Does anything feel better than walking out of your classroom and into the sunshine on the last day of the school year? I understand your desire to rush out of the building as soon as you can! But before you leave for the summer, stop and think about Future You. Do you want to walk into a disorganized mess in September when you’re stressing about new students and new units? Or do you want to walk into a beautiful space, perfectly organized for educational success? This blog post is going to cover a few end-of-the-school-year tips for closing out your classroom to make coming back to school easier.
Tip #1: Throw it away!
Ok, as far as end-of-the-school-year tips go, I know this one isn’t earth-shattering. But it IS the most important!
I have a coworker, who will remain nameless. Every day, she does current events. By the end of the year, her classroom is COVERED in old newspapers. The daily news piles grow into skyscrapers, and you can’t see anything. Boxes of other tools and resources seemed shoved and piled into every nook and cranny. Walking into that room is suffocating. It doesn’t feel good.
Don’t be that teacher.
The easiest way to keep a classroom clean is to not have anything extraneous. If you haven’t used it–a resource, furniture, a poster, a book, anything–in a couple of years, toss it. That poster you haven’t hung up since your first year of teaching? Toss it. That file of worksheets you didn’t use this year? Toss it (especially if you have digital copies).
Give away furniture you no longer use. Ask the custodian if you can throw extra supplies in a storage room somewhere. Place used books in Little Libraries around your community or give them to students. Whatever “it” is that’s taking up space, find a way to get rid of it.
I highly recommend signing up for Building Book Love’s Classroom Design Challenge for this. If you’re not familiar with Ashley Bible’s amazing English resources, then get familiar! They’re fantastic! But only do so after you signed up for her classroom design challenge–perfect for the end of the school year.
It walks you through seven days of organizing and designing your classroom. I did it last year and while my process for organizing and cleaning didn’t change much, it did give me some ideas about reorganizing my room and how to get rid of some furniture. It also inspired me to add some fun decorations to my classroom, like a couple of beautiful (but fake) cacti!
Tip #2: Organize Anything You’ll Reuse
Now that you’re left with only the essentials, you’ll want to systemize how you store them.
I organize my files, for example, in a hanging file drawer. They’re grouped together by unit and the folders themselves are all labeled. I put worksheets away with the answer keys on the front, so I can find them easily.
My classroom library is organized alphabetically by author’s last name, although I hope to move to a genre system soon.
My art supplies are divided among totes. When we need markers, glue, or colored pencils, I take them out of my cabinet and distribute them amongst tables in my room.
You can find all kinds of organizing tips and ideas for the end of the school year. Find a system that works for you–maybe KonMari your whole classroom!–and stick with it.
Everything in your room should have a proper place. If it doesn’t, make one or consider tossing it. By the end of the school year, you should know exactly what you have and where everything goes.
Tip #3: Do the Chores You Hate (or Ask a Student to do It!)
I hate making bulletin boards. I don’t know how elementary teachers do all these cutesy ones. To make putting them up easier in the fall, I try to take the time to really clean them up at the end of the school year.
Yes, that means even busting out the stapler remover and pulling out each individual staple. To me, it just makes putting up next year’s bulletin board a little easier (and neater-looking).
This philosophy should be applied to anything you hate doing in the classroom. Brainstorm some small chores that you–or better yet, a student–can do to help make your room feel clean and ready next year.
Empty the pencil shavings in your pencil sharpener. Wipeout bins and totes. Test those markers to see which ones have completely died.
Reorganize and number the laptops in your computer cart. Finally, add those genre labels to your classroom books. Take five minutes to really, really clean your blackboards.
If you generally use the same back-to-school activities each year, you could even run those copies now. I mean, you know how long that line for the copier is going to be in September!
(Don’t have any back-to-school activities? Here are some ideas!)
Use all that weird, extra time after finals and during prep time to really prep your space and do what you can to make that first week back as easy as possible.
Tip #4: Make a list of what you need
I did this for the first time last year and it was so helpful! As I was cleaning up and throwing things out, I made a note of everything I was low on.
For example, as I was throwing out the old markers that were dried out or missing caps, I took stock of my coloring supplies. I was pretty good on markers and crayons, but my colored pencils supply was pitiful. So I added colored pencils to my summer shopping list.
I keep my summer shopping list in Evernote. This way, the list is on the cloud. (You could use any cloud-based notetaking app, like Notes or Trello.) If I’m browsing Amazon deals, I can pull it up on any computer. If I walk by a great sale in a store, I can pull up my list on my phone.
It really helped prevent me from overbuying supplies I didn’t need, so I could save money on the supplies I really did–like new Sharpies for blackout poems!
Tip#5: Measure Your Classroom and Everything In It
This was a lifesaver that I implemented last year. I use fabric as my bulletin board backing (it’s cheap and way more durable than butcher paper). When I go to JoAnn Fabrics, I’m always guessing about how many yards I need to buy, so I either overbuy or end up going back for more. I have the same problem with bulletin board borders–I never know how many packs I need.
This year, I measured my bulletin boards so I would know exactly what I needed. I was able to get everything I needed in one trip to the teacher store and one trip to JoAnn’s.
You may also want to measure blank walls if you plan on acquiring new art or decorations. Or measure your whole classroom dimensions if you’re going to be browsing Ikea for new class furniture.
Do the prep work now so you won’t have to make unnecessary trips back to school in the middle of your summer.
I hope some of these tips help you out. I spend the last two weeks of school each year accomplishing these tasks. By the last day, my classroom is bare, and I’m satisfied. There’s always more room in my closets and filing cabinets, my classroom library is prepped and organized, and I can just focus on getting to know my new students the first week.
Do you have your own end-of-the-school-year tips for closing out the school year? I’d love to hear them in the comments! And while you’re prepping for summer vacay, check out 5 Self Care Tips for Teachers.