The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

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Have Poly Classrooms Lost Their Character?


It was my first week of fifth grade at Poly, and I was walking down the hallway to Mrs. Corkhill’s science class in room 214. The classroom had scientific designs on the floor, a Garfield poster on the door, and a skeleton dressed up in a space jumpsuit. Then I walked to 215 A, which was where I had History with Ms. McCartney and Math with Mrs. Russo. The classroom had a mini Lego version of the Poly clock tower, a Star Wars math poster, and Mrs. Russo’s trademarked “chill pill” ( a plush pill that sat ready on the shelf of her desk for her to squeeze in case the class got too rowdy). Finally, I walked to my English class with Ms. Eiras. This classroom was special: built around the actual doorway was a purple toll booth. It had an awning that partially covered the window above the door and a gate that would block the bottom half of the doorway. The design was based off the book we had read the summer before fifth grade, The Phantom Tollbooth. Back then, each classroom had its own personality.  

Today, in my last year at Poly, I walk to 002 for Ms. Liao’s calculus class. The room has bright LED lights, white walls with whiteboards, and wood siding that is painted a dark gray. Then, I walk to 119 for Mr. Nowakoski’s Advanced English, Intro to Critical Theory class. The room has bright LED lights, white walls with whiteboards, and wood siding that is painted a dark gray. Then I walk to 106 for Ms. Allen’s Advanced Journalism class. The room has bright LED lights, white walls with whiteboards, and wood siding that is painted a dark gray. 

Poly Prep is an institution that values individualism. There is no uniform, the school offers a large variety of elective courses, and the students are always encouraged to express their own unique identities. With all this emphasis on individualism, how come the spaces that students spend most of their day in are not a reflection of that value?  

In the summer of 2022, the English and History hallways and a selection of their classrooms were renovated, and in the summer of 2023, the Math hallway and its classrooms followed. All the classrooms were redone in the same fashion. The old fluorescent lights were replaced with automatic LED lights, the walls were painted a matt white, a drop ceiling was added, and the stained wood siding and framing were painted over with dark gray paint. 

The unique features and quirks of each of the classrooms were effectively eliminated. The white walls combined with the whiteboards and bright LED lights make the rooms feel visually cold and soulless. According to a report by the International Society for Educational Planning, “White walls are proven to cause detrimental psychological effects, such as anxiety, disruptive behaviors, lack of focus, and depressive moods to students and educators that spend time within the space.” At this very moment, I am sitting in one of the renovated classrooms, trying to get this article done. My eyes are literally zoned in on the bright screen of my computer, and yet the room around me is still brighter than my computer screen. All this makes me want to do is not write, and writing opinions pieces like this one is fun. 

Some may argue that, on the contrary, the renovations of the classrooms helped remove distractions, allowing students to focus more on their school work. There are no posters or knickknacks around the room to distract them. 

Having posters, safety instructions, artwork, decorations, and materials all over the room can make it hard for the student to focus on their work. They are a huge distraction because the information displayed competes for the student’s attention along with [the teacher],” wrote Dolly Bhargava in her blog post, “Minimising Classroom Distractions for Students with ADHD,” on  

To this argument I say: maybe that would be the case if it were still the 80’s, but it is 2024. In all my classes, people either have their phone out or are on their computer. These devices are far more distracting than any poster or art piece would ever be. Why shouldn’t there be a map of the world in a history class, or quotes from great American novels hung on the walls of an English class? High school is meant to be memorable, and it is the spaces we spend our time in that allow those memories to stick with us. It’s been seven years since I last sat in Mrs. Russo’s fifth grade math class, and yet I still remember the chill pill. Let’s make our classrooms interesting. Let’s give them some personality, so students can enjoy their classes just a little bit more.

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About the Contributor
Michael Gabriel
Michael Gabriel, Chief of Cartoons and Puzzles
Michael Gabriel ‘24 has been on the Polygon team since his sophomore year when he first started his Blue Devil comic strip. As of the beginning of this year, he has sketched, inked and published thirteen issues with seven more on the way that can be found on the back page of each newspaper. He is avidly looking for more illustrators, so if you are interested, feel free to let him know. This year in addition to his role as the Chief of Cartoons, he is also the Chief of Puzzles, so stay tuned for some comics and puzzles! Michael is also a part of the Polyglot, the cross country team, and both the indoor and outdoor track teams.   

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