Before I pack up my classroom for the year I wanted to take the time to show you a few photos of my classroom. Each year that I teach, I love my classroom space more and more. I think this a combination of accumulating more teacher STUFF and having a better sense of what works and what doesn’t work. That being said, I really LOVED my classroom space this year! As context, I taught a self-contained 3rd grade classroom for children with autism and other disabilities. I love, love, love classroom themes, but I struggled to think of something that would be age-appropriate for 3rd graders (i.e. not too cutesy) while also not being over-stimulating. I settled on a “City” theme and I’m so glad I did. The theme provided a fun and functional structure to our classroom and allowed us to touch on some great life skills throughout the year! The teacher table, or direct instruction area is my favorite classroom space! It’s where we do morning group, whole group instruction, and where students get 1:1 teacher time. I also don’t have a teacher desk, so this is where I store all of my supplies and materials. I use magnets and magnetic hooks to hang visuals and instructional materials on our whiteboard. This allows everything I need to be at my fingertips!I’ve always had classroom “basics” (the things that you see in EVERY elementary classroom) like an alphabet, word wall, calendar, etc. but I often felt like these items were just “there” (taking up space without really being utilized by students.) THIS year I decided to change that by making sure that these classroom “basics” were actually fun and functional enough to be student-friendly. Two big changes I made were an environmental print alphabet (with pictures and icons that were familiar and/or meaningful to my students) and an interactive word wall.
Maybe your bulletin boards are taken down, your boxes are neatly (or not so neatly packed…), and your students have gone on their merry little ways for the summer. Maybe you’re at the beach or the cafe or the couch. OR maybe you’re like me and you still have 8. MORE. DAYS. OF. SCHOOL. If you’re in the latter category, I feel your pain. BUT I also have a few suggestions to help you finish the year and start your summer off right!
Take photos! Before you take down your beautiful bulletin boards and pack up your classroom materials, don’t forget to snap a
few MANY photos of all your hard work. I think this is a useful practice for a couple of reasons.
- You can reference the photos when prepping your classroom for the next school year. This will help you decide what you want to keep the same and what you want to adjust.
- I also think it’s great to have photo evidence to add to your professional teaching portfolio. Even if you’re not planning to seek a new job, it’s still a good idea to begin creating or continuing to refine a teaching portfolio. If or when you need to present a teaching portfolio, you want to be able to showcase that great project or classroom space from a few years ago. **If you’re a special education teacher, be sure to snap photos of materials you’ve created specifically for students (schedules, visuals, token boards). Don’t forget to maintain student confidentiality by blocking out identifying information either before or after taking the photo.
Create an inventory! Packing up for the summer is the perfect time to document all of the materials you have in your classroom. I have NOT done this the past two years and both years I’ve found materials in buried in boxes in the spring when I wish I would have found them in the fall. I’m determined to stop the cycle now! Because I’m moving to a new school, this is especially important! Because I can’t organize anything without Google Sheets, I created the table below to help me keep track of classroom materials.
I made three columns for the items in my classroom: 1) Belong to School 2) Personal Items to Leave and 3) Personal Items to Take. This was also super helpful to share with the teacher who will be taking over my classroom next year. This way she knows exactly what will be coming with the classroom.
Purge (realistically)! If you’re anything like me, you accumulate teaching supplies and materials at an alarming rate. And don’t even get me started on the papers. (I hear the trees crying each time I find an old stack of student worksheets, IEP documents, and permission slips from our field trip last September.) I suggest assigning materials to one of three categories: 1) Toss it! 2) Gift it! or 3) Keep it!
- Toss it! I get it. It’s hard to say goodbye. Especially when you’ve spent your own money (and probably lots of it) on supplies for your classroom. But doing a yearly purge, especially early in your career, will help you avoid renting out a
storage spacesecond home just for your teaching stuff. Don’t throw away potentially useful materials, but be realistic. (Ask yourself, will I really use this again?) That dried up playdough will never recover, so it’s time to bid farewell.
- Keep it! The vast majority of your supplies and materials will (hopefully!) fall into this category. Whether you’ve been teaching 1 year or 10 years, you’ve spent a good deal of time and money securing the resources needed to keep your classroom running smoothly. For items that you’ll be keeping, don’t forget to inventory/write these down (see Tip 2!) Also make sure that you place these items in clearly labeled boxes so that you can find them easily again in the fall. This is also a good opportunity to give your items a thorough cleaning (just don’t gag when the Clorox wipes turn black from the accumulated dirt and germs!)
- Gift it! When I started teaching, I eagerly scooped up every free resource and supply I could get my hands on. Many of these were the kind gifts of former teachers. Some of these materials I continue to use in my classroom, while other ones sit forlorn on a shelf or at the bottom of a box. If an item is in good shape and you can see yourself using it in the future, then by all means keep it. But if the item is in poor condition or really not useful to you (i.e. workbooks circa 1970) then regift it if another teacher can use it or toss it if you can’t find it a new home.
Keep learning! During the school year I come across a teaching technique that I’d love to learn more about, or a special education book I really want to read. But there JUST. ISN’T. TIME. Maybe you’ve been dying to learn more about Orton-Gillingham, AAC, or PCS. Look for training opportunities in your area this summer! Many PD opportunities are also available virtually, so do a Google search and see what you find. For self-directed professional development, find one or two (or ten!) books that you’d like read or peruse this summer. Pursuing these types of opportunities over the summer helps us grow as educators, but I think it also helps us remember the things we really love about teaching (which it’s easy to lose sight of during a challenging school year!)
Do what you love! By the last week of school I have forgone the blowdryer, a Venti latte has become a daily essential, my apartment and classroom begin to resemble a scene from Twister, and I can’t remember the last time I cooked real food. When summer starts, it’s takes a
day or two week of naps, pjs, and Netflix binges, before I start to feel like a real person again. Then I begin to relish the little things that got lost during the school year (putting on makeup, wearing nice clothes–that actually stay clean all day!, drinking coffee from a mug while I watch the Today Show…) Whatever it is that makes you happy, be sure to spend some time doing it this summer! YOU. DESERVE. IT.