Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Tips to Cleaning Out Your Classroom {Let's Get Organized: Part Two}

Hello, friends! Today, we will continue our series on getting organized for a new school year. Recently, I was helping a friend clean out their space to get ready for a brand new and exciting year. As we worked, I was reminded of how we as educators like to keep EVERYTHING because we "may use it later." I remember keeping a shelf of resources  stuff  junk (there is really no other way to say it) that I never touched but couldn't seem to bring myself to do anything about it! I thought I would share a few tips on how to reorganize the clutter for a brand new year!

1.  Be brutally honest! 

This may seem a bit strange but sometimes we just need to be brutally honest with ourselves. It is step number one in cleaning out your space. Are we really going to use that box of copy paper? Now, before you answer in the affirmative, let me explain that this kind of paper is the type to be threaded into the old printer machines. You know the type: wide pages and strips of holes down each side. Yep! That box... the one that has taken up space in the bottom corner of the bottom shelf because we just KNEW we would use it... like 6 years ago. That box...

In this situation, I would explain the value of space. Space, especially storage space, is a hot commodity in a classroom. There seems to never be enough of it, especially when we fill the room with little bodies and their mountains of supplies. See each shelf and cabinet as valuable! Seek to maximize each area with something that will benefit you or your kiddos. If that paper is something you truly want to use (it can come in handy for art activities!) take the paper OUT of the BOX and place it on the art shelf. This will ensure that you see it and use it. It then becomes valuable.

2.  Create a few piles! 

When going through a cabinet, closet or shelf, create a few piles to organize what you have. I begin by placing my must haves in a stack. These are my current teacher manuals and curriculum resources. As I begin to sort the rest of my things, I place anything I find of most importance into this stack.

Next, I create a want to use stack. This might be items like project ideas (say from TPT lol) that I would like to use that year! This would be filed in binders or placed in hanging files. Personally, I would organize these resources by month of use. For instance, my Valentine projects or printables would be placed in a February folder or binder. 

This leads me to another tip, go through the paperwork! Those files in the cabinet are of no use to you if you don't know it is there! Do yourself a favor and take an afternoon to go through it. It is a mundane task that easily becomes exciting when you stumble on a project that you haven't thought about for two years! While going through paper work, here is a neat trick: keep one of those portable hanging files and a box of manila folders next to you.  Label the manila folders by month, holiday, or subject; whatever is logical for you. As you clean out the cabinet, store one copy of any finds in this bin and place the remaining copies in a corresponding file in your filing cabinet. This bin could then be kept on or near your desk and would give you a quick reference as to what you have filed away in that huge cabinet.

Now, back to our piles! Next, create a cool but not practical pile. You know, the old teacher manuals or blackline masters that teach skills in a very different way. At one time, I had old blackline master books fill an entire shelf that I never had the time to use. They were my personal books that I had picked up through the years. These just took up space, which again is valuable! Take a moment to follow tip #1 and then take the next step: donate them to someone who CAN use them. Give them to parents of a child who is struggling with a skill. Let them work together through the book at home. See if the specialists in your school could use them or perhaps other teachers. Give them to homeschool co-ops or groups in your area. Tutoring programs could even use them! Make your goal a simple one: place resources into hands that will use them, even if they are not your own.

3.  Don't be afraid to use the big round can that we affectionately call the trash can!

Lastly, create that junk pile; better yet, just keep the garbage can handy. Purge yourself of stuff that nobody can use. That bin of markers that you have had on the art supply shelf all year. Yeah, the one that students have to go through five markers before finding one that even remotely writes! Dump it and move on! That stack of construction paper that has faded, changed colors, been ripped down the side... dump it and move on! Again, space is valuable

4. Don't forget the little things.

Many times we focus on the big things that aren't organized, closets for example. However, many times our stress is induced from the little things! Cluttered desk drawers have made me want to beat my head against a wall more times that I can count! Whether it means using a silverware drawer for your pens, pencils and markers or even placing small bins inside your drawers, find ways to organize the little things. Pinterest is a fabulous resource for this as so many wonderful professionals have found great ways to get their personal space organized. Don't forget about all of those important forms! This is where a Teacher Binder comes in handy. I wrote about the all important Teacher Binder yesterday in Let's Get Organized: Part One. 

5.  Don't keep too many personal items in your room.

When I began teaching, I wanted to make my classroom my home away from home. My desk had three framed pictures with a cutesy lamp and decorations. It was about day three that I realized, this will not work! You see, I quickly found out that my job was just that... a job! Paperwork, books, parent contacts, student folders, lunch money... these are just a few things that floated across my desk. Pictures got lost in the shuffle and my desk felt crowded! It was then I decided to find other ways to remember my kiddos and their handsome daddy. I created a slideshow to play across my screen during inactivity. I had a small board that I placed magnetic frames for cute sayings that I loved. Decoration can be added with colorful cloth around the table or desk but I didn't need to use the top shelf of my room like I would a decorative ledge in my home! Again, space is valuable

I also found that I needed help with all of those precious pictures and gifts from my kiddos. Here are a few ideas on what to do with them and cut down on clutter. 
  • Snap a picture with the gift and gift giver! Scrapbook it and keep the memory. 
  • Use push pins to attach a few page protectors to a bulletin board behind your desk. Then simply choose a different student's artwork (perhaps the student of the week?) to place in that page protector. You could then file the old pages away as you replace them. This honors the students for their kindness and helps to eliminate the wall of pictures that are taped across the wall in no apparent order.
  • Do you have tip? We would love to hear them!

I want to leave you with this thought: clutter causes stress, stress causes anxiety, and anxiety makes for a cluttered teaching mind which leads to... you guessed it! More clutter! A cluttered room becomes a time stealer and a space snatcher. So let's take the time now to declutter and prepare for a smooth new year! Tomorrow, I will be continuing this series on Let's Get Organized by explaining how to organize your room into stations!

1 comment :

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