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Have you ever watched your class leave at the end of the day to look around the room you use and see a disastrous mess? It looks less like a classroom and more like the aftermath of the Godzilla movie. You’d love to put everything right, but you’re already exhausted and have too much else to do before the day is done. Well, there are a few things you can do in your classroom to get the place organized and tidy before you leave for the day. This article will review what larger changes can influence easier daily tidiness.
1. Take inventory.
This is a task for your next end of school year or next off-track (if you teach year-round). Go through all of the stuff in your room and create a comprehensive inventory of all of the items you manage. Group items into categories such as decorations, resource books, administrative binders, class supplies, etc. Use this inventory to determine what stuff you need to keep and what can go; eliminating unnecessary decorations or unused supplies will help maintain an organized room. Once you have the inventory written out and organized, update it on a monthly or weekly basis to keep track of the items that have been lost, damaged, replaced, or removed. This master list will help you by removing errant thoughts about what stuff is in your room from your head to paper. This foundation becomes a useful tool to track your room’s supplies.
2. Leverage the students.
Students of any age can help maintain a tidy class. Depending on your students’ capacity, consider making time in the daily or weekly schedule for tidying the room. Use your inventory as a guide to deliver assignments to individuals or groups as room organization becomes a team effort. You may even choose to use an opportunity like this to teach your students about custodial work. Consult with your school’s administration about arranging for your students to learn from the school’s facility management staff. This activity may not be applicable for all scenarios as you work to keep the classroom tidy, but may be a fun, unique activity for younger learners.
3. Calm the paper storm.
Paperwork is a term often used in various professions to describe voluminous tedium. If only the other professions could see how much paperwork teachers have to manage. Administrative binders, classroom assignments, handouts, syllabi, programs, and homework, nearly every academic activity is accompanied by at least a sheet—or ten—of papers. It boggles the mind to consider how to organize papers. Digitizing paperwork is one of the best ways to reduce the volume of paper needed in your room and allows for completed and graded assignments to be recycled and removed from the class instead of stored. You may also consider ways of assigning and receiving work from your students digitally. No need to cart around 30 five-page essays when they can be submitted to you electronically.
Nevertheless, you will be storing paperwork of some kind in your classroom, so consider how you want to store and organize it. Use your vertical space with a standard filing cabinet or two to keep loose papers filed away. In-and-out baskets on class surfaces are an effective way to manage work on paper being turned in and then being returned to students.
4. Get the right fit.
Whether bins, bags, drawers, bookcases, shelves, or cabinets, every piece of furniture used to organize classroom supplies should follow one simple rule: If it fits, it sits. As you review your inventory, keep track of what pieces of hardware are used to hold everything. Do the pieces you use to organize supplies support everything neatly? Or does your furniture sag and bend to accommodate all of the stuff they bear? When your furniture no longer supports the quantity of stuff you have, consider with your inventory if upgrading the furniture is the right move, or if it’s time to get rid of old stuff. Furniture with adequate capacity will help keep everything in its place whenever the room is tidied. Furniture at overcapacity will experience spills and breakage, often more expensive than maintaining supplies or updating furniture.
Getting organized in your classroom is about more than the daily fight against messy chaos. It’s about finding the right organization for your room and working with your class to maintain that organization. Getting organized is like curating your wardrobe. Find what you like, what functions, what fits well, and what you can maintain. Then, remove what doesn’t and keep up with the laundry.