It’s the end of the year and time to clean up and clean out your classroom. As you’re busy deciding what and what not to keep I want to offer you this bit of advice: When in doubt, throw it out!
As teachers, so many of us take on the “pack rat” mentality of thinking we can’t get rid of things for the minute chance we might use them some day. A friend offered me this piece of advice a few months ago and it has completely changed the way I approach “stuff,” not only in my classroom but in all areas of my life. He said, “Don’t hold on to stuff ‘just in case’ you might use it some day because ‘some day’ will probably never come. Instead purchase or find things ‘just in time’ - that way you don’t clutter your classroom and your life with things you’ll probably never end up using.”
Now, just to drive home this point a little further I want to offer you 5 reasons to simplify and get rid of clutter in your classroom:
1. You’ll spend less time organizing your teaching materials and classroom: This is kind of a no-brainer but it doesn’t hurt to think about it again. Consider how much time you spend organizing or trying to find certain teaching materials in your classroom. The less you have, the less you’ll have to go through when trying to put it all together.
2. It will make your room (and you) look better: Think about it. You can usually get an idea about what kind of learning is happening just by walking into a classroom and taking a quick look around. The less clutter there is in your room, the more focused the learning environment will be for your students. Also, although this it is not the most important reason, you will leave a good impression on teachers, parents, and other adults who stop by your room and entrust you to teach their children every day.
3. It will create space for new and fresh teaching ideas: By weeding out old, dated teaching materials that you haven’t used in years you’ll be more inclined to seek out and try new ones. I’ve found that change is hard but it’s even harder when you’re holding on to the past. So, try setting a rule for yourself such as if you haven’t used it in the last year or two, toss it out or give it away.
4. You need to be an organized, “clutter-free” roll model for your students: As teachers you know what a huge life-skill organization is. You also know how much it drives you crazy when you ask your students to get out the assignment they started the day before and three of them can’t find it because their desk looks like a tornado just passed through it. Make sure your desk and classroom isn’t a disaster that gives students allowance to be messy and disorganized.
5. It will reduce your impact on the environment: When I first started teaching I would make class sets of every handout I would use. Not only did this waste a ton of paper and space, but it wasn’t necessary. I found having students share copies or just keeping one copy of something that I projected onto my whiteboard, or saving a digital copy in a file on my computer instead of a hard copy, cut down on my waste considerably and reduced my impact on the environment. Plus, the school’s tight budget will thank you.
I hope this provides a bit of encouragement to you as you approach the daunting, year-end task of cleaning and organizing your room.