One of the results of having such a busy career in teaching is that rubbish tends to collect in your classroom.
Of course it’s the old light bulb syndrome – if you don’t put up light shades in a new house soon after you move in then after a while you won’t notice that you don’t have them!
So perhaps it’s a great opportunity to take this chance at the end of the year to have a clear out….to get ruthless and take a cold hard look at just what you have and compare that to what you actually need!
Which are the worst areas?
Without a shadow of a doubt the worst area will be your STOCKROOM if you have one – and the reason for this is that you can shut the door and forget about it. It doesn’t matter if it looks untidy because no one can see it and how many times have you just opened the door and put something on any shelf anywhere! Of course, you tell yourself that you know where things are and perhaps to an extent you do know that the spare exercise books are on 1 or 2 particular shelves. But beyond this….its a jungle and you have no idea what’s deep inside!
Remember that child who left your class suddenly 2 years ago?….where did he go to? – he couldn’t be lost in there somewhere…could he???
The next problem area is always YOUR DESK…it’s probably never been cleared out since you took over that room and in reality it had probably never been cleared out before then either. In the drawers lie confiscated and broken toy cars – hair clips – small amounts of change – numerous pens and pencils – broken staplers and hole punches and the list could go on. In the lower drawers there are files and information about children long gone – notes and comments about meetings YOU never went to and absence notes and P.E excuses from years gone by and keys that you have no idea as to what they open!!
I used to have children volunteer to tidy my desk at regular intervals – more often than not about 3 girls would spend a playtime or some of a lunchtime getting everything into neat piles and ensuring the balancing towers of irrelevant things did not topple over and that I could actually see the wood of the desk itself! – always appreciated but unfortunately not long lasting!
Shelves and files – I hate files…yes I actually hate all the files that we have to operate. They arrive at the beginning of a school year in crates and not only do they have to be put somewhere but they carry a veiled threat that they need to be “kept up to date!” There always seem to be files for everything and they always look so urgent. The problem is that once you put them away either in the stockroom or on the top shelf they lose a little of the urgency…especially if there are also file boxes from a few years ago that had not been passed on and no one had bothered!
I could go on – but I am just going to mention the ART CUPBOARD….always out of control and always a mess. From broken paint brushes to glue spreaders still stuck in yoghurt pots. The newspaper that used to be folded neatly after art lessons is now torn and screwed up as it was pushed back into the cupboard in a rush. Powder paint is spilling all over the shelves and the squeeze containers are drying up rapidly amongst the empties!
Classroom are extremely busy working environments and if you step back and think about it, there is hardly a minute when you are not actively interacting with the children. It is therefore the perfect environment and potential for mess! There is so much equipment used and supplies that are needed that the logistics of storage and use present a constant challenge.
However, having said that – if we can actually take some time at the end of the school year it is possible to sort some, if not all, of this out.
At around this time of year there is a skip brought to school and so there’s a great opportunity to get completely ruthless and have a clear out. It may well be the case that you are clearing out the mess from 2 or 3 teachers ago and so there is a build up of stuff and large amounts – but you have to start somewhere and if it is only 1 area that you manage to get under control then at least it’s one less that’s needed to be done in the future.
Art cupboards and teachers desks are relatively easy to do- the rubbish is obvious and can be simply tipped into bin bags before throwing out. But stockrooms and even stock cupboards need more time and always have a lot more stuff to get through. The nature of things in stockrooms / cupboards means that you will need to be looking more closely at items and so it can take much longer.
The hardest part! – like many things in life the hardest thing is to make a start! If you have a really swamped classroom then look and plan the task in sections. Don’t look at the whole things as this will put you off as the job will seem enormous. Start with perhaps your desk and maybe the library area and leave it at that. Further down the line perhaps at the end of the Autumn term clear the Art cupboard and then next summer tackle just some of the stockroom! Don’t forget, in some schools the rubbish build up is enormous and so just aim to chip away at it gradually with no time expectations. Whatever you do, however small, is improving things the right way!
So with the end of the summer term looming – take a look around at either your existing classroom or the one where you will be going and decide what needs to be done ….
Gloves, bin bags and ACTION !