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Thursday, May 28, 2015

End of the Year Tips: Organization Is Key!

Organization was not my concern in the first five or so years of teaching.  As long as it was somewhere in my closet or cabinets, I figured I could find it if I needed it.  However, there are many times I would forget to lay something out for a lab or lesson and here I am, with 26 pairs of eyes on my back, digging around saying "I thought it was here, I remember seeing it here....once."

 I also had WAY too much junk in my closet.  Your first few years as a teacher, when someone starts a sentence with "Hey, I didn't know if you could use these in your classroom, but..." you happily accepted whatever it was.  A giant box of felt cut outs of basketballs?  That might be day.  5,000 cotton swabs?  Sure, stick them in the tied up grocery bag with the Q-tips, craft sticks, and batteries.  Because, that arrangement makes sense...right?

Finally after about five years of digging around and the occasional closet avalanche, I decided it was time to get organized. Now, this is NOT something I suggest you completely tackle at the end of the year, but it is a GREAT time to get started.  Especially those of you who are moving classrooms, schools, etc...

How do you start?  Pick a drawer, closet, cabinet, something!  Then, simply go through and ask yourself, "Have I used this in the last few years?" "What was I planning on using this for?" "Would I have used this if I knew where it was?"  If you replied "no" to at least two of these, it is probably time to part ways.  This was hard for me at first, but then I went back through drawers a second and third time, getting rid of more and more stuff.  It felt great!  Do you really need 50,000 different behavior chart stickers?  No, no you don't.

Now, you don't have to "throw away" perfectly good items.  Sometimes other people in the school may need them.  I put out all of my unwanted stuff and told people they could come by and pick up anything in that pile they wanted.  If they didn't want it, sometimes at the end of the year the students wanted it.  I mean, I even used some of these items as "auction" items for our classroom behavior system on the last couple days and BOY do they get excited about your closet junk!

The rest is simply unwanted.  Donate it (if it is something you can donate), and the rest is TRASH.  Throw it out and don't look back!

Before I moved schools I decided that I wanted to be super organized because it had been one of my faults for many years.  I talked to my husband about it, and I sucked it up and spent over $100 at Wal-Mart on those great clear green clip boxes from Steralite.  (As much as I love Target, their boxes there were on average about $2-4 more a piece than Wal-Mart ...yikes!)  Now, the ones I got were all different sizes, but were "modular" and stacked perfectly.

Do you need to go blow that much on boxes right now?  No, zipper bags are GREAT for storage! I loved using gallon zipper bags and those great two gallon zipper bags for storing items.  You can use smaller zipper bags to keep items separate, and the larger ones to store them by unit.  You can even get those hangers with clips and store them in a closet if you have one!

Now, for my labeling system, I found those sticky labels by Post-It, wrote the label in Sharpie, and then used packaging tape to "seal" the label on for years of use.  If you really want to get technical, you can also color code your labels by subject or use.  For instance, in the picture above, my math items are labeled in blue, my science items in green.

I know one solution may not fit all, and it may take some saving or a couple of year to get all the boxes you need (I did mine over two years), but it greatly helped in my case. I felt great being able to walk over to my cabinets and find the hole punches immediately, or grab the "light and color" box to make sure I had all the items for the transparent, translucent, opaque lab tomorrow.  Measurement centers first thing in the morning? No worries, everything you need is in it's own box, labeled and waiting!

 It pays off in the end because the time you spend organizing now is time you will gain back (while you have all of those students in the room giggling and waiting for you to dig out of the pile that fell out of the closet.

Good luck, and start now so you aren't overwhelmed at the beginning of the year!

PS - The two pictures above are some centers that I stored, each in their own box.  It worked perfectly when it came time to use them!

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