Coming Into A New Classroom: Where Do I Start?
The first day you walk into a new classroom, whether the walls are blank and the furniture is scarce, or the room is filled with junk leftover from the previous teacher, is a simultaneously magical and overwhelming experience. Once you get over the initial feelings though, you start looking around and realizing you have to start somewhere, but where? It can be really tempting to start putting up bulletin board borders and buying cute things from the Target Dollar Spot, but take it one step at a time and I promise it will be less overwhelming.
- Sort through what you have and purge what you don't need. Check out my post Seven Things to Throw Away Now. Pull everything out of drawers, cupboards, boxes, cabinets, and your library. Don't leave random items in a file cabinet that you aren't aware of- you won't go through it "later." Check if others in your school want the items if you'd like, then donate them. Don't hold on to things just in case. This includes furniture, extra storage, bookshelves, desks, etc. Having shelves and storage lining your whole classroom makes the room feel cluttered and small.
- Take inventory of what you have and start a list of what you still need. It's a good idea to prioritize this list or separate it into needs versus wants, especially if you're not sure of your budget yet. You'll need pencils before you need a class set of iPads, and scissors before you get yoga balls for flexible seating. Check with your team to find out what students can be asked to bring, and what you can expect. Other teachers or people in your community may be willing to donate to your classroom as well.
- Organize what's left in a way that works for you. Just because the teacher next door has one of those tall, colorful drawer carts doesn't mean that's what will work best for you. Make sure your library is ready for students to choose books. Label things to make them easy for you and your students to find. If you teach younger students, you might want to include images on the labels so they know what they are accessing.
- Hang wall decorations, cover bulletin boards, and start visualizing specific areas you want in the classroom. Once everything is organized, it's time to start decorating! Consider what areas you want to build in your classroom. For example, you may want a library area, or a writing center, maybe a teacher corner. Put corresponding decorations in those areas to separate them a little from the rest of the room. Bulletin boards don't have to be completely full, just ready for student work. Put backgrounds, borders, and titles on your boards, and make sure you have anything up you need for management. Everything else can wait! In fact, your students will love helping you build the bulletin boards and classroom environment.
- Move furniture into place. Remember, this can always be moved! Low furniture can be used to section off specific areas, but be sure to consider your ability to see each part of the room. Decide whether you want your desks in rows, groups, separated, etc.
- Label student desks, classroom jobs, cubbies, files, and anything else that needs student names on it. When you have your class list, start labeling! If your school has a lot of turnover you might choose to wait until you are a few days into the school year to do this. You might want to consider labeling using numbers so you can use things year to year and adapt when new students move in.
- Put the finishing touches on your classroom, and get it ready for the first day or meet the teacher night! Now is the time to put some fun decorations you are excited about in your classroom. You don't have to spend a fortune on your classroom, but you do want to make it feel like home for you and your students. Put out the activity you want students to start on the first morning, and get any supplies ready to go. Or, if you have a meet the teacher night prior to the first day, set out forms and put out boxes for supply donations.
You're ready for a great year! Best of luck, and remember you can always change things if they aren't working for you.