Do you struggle with keeping your classroom organized? It can be a challenge to keep your classroom organized–especially in the CTE classroom. Because you have more “stuff” than the average teacher.

Picture this: the bell to release students just rang. You look around your classroom and see that the desks and counters are clear. 

You turn on some of your favorite tunes, organize the “inbox” on your desk for a few minutes. Your grading is caught up, you’re prepared for tomorrow, and your room is tidy. 

You get to decide how to spend that extra time. When the time comes, you collect your bag and head for the door. Nothing extra. Nothing more than what you came to school with.

Is this your dream or reality? 

You are usually exhausted after school, wouldn’t it be nice to sit back with your favorite songs and decide what to do for the rest of your contract day?

You can have that life. It takes some organization and systems. To be clear, we’re not going to be talking about hyper organization. That’s what you see on Pinterest where everything is labeled with matching containers.

We’re going to be talking about creating the systems behind the organization so that it not only works for you and your students, but is sustainable. After that, if you want to buy containers and make labels, go right ahead.  

We’re going to be talking about 3 simple ways to keep your classroom organized in under 10 minutes.

To Keep Your Classroom Organized, Everything Needs a Home

First off, everything needs a home. Your desk or counters cannot be a permanent home for anything. 

In the first “S” step of “Set in Order,” we’ll go over how to determine where everything lives. But for this “Sustain” step, we’re going to talk about new things that may not already have a home. 

We’re talking extra master copies, a random tool that you bought for a lesson, SWAG you got from the local community college, or a handout that you got at the faculty meeting that you may or may not use in a lesson.

If you cannot automatically think of a place where these items can go, toss it into your “I don’t know if this needs a home” container. This should be easy to access, but also something that is “out of sight, out of mind.” 

Set a reminder in your phone to clear out this container every month or term. 

My mom used to have me do this when I was younger when I “cleaned” my room. I would hang on to everything. The only way my room would actually get clean was if we boxed everything up that didn’t have a home. 

We put it down in the basement and I’d go through it when I remembered. And, as probably planned by my mom, I would often forget about the box. 

When I did remember, most of those prized possessions were no longer prized and I was able to toss or donate almost everything. 

Use Your Vertical Spaces to Keep Your Classroom Organized

Horizontal spaces catch clutter. That’s because it’s super easy to just set things down and forget about putting them away. 

If you look around your classroom/lab/shop you’ll notice that if anything is out of place, it is probably on a horizontal surface. 

How do we change this? We find ways to store things vertically. We’re talking about hooks, magazine racks, and over the door organizers.

Think about what you could store in one of those behind the door shoe organizers. Headphones? Tape measures? Hot glue guns? Small supplies/materials?

Another thing to think about is hooks. You can place hooks on walls or even under tables or desks. 

Do you have supplies that students might need to access quickly and frequently while at their desks? 

When I was teaching hand drafting–yes, I know, that doesn’t exist anymore, we had a “kit” that students needed to use. It had pencils, lead holders, scales, a lettering guide, an eraser shield, and other drafting tools that most have never heard of. They were stored in a zippered pouch.

Well, you can get zippered pouches that have a large grommet in one of the corners. Perfect for hanging from a hook. Slap a Command Hook (or something similar) to a desk leg, and voila! Students have quick access to the kit without taking up horizontal space.

Set a Timer and Clear Your Horizontal Surfaces to Keep Your Classroom Organized

This final step could be implemented today. Grab a crate, basket, container, or box. Set a timer for 5 to 10 minutes (depending on your amount of stuff) and clear off those horizontal surfaces. 

Don’t think, just clear.

We’re going for a quick-win here on clearing the clutter. 

When you’re done with the clearing, empty your container and sort and put away. Remember from the first tip, you should have a place for everything. 

Even if it’s the “I don’t know if this needs a home” container.

Bonus Tip: if you already have students clean up at the end of your class, assign this task to a student. They should be able to do it just as easily as you can.

In Summary

In the end, you can keep your classroom organized by creating systems that work for you and your students. Having a system for finding a home for all of your supplies and materials is key. You can then use vertical organization systems to keep things off your horizontal surfaces. Then, when you pile up stuff on those surfaces, quickly clear and sort.

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