Anyone who has taught school knows that there is no tired like teacher tired, especially at the beginning and end of the school year. Even though the beginning of the year is hard, it’s new, fun, and fresh. By the end of the school year, I’m not only physically tired, but I’m emotionally exhausted in every way imaginable. That’s why year after year as soon as the school year winds down, I find myself cramming everything I have from my classroom into cabinets and boxes, without paying any attention to what I’m doing or why I’m doing it. Then at the end of summer, I have no idea where my things are, and it takes me a ridiculous amount of time to get my classroom ready for the start of a new school year.
This year, I’m ending with the beginning in mind. As I pack and prepare to empty my room for summer vacation. This is the complete opposite of how I typically plan, but I think the extra prep will go a long way in saving my sanity when I try to get ready for a new school year.
Don’t just cram everything in a cabinet or closet. Even though it would be so much faster, take the time to purge now. If you didn’t use the item all year long, ask yourself if you think you’ll really need it the following year. Seriously, can you imagine skipping this step at the beginning of the year? Sometimes I think most of my “clean out and organize day” is a result of mindless cramming at the end of the year. Just so you know, this is on older picture. I haven’t done this yet, but I will…
I think it’s also helpful to remember that to store the materials you won’t need until the end of the school year in the harder to reach places. Remember, first out should be the last in.
Don’t wait until you need your materials and manipulatives to get them organized. We just put away the fraction bars that we had used over and over again this year, and I was fairly certain that we had many incomplete sets. Before putting them away for good, I gave each student a set of fraction bars and we redistributed pieces until all of the sets were complete.
While this may have taken a few extra minutes, I’d much rather do it now rather than when I use them for the first time next year. We’ll do this with all of our manipulatives (unless they don’t need to be in a set). When is gets closer to the end of the year, I’ll also make sure all of my books are in the correct baskets and none of my games have missing pieces. I’m always surprised at how helpful my students can be with this process.
Before I pack up my room, I like to go ahead and get everything clean for next year. Our custodians will take care of cleaning the floor and carpet, but I like to clean the desks, chairs, bookshelves, etc. I usually cover my bookshelves with an old sheet, so they don’t get dusty while they are moved over the summer. Everything has to come off our walls except our bulletin boards, so I keep those covered with fabric too.
As I begin to disassemble my classroom, I like to keep a running list of things I’ll need to remake for next year and a list of materials I need to purchase. There are always things that I have to replace each year, and it’s difficult to remember everything when you’re home, locked out of your classroom during the summer. I’ve found that if I write it down before I take it down, it’s so much easier to stay on top of things. I also think it helps to take pictures of things you want to stay the same the following year.
Call me crazy, but I usually start thinking about the next school year before the current school year ends. Of course, I always plan on making lots of changes, but there are also things that I know I’ll do. For instance, I plan to use my GA Studies Weekly again, so I had a few volunteers go ahead and separate the papers for me, because that is such a time consuming process. I may even make my hands-on math booklets now, rather than as I go. I plan to make my morning work folders too. Those are all things that take me FOREVER to do on my own at home, but with a little help I can wipe these things out quickly. I am NOT saying that I stop teaching and do these things all day with my kids. It’s more of an incentive for students who finish their work quickly and correctly, because every single one of my students loves helping with this type of thing.
Please let me know if you have any other great tips for packing your classroom! I’m always looking for ways to improve!