Every year it’s the same story. I'm excited to get back to my classroom, picturing all of my new students and what we will learn together. And I look forward to seeing former students and how they have grown over summer vacation. Then, when I actually open the classroom door, reality hits me like a slap to the face. There it is — the big mess that I left before summer vacation. There is no easy way to pack up a classroom at the end of the year with only hours to ready your room for the summer cleaning crew. So, I have honed some strategies to get the job done at the end of summer without cutting too much into vacation time.
At our school we have to get all of our furniture and supplies into the closet and onto the tiled part of the floor because the cleaners come to wash our carpets while we are away. Then they move all the furniture off the tile to the carpet so they can clean the tile. Even taking my time and trying to be methodical about packing up, I still end up with a hot mess to return to in the fall!
To help me with the process of setting up a Kindergarten Wonderland, I draw my room. Because I have no art skills whatsoever, my drawing is not even close to scale, but no matter my lack of draftsmanship, when I put my ideas on paper, I can move items around without using hand-trucks.
I start by drawing my room and the built-in cabinets in pen and that way the bones of the room don’t disappear, and I use pencil to draw and erase movable objects. I think of my classroom as a house with different rooms. This helps me to delineate how much space each area of the classroom needs. Another way to sketch out your room can be found in Kindergarten in Photographs by Jasmine Greene. She suggests that you use a piece of grid paper and Post-it Notes to move around the furniture.
Once I'm satisfied with my drawing, I'm ready to move to the real classroom. I begin with the placement of the rugs. Providing open spaces for the four- and five-year-olds who enter my room at the beginning of the year, is critical to the success of what follows. In order for a classroom to be a thriving learning environment, there needs to be a balance between meeting the needs of the teacher and the developmental needs of the students. Kinders require room to move, but I need the areas of my room to be defined.
After I place the rugs where I think I want them, I put out the bookcases and the tables. At this point, I may have to shift a couple things to the left or right, but there isn’t a whole lot of moving because I did all the "heavy lifting" on my layout.
Next, is the part where I start to really get excited about the upcoming year. My room is no longer looking scary. Instead, it is slowly beginning to match my visions of a place where my new class will experience the shock and awe of kindergarten.
Once the major items are in place, I get to start filling the centers and the bookcases with all of my activities that worked well last year and the new things that I bought (usually from yard sales) over the summer. This year I got rid of my rocking chair. When I looked at my layout I decided the space my rocking chair was taking up could be better used for students. This was a good decision because I usually end up on my stool or the floor anyway.
The final touch is when I make the room mine by putting out family pictures and different memories from previous years. This is what makes it feel like a place I want to spend the better part of 10 months and also lets parents and kids know that I have a life outside of the four walls of our classroom.
Creating my classroom each year takes hours of work, but it all becomes worth it the first day when my crop of kinders come walking, running, screaming, crying, or mommy-leg-holding through my door.
As I’ve thought about beginning my work on the Top Teaching blog for the last couple of months, I really wanted to have a tag line at the end of each post, like a personal stamp. Every night when my wife and I are putting our daughter, Ella, to bed, the last thing I say to her is, “Guess what?” and every night she says, “What?” Then, I take a pause and say, “I can’t wait to see you in the morning!” so I thought I’d end my posts with … I can’t wait to see you next week!