you to either modify or design totally new elements for your classroom experience.
You’ll then be able to finalize what it looks like to bring these elements to life in your Launch Plan.
All of these strategies are rooted in actual practices used in the business world to get new concepts and business ventures off the ground. And they can be used by you too in order to design your classroom experience.
The course is getting it’s final touches, so click here if you’re interested in joining the waitlist to be notified when it launches at the end of July!
I've got a mini-course to help you zero in on what drives you as a teacher, which is something I like to call your Teachure Trademark. Oh, and I'm giving it away totally FREE because I believe what this world needs is more inspired teachers rooted in their purpose!