By Andrew Hawk
The end of the school year is a hectic time for educators. We have many things that must be completed in a short period of time, from end-of-year grades to any number of clerical duties. On top of everything else, most educators have to work through an end-of-year checklist that could have thirty or more items to complete before calling it a year. From removing all items on the walls to doing inventory on textbooks and consumables, not many items on this checklist are pleasurable to complete. By the time we finish the things on our list, few of us want to put in extra time doing things for the next school year. But a little extra effort now will help make the beginning of next year much easier. You’ll thank yourself in the fall!
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind when the time comes to pack up your classroom this year:
DON’T keep things you will never use.
Elementary teachers are notorious hoarders. From scraps of construction paper to half-used workbooks, anything may come in handy someday. This problem was so bad at my last school district that the superintendent hired a professional organizer to come in and conduct a workshop on de-cluttering. Feel free to keep your favorite set of chapter books if you cannot stand to let it go. However, as a rule of thumb, if you have not used something in two calendar years, you probably will not use it in the foreseeable future. Don’t like seeing things go to waste? Pack your unneeded items in a box and drive them to the local Goodwill. Goodwill is not for profit and supports special education.
DON’T mishandle confidential materials.
Take all materials related to special education students (IEPs, behavior charts, and so on) and shred them. Sometimes classroom teachers actually return these things to me. Either way is fine. Please do not shove them in a drawer to be discovered by the new occupant of your classroom.
DON’T forget that permanent marker can be erased.
I only learned this myself last year when a student teacher showed me. If you take a dry erase marker and trace over the permanent marker writing, you can erase the permanent marker. This means that folders and name tags that were prepared but never used are now salvageable for the future!
DON’T pass on a good opportunity to collaborate with your peers.
Packing a classroom can be a tedious process. Find a colleague or two and pack all of your classrooms as a team. This makes the work more enjoyable, contributes to team building, and creates opportunities for incidental sharing of teaching ideas.
DO let students help.
Some principals are sticklers about instruction time. If this is the case at your school, having students help with your end-of-year checklist will not be an option for you. If you have a more relaxed principal, I would recommend letting your students assist with packing up the room. This builds the classroom community, and students usually enjoy it.
DO unplug all electronics in your room.
Anytime something electrical is plugged in, it is using a small amount of electricity. This is probably not a big deal in individual homes, but in a large building, it can add up faster than many people realize. Don’t leave this for the custodians. Unplug everything before you leave on the last staff day.
DO laminate things you plan on reusing.
If your school has a laminator, put it to good use. If you have a sign or a student work example that you want to keep, laminate these items before you pack them away. Lamination cuts down on discoloring and helps things last over an extended period of time.
DO label as many things as possible.
I truly believe that creative people require a little clutter in their work areas. However, clutter has no place in packing or unpacking. If you do not have a label maker, use masking tape and a permanent marker to label your classroom items as you are packing them. This takes a little extra time, but it can really expedite the unpacking process in the fall.
DO put snacks and treats in a sturdy container with a lid.
Don’t risk a mouse nibbling on your snacks and treats. If you store food at your school during the summer, be sure to put it in something that rodents cannot penetrate. This helps save your food and cuts down on the rodent population.
DO start making your wish list for next year.
Whether you will actually get the items on your list or it is truly a wish list, it is still a good idea to make one. Ideas may occur to you while you pack your room that will be lost if you do not record them. A wish list for the next school year is a solution to this problem.
Andrew Hawk has worked in public education for fourteen years, starting as a teaching assistant in a special education classroom. He has taught first, second, and fifth grade as a classroom teacher, and for the past three years, has worked as a resource room teacher, providing services for fourth and fifth graders. Working as a special education teacher has given him the opportunity to work with a variety of age groups and exceptionalities. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in special education from Western Governor’s University. When Andrew is not preparing for school, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter.
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