As a new teacher, one of your first big challenges will be setting up your new classroom. If you are moving into a room long occupied by another teacher, it can be both a blessing and a curse. The trick is to find the treasure amidst the clutter. Start by eliminating clutter and creating storage. Open your closet and cabinet doors, desk drawers, and filing cabinets, and use the questions below to help you decide what to keep. Then devote at least a couple of hours to making those decisions!

  • Are the materials related to your curriculum? Are they current? If you find materials that are no longer relevant or current, see if your school librarian wants them or offer them to other teachers. Otherwise, get rid of them.

  • Are there art supplies — paint, clay, markers, paper? Recycle what you can. Dried-up clay, broken crayons? Throw them out!

  • Are there books, textbooks, posters, or teaching materials so outdated that they may contain inaccurate or potentially offensive information? Unless you think you may be able to use a sample to teach a lesson about change over time, get rid of them.

  • Have teacher-made curriculum materials been left in your room? If you cannot imagine yourself using them, see if you can find out if the teacher who made them wants them back. Quite possibly, he or she knew they were not useful, but couldn't bear to destroy them. If the old teacher doesn't want them back, your principal and librarian show no interest, and your school has no place to archive them, just throw them out.

  • Do you have too much of something useful — snap cubes, thermometers, gallon jugs of paint? Find out whether these things could be shared or donated to a school with fewer resources.

Avoid re-creating the hassle next year by keeping your own hoarding to a minimum. If you're unsure about keeping something, ask yourself, "When I find this next year, will I still want it?"


This article was adapted from Your Best Year Yet! A Guide to Purposeful Planning and Effective Classroom Organization by Shoshana Wolfe (© 2006, Scholastic, Inc.).