As the school year comes to an end, many teachers must pack up their classrooms for the summer. I’m fortunate that I can leave most of my classroom intact. But if you are at a school that requires you to remove everything from the walls, pick everything up off the floor, and roll up your rugs, you have some hard work ahead of you.
While I can leave wall displays up, I do need to clear the floor. I place as much as I can on my counter and on top of my cupboards, and the rest goes on top of my tables. I also move large furniture away from the walls and to the center of my room. If I don’t, maintenance will just clean and wax around it, leaving ugly black marks at the edges of the furniture. I tend to rearrange my room each year and I don’t want to worry about any unsightly areas on the floor.
A few years ago I discovered a great trick one of our custodians used. During the summer months the custodians remove everything from our classrooms and strip and re-wax the floors. To help her remember where everything went, this custodian took pictures with her cell phone. Whip out your digital camera or cell phone to snap photos of your bulletin boards, learning centers, and overall room arrangement. If you have a particular display that you intend to reuse next year, take a few digital photos of it. Having the photos can help you to quickly recreate it again in the fall. Store the photos in a file on your school computer for easy reference from year to year.
I feel like I can’t say it enough. I label all of my furniture with my name and room number. Painters tape can be your new best friend. I also take an inventory of how many chairs and tables I have as things get borrowed and misplaced during the summer. When another teacher finds they have a new piece of furniture in their room, hopefully they will notice your label and return it to you. Last year, I ended up with a table and a few other items that weren't mine and had the custodian remove them. It took the owner a few days to realize they were missing, but by then they had already been adopted by another teacher.
Every year I create two boxes, which I refer to as my survival boxes. One box will vacation at home with me and the other will stay at school. The first box is full of items I intend to work on during the summer months. It usually contains my teacher manuals, which I will be using at the beginning of the year, and often some files that need sorting, purging, and reorganizing. The second box is full of items I will need immediately when I return to school. It also contains the essential teacher tools that usually reside on top of my desk, such as markers, scissors, a stapler, and tape.
We all know what it's like returning to school after summer vacation. You find yourself fighting every other teacher and staff member for time at the copy machine and laminator. I try to save myself from all of that worry and hassle and plan ahead. There are certain resources and curriculum I use each year. Rather than waiting for the fall to print, collate, and organize them, I do it at the end of the school year when I still have parent help. Putting together my homework binders, writing folders, math notebooks, and poetry journals takes a lot of time. Having these items completed when I close my door in June makes me a happy camper.
If you are lucky enough to be able to leave everything up on your walls, why not get a jump on next year and decorate for back to school? I change out my boards, move them around, and refresh the border if necessary. Because I only use fabric for bulletin board backing, I don’t worry about paper fading. On the last day of school I go so far as to put up the new school year calendar and I've already ordered a few new items to decorate with.
As the year comes to an end and I begin to put items away, I take a few minutes to evaluate, reorganize, and possibly purge. Just a few minutes a day straightening up a desk drawer or caddy will make coming back to school that much nicer. No one wants to come back to a classroom where all of the drawers and cupboards look like they’ve been ransacked. Let’s face it, our classrooms take a beating during the school year.
Towards the end of year, I often feel as if I’m drowning in my classroom. I think of my space as organized, but with 24 kindergartners it isn’t always tidy. As teachers, we tend to accumulate stuff, often saving it knowing we are going to use it “someday.” If you haven’t used it in a few years, find it a new home. If you only use it a few times a year, ask yourself if you could teach without it and if the answer is yes, toss it. I’ve been in my new classroom for three years now. This year, I know what I can and can’t live without. I have several pieces of furniture and organizational items that will be moving out before the end of the school year.
I talked about these three particular items in my spring break post. If you haven’t reorganized them yet, don’t put it off until the fall. Take the time to do it now. I find that I‘m too tired at the end of the day, so I arrive at work a little earlier. (I even sneak into my room to prevent being distracted by colleagues.) I tackle one drawer, cupboard, or file a day. If it is your files that really need some help, grab an empty paper box and take home one file drawer at a time. While you are hanging out with the family after dinner, sift through, re-file, sort, and purge. You will be happy you took the time to do it.
Make a shopping list of items you typically purchase during the summer months' sales. You know the ones where you stalk the Sunday paper sale ads hoping to score some felt markers and gluesticks at a discount price. Take inventory of what you currently have. I usually buy markers and pencils every year. Last year after taking inventory it was apparent by the 50 or more packages of pencils I had accumulated, I did not need any more. The same is true for this year; I still have a lot left over.
If you think of things you want to make, create, or buy for your classroom during the summer, make a list. With Pinterest as an inspiration, many teachers spend time during the summer making items for their classroom. A few years ago I made crate storage cubes during the summer. Last summer, I had quite a long list of DIY projects, all thanks to Pinterest. You can see them here in my post entitled Creating a Cozy Classroom.
This summer my goals are to:
Packing up the classroom takes time and energy, something we don’t always have at the end of the school year. However doing a few little extras now, rather than waiting until the fall, will make your return back to school a little easier and less stressful.
Be sure to stop back next week for my tips and tricks for organizing and maintaining a classroom library. This was a project from my last years “Summer To-Do List” and I am so thrilled that I took the time to complete it.