back to school, classroom, new teachers

Back to School: Organizing Your Space

a_mess1Photo credit: Nathan Lutz, Classroom, 2012.

For years I pined away, wishing to have a classroom of my very own. I shot dirty glances at fellow colleagues who had spacious but uninspiring rooms, or worse, messy rooms. Here I am, on a hot sweaty day in August, sitting in my classroom, overwhelmed by the mess I created by rearranging, organizing, adding, and purging, and my eventual sprucing up of the place. My books need to be sorted and straightened. My supplies for the fall need to be counted and put away. I’m a little backed up on my filing. My plants have seen better days. I have several bulletin boards that need facelifts.

Am I starting to resent the responsibility of all this space? Yes and no. What I’m doing now is painful, but in a few short weeks, it will all be worth it when this room is full of kids, eager to be back at school to see their old friends and make new ones. I want my room to be a place where they can learn and grow, show off their work, and admire the work of others. I want to create spaces where they can collaborate on projects, or sit in solitude and get work done.

If you’re lucky enough to have your very own classroom space, you might be contemplating these same issues. If you don’t have your own classroom, can you work with the person with whom you are sharing the space? It doesn’t hurt to ask. More than likely, that other teacher would love help in designing a better learning environment.

Some things to keep in mind:

1. Resources area(a): Remember that this is not just your room, but the room of your students as well. Have an area where they can help themselves to basic supplies like tape, stapler, paperclips, paper, pencils, etc.

2. Classroom library: Even in this digital age, books are still a great resource. Be sure to have dictionaries and any books that are relevant to your discipline. Magazines are a great resource to have when quick students have downtime after tests or work is done.

3. Workspace: Be sure there is ample space for students to do work comfortably in class.

4. Collaboration space: Humans are social creatures. As such, we need to collaborate from time to time. Ensure that you have an area for students to get together to discuss projects or do pair/small group work. If you are short on space, can your chairs and desks/tables be easily rearranged to facilitate these types of discussions?

5. Storage. I’m a firm believer in the adage “Everything has its place.” I’m blessed to have a lot of cabinets. I have colleagues who do not have anything, so they’ve had to get creative. I’ve seen some teachers hide things behind curtains.

6. Esthetics: It doesn’t take a lot of money to make a classroom homey. A few cheap plants and posters can really spruce up even the dullest of spaces. As the years progress, give curatorship to your students. Display their work. Enlist students to care for plants or decorate bulletin boards. A word of caution: try not to overdo it with decorations and make the place overstimulating.

7. Change: Don’t feel like you have to keep things the same all year. If something isn’t working for you, change it. Ask your students what they think of the space. What works better for them?

Just as every child has the opportunity to make a fresh start every year, so do I, and so does my classroom. The kids I have from year to year like to come in a spot new things or differences.

Sure, I could leave things the same, but where’s the fun and interest in doing that?

Photo credit: Nathan Lutz, Classroom, 2018.