After working in many different kinds of classrooms over the years, I have spent anywhere from a few hours to a couple of weeks setting up my classroom. Sometimes it was super simple and easy. And at other times it was way more involved as I had such specific details and visions that I wanted to see come to life.
So, how long does it take to set up a classroom? The answer to this is based on your own vision and level of need in the classroom. Generally speaking, it will be around an average of 8 hours of planning and execution, not counting shopping time (which I will discuss further down).
There are several variables to think about regarding how long it takes to set up a classroom. Here are some of the more important points:
- Whether your time is constant or split up over a larger amount of time.
- How elaborate or simple you want to be.
- The amount of money you plan to budget.
- How many things you can buy vs. how many things you will need to make.
- Whether you are creating from scratch or using previously used designs.
- Are you starting with a clean slate or with an already full classroom?
- Don't forget to make sure your plans are in accord with school policy!
Here is a chart that takes each of these variables into account. Keep in mind that each teacher/classroom is quite different and these are estimates, not exact numbers by any means! This is meant to give you an idea of how much time to budget, and will hopefully set you off in the right direction.
Now that we have a good list of considerations, let's take a look at each one in depth.
Table of Contents
How Will Your Time Be Distributed?
This is kind of a loaded question, because it is nearly impossible to plan and decorate your classroom all in one sitting. So to say that you will be setting up your classroom in one block of time basically means that you have already done all of the planning and preparation and now you will be putting it all together in the classroom. For that block of time, it could take as little as a couple of hours for a very simple design, eight to ten hours or more for an elaborate classroom where you will be doing most of the decorating by hand, or it could take several days of a few hours at a time.
Which category you fall under will totally depend on what style you plan on and how much diy you will be doing yourself.
One way you could save time on the diy aspect is to enlist the help of friends, family or fellow teachers that enjoy crafting as much as you do. On the flip side, if you hate crafting, but can't find that perfect idea you have in stores or online, you could always hire out a family member, friend, or fellow teacher that does love to do those types of things. Either way you're covered!
How Simple or Elaborate do You Want Your Classroom to Be?
There are several factors that will determine where you go with this one. The needs of your students to be able to study freely without distraction while still feeling at home in their classroom is a critical issue in preparing your classroom.
Many times you will not know the exact needs of your students because you have not met them yet! Although if you are in a special needs classroom, there will be definite things you can do now that will help the functionality of your classroom. Then as you get to know your students, you can tweak whatever needs to be changed.
Another issue is that you want your students to feel at home. Especially in the younger grades up to junior high, your students could be spending more time in your classroom than they do in their own homes. And for that reason, it needs to be comfortable for them.
Having colors and styles that lend to feeling comfortable and "at home" in their surroundings can be an important way of showing that you care and making classroom life more pleasant for you and your students.
I found some great inspiration on Pinterest. Check out this link for some inspiring classroom looks:
What Amount of Money do You Plan to Budget?
Actually, regardless of the amount of money you plan to spend, you will have tons of options for a great classroom. It may take a bit longer in preparation and decorating. The reason why is because you may have to make some things that you would otherwise just find to purchase. Or you may be lucky and find some of those things in thrift stores, on clearance, or from a friend who no longer needs the item.
There are also great options that are constantly expanding at your local dollar store! For a more comprehensive list on how to budget well for your classroom, check out my article here. While it was written specifically for crafts, it is completely relevant to decorating and setting up your classroom as well.
One of my favorite things to do for the classroom is to bring in things from home to make the classroom look more comfortable and homey. The kids appreciate the scenery and I appreciate the little piece of home! Plus it doesn't cost anything!
And sometimes, you may just see that perfect item for your classroom that you just have to get. And that is fine too. There are no rules here. It is totally up to you and the budget that you want to put into it. But keep in mind, the more you buy, make, or find, the more time it will take you to assemble in your classroom. Adjust the time you need accordingly.
How Many Things You Need to Buy vs. Make
This point is sort of an extension of the last point. But I would like to share with you a story that may make you think twice about why you decide to make vs. buy something.
Several years ago (I won't share exactly how many for fear that you all will know how old I am!) I was pretty low on funds and it was getting close to Christmas time. I had a huge gift list, but unfortunately, not enough money to get a really nice gift for everyone on my list. I spent about a week trying to figure out what I was going to do.
And then what I thought was the perfect idea popped into my head. I was going to make photo albums for each extended family member. So, that was my first mistake. I planned on about 5 different albums that year. Only the closest family members and only the younger set s of kids.
So, I was really excited for this project and went shopping to get started. I went to Michael's and Walmart and picked out the best scrapbooking supplies and some super cute trims, stickers, and everything I needed to make these the best gifts ever. And then I realized that I ended up spending more than I had if I had just bought everybody some really nice gifts.
But this time I was investing time in a gift that you couldn't get at any store. It was a heartfelt gift from my family to theirs. So I pressed on. And by pressing on I mean that I spent countless hours, day and night, trying to get those perfect gifts perfect. They did look amazing by the time I was done. But the time, effort, and money was way beyond what I reasonably had the time to do.
So what I am trying to say here is that sometimes you think you are saving money and resources by going the homemade route instead of finding things in the store. But you may actually be shooting yourself in the foot. I learned to evaluate all of my resources instead of just money. If there isn't enough time or availability of the resources I need to make it work well, I won't do it or I will change gears to make it more practical.
Creating From Scratch vs. Previously Used Designs
The vast majority of teachers will actually do a combination of these two options. We all have our favorite things that will carry over to the next school year. It could be a favorite decoration, bulletin board, or more functional part of your classroom like a certain piece of furniture.
But most teachers also like a bit of freshness added to their classroom. And that can come in the form of moving around what we already have as well as adding a couple of new pieces to the classroom.
I don't think I ever created the same bulletin board twice. And as the internet became a part of regular life, it was fun to "shop" for new bulletin board ideas online. Many times I would use a combination of several different ideas I had seen online. Speaking of which, if you would like some great bulletin board ideas, check out my Pinterest board here.
The biggest driving factor here is that most teachers don't have the money or the time to totally overhaul their classroom every year. And honestly, that is an advantage. Using what you already have and mixing in a few new things will save you both time and money, which are both super valuable assets!
That being said, sometimes after many years of the same old thing, it would be super fun and maybe help towards preventing burnout to go for broke and overhaul your entire classroom. In that case, plan for extra planning, shopping, and setup time. Taking a good chunk of summer vacation can certainly take care of that if you are up for the challenge!
Clean Slate or Full Classroom?
If you are starting with a room that has empty walls, and just desks and chairs, your job will be so much easier! You won't have to worry about what to do with everything already in the room. And your possibilities are endless! Well, except for any school policies that may limit what you put in there. More on that in the next point.
On the other hand, if your classroom is already full of items, before you can even begin to add the new year's touches to it, you must first go through everything that is there and reorganize, remove, or replace it. That in itself is quite a job and will take some time. This is especially true if you are a new teacher entering a classroom that was previously used. And as a brand new teacher this can be very daunting because you aren't sure what the school year is going to bring and what you need as well as how you need it to be placed/used.
This is where enlisting the advice and help of other teachers will be incredibly valuable, at least until you can gain some of your own experience and easily make those decisions on your own.
Does Your Plan Agree With School Policy?
This is a tiny detail, but one that could be a big deal down the road if you are not aware of your school's policy for what can and cannot be used in the classroom. For instance, you would be encouraged to have religious decor in a Catholic school, but it would most likely not be allowed in most public schools. While this example is very obvious, just make sure there aren't other policies that are a bit more ambiguous. Holiday items would be worth checking into.
Speaking with other teachers and peeking into their classrooms can be a huge help. And you will find other teachers eager to help you out, especially as a new teacher, or an experienced teacher in a new school.
So, this is a general treatise on how long it takes to set up a classroom. If you are setting up a repeat of the previous year, you can have it done in just a couple of hours. But more often, there will be tweaks and changes at the very least, and major changes and overhaul at the most. That could take nearly 20 hours when everything is said and done.
I hope that this article helped you to determine what avenue(s) you wanted to go with your own classroom setup, and were able to determine what steps you would need to do and how much time each of those steps would take.
I would love to hear how setting up your classroom went, or even what issues you ran into, whether mentioned here or not. Sharing your experience can save another teacher from having to reinvent the wheel!
Feel free to comment below!