It’s likely that, as a teacher, you have student work on your walls in addition to at least one brightly-rimmed bulletin board.

Sr. Maryann Ronneburger entering the novitiate

In her classrooms, Sister Maryann Ronneburger, a Dominican Sister of Hope with a thirty-plus-year tenure as a principal and teacher, did, too. In fact, Sister would sneak into her classroom on weekends just to change bulletin boards and rearrange chairs: “I would go in on Saturdays and change bulletin boards,” Sister recalls. “I loved changing bulletin boards! I would rearrange my classroom because I thought it must be boring to sit the same way every day.”

Sister has another idea to make classrooms appear bright, lively, and less boring. Sister says that displaying professional art helped her to create an intentional and peaceful atmosphere in her school.

When a parent who was also an artist asked if he could contribute to the school, Sister Maryann took him up on his offer. He created colorful banners for each season that adorned the hallways and rotated throughout the year.

Adding art to the school environment was a small touch, but, Sister Maryann says it was an important step in setting the tone for the education that took place within classrooms.

Sister Maryann Ronneburger 2015

The banners were a physical announcement of the Catholic school’s commitment to God, and they also were aesthetically pleasing. “As soon as you walked into the school,” Sister says, “people would say, ‘You can tell that God is here.’”

Her point might sound fine for Catholic schools, but what about educators in a non-religious environment? Every school (regardless of creed) can hang art, too; in fact, they should.

In a study printed in the Educational Researcher, three scientists concluded that “students demonstrated significantly stronger critical thinking skills when analyzing a new painting.” The results were even higher for disadvantaged students who did not typically view art outside of school.

While these findings might have big implications for future curriculum development (a New York Times articleabout the study encourages: “Expanding [student] access to art…should be a central part of any school’s curriculum”), they’re also grounds for teachers to start hanging portraits and paintings in their classrooms now.

After all, we already know that having colors and forms on walls brightens our mood and makes a room feel more pleasant. Why not add that extra touch for your students and yourself? You might be surprised at the positive, peaceful vibes art can bring into your classroom, and into your teaching.

This article is the first in our Back to School: Teacher Tricks series. Each Wednesday leading up to Back to School, we’ll post one article containing “Teacher Tricks” from Dominican Sister of Hope Maryann Ronneburgerwho has a thirty-plus-year tenure as a principal and teacher. Check back next week for the latest! For the entire series, click here.