The end of the school year is typically a bittersweet moment for all teachers. We are excited to begin our summer vacation but will miss many of our students and teacher friends. And then, there’s the classroom…What do I do with my classroom? Decluttering your classroom is often the last thing on your mind as you prep for summer.
Are you a classroom hoarder? If so, I have some ideas for you to make sure get tossed before locking up the classroom door for the final time.
How to declutter your classroom for the end of the school year
The thrill of summer pending arrival can make all of us a little rushed, but packing up your classroom is a chance to get yourself organized for a new school year before the stress of the back-to-school season is upon us.
Here are a few things you can get rid of as you prep your room for summer:
1. Administrative Memos & Newsletters
Yes, you are officially allowed to recycle all the memos from our principals, assistant principals, and even the district administration.
The staff meeting dates, the school calendar, the phone directory, and staff meeting notes can all go!
You certainly know that all those notes will get replaced next year, so might as well make room for them now.
2. That Desk Drawer That You Always Keep Closed
We all have that drawer! Don’t be ashamed of it.
You know the one… It’s likely filled with broken crayons, paper clips, rubber bands, candy from the kids, and other tidbits that just aren’t that important.
Empty the drawer…
Yes, the whole drawer! You will feel better about yourself after it has been cleaned out.
3. Student work
This one might take you a little time because keeping samples of student work to show as exemplars can be helpful in the years to come.
The problem is that most of us end up saving too many.
Decide which ones you really want to keep and which ones you can return to the students. You really don’t need to have more than 2-3 samples of work to demonstrate your expectations.
4. Notes & Drawings
You probably get inundated with student letters, cards, and drawings throughout the year. It's time to decide what makes the cut to keep long-term.
I recommend creating a “Smile File” that you can place anything that really makes you smile in it.
This can be an email from a parent, a note from your administrator, or one of the above-mentioned student mementos.
Make sure that it is really something you need to keep. It’s perfectly fine to discreetly recycle some of the many nice messages from your students.
It is great to have a well-stocked bookcase in your classroom. However, over time, books begin to fall apart, and the old books build up, taking the precious room on your bookshelf.
There are also those books that aren't ever touched from year to year because they are not a good fit for your students or they've already read them in prior grades. Similarly, you might just have too many copies of the same book taking up space.
Take some time at the end of the year to browse through your selection and really decide what you want your students to read and identify any books that are in bad shape and just need to be replaced.
If you see a book that is not particularly interesting but is still in good shape, place it in a separate pile.
You can take these books and see if the librarian or another teacher wants them.
If not, there are plenty of donation places where you could drop them off for others to read.
For books that have been well loved, the recycle bin is a perfect solution. Record the titles before you toss them so that you can replace these books with less damaged versions over the summer.
6. Duplicate Copies of Plans or Printables
Yes, I know we all panic that a great lesson plan or essential paper for a lesson gets lost. So, to prevent that panic, we make many copies of that paper.
Whatever your organization system is, don’t keep a bundle of the same sheets. There’s a good chance you saved it on your computer so one hard copy placed in the correct spot in your cabinet or binder should be sufficient.
Too many papers can look overwhelming. You want to head into your summer break knowing everything is in place and neatly organized. This will save you hours of time in the new school year.
Trust me. You'll be thanking yourself later.
THE EXCEPTION: The exception would be duplicates of printables you tend to use the first week or two of school. Put these in a file and take them with you to help you make your plans in the summer.
There's no reason to waste copies if you're planning to use these materials in those initial weeks. If your lucky, this might even save you some time at the copy machine.
7. Things forgotten
We all have things that we forget we have. If you haven't touched it in a year, it is time to let it go!
Consider sharing with a colleague or offering it to a student teacher who may use it in her new classroom…but don't hold on to it.
Things that you are really excited about, you won't forget. If you've forgotten something existed, it likely was an impulse purchase that you didn't have any real plan for anyway. Don't let it take up precious space in your classroom.
8. Things constantly underfoot or missing pieces
We all have a lot of educational games available for the kids. Shockingly, from time to time, the kids forget to put all the pieces back and things start to get lost or broken.
If that is the case, stop holding out hope that you will find the piece. It’s time to let it go. The same can be said for broken crayons or random things that the students find and give to you.
When the new school year starts, you want to walk into a fresh classroom. There's no use holding on to broken tools that are just taking up space.
You got this!
As teachers, most of us tend to be natural hoarders. We have so many ideas of how something might be used SOMEDAY that things tend to accumulate. By the time we do something about it, we've forgotten what we actually have.
Instead of letting this pattern continue, use those final days for organizing and clearing the clutter.
It might be difficult to let things go, especially in the early years or if you've changed grades frequently. However, many of the things you are currently storing could easily sit there collecting dust for years.
We are constantly creating new lesson plans and finding new ideas. (Thanks, Pinterest!)
Don't be afraid of decluttering.
Starting a new school year completely organized will create a much smoother start, and by taking care of things at the end of school, you'll have more time during that stressful stretch where you're prepping for students while balancing never-ending meetings.
Fill up that recycle bin, share with colleagues, and make sure your materials have a home in your room. You can even challenge your coworker to see who can clear the most clutter. And then, walk out that door and have the best summer vacation ever!