As the end of the year is drawing near, let’s talk about what you can do now to prepare for the next school year. I’ve found that it’s about this time of year that I get excited for the changes I’m going to make next year. 

Not only that, but I get into spring cleaning and organization mode. I admit that there were years where I was able to channel this energy to get a lot done. And there were years this didn’t quite happen.

What made the difference? Having a space where I could be creative and not get distracted.

Today, I want to share with you some tips on how you can prepare your classroom, lab, or shop for next year before this year is even done. These tips are for large cleaning and organizing projects, if you’re wanting some quick tips, check out Episode 10: 3 Tips to Making Your Classroom More Inviting.

Utilizing students to clean and organize large spaces

Have you ever heard the phrase, “many hands make light work”? Well, it is true that if you have a lot of help, it saves you time and energy. 

Let’s translate that phrase to, “use your students while you still have them” to clean and organize.

The first school I taught at had a handy check-out sheet. Each student needed to get signed by every teacher before receiving their yearbook. 

The last two days of school had a modified schedule where students attended all eight classes in one day. Every one of my students came to class to get my signature so they could get their yearbook.

I decided that I would have my students “earn” my signature by cleaning my room. Best. Thing. Ever!

I assigned each class a task that they would need to complete and pass off to me. Some cleaned desks, emptied drawers, organized supplies, or took down my bulletin boards. 

For the class that chewed gum the most, they got the task of scraping gum off the bottom of desks.

Coming up with your own end of year routine

Jared, my welding teacher husband, wasn’t so lucky with the check-out sheet. He’s had to come up with a way to motivate his students to clean up. 

Safety is one of his course objectives, so he gives his students daily points for safe practices. Cleaning up falls into one of those safe practices. His students clean and organize on a daily basis to maintain the shop during the school year.

At the end of the year, he has two days where each of his class periods has specific areas to clean. They clean the shop so well that he can have the floor repainted each summer.

Hint: if you don’t have enough jobs for each class, have students repeat a job that another class may have done.

Parting with projects, assignments, or lesson plans

Teachers are notorious for saving projects, assignments, lesson plans, and unused ideas. 

You probably have a colleague at your school with a room full of filing cabinets. The ones with worksheets, lesson plans, and other goodies from every class they have ever taught and one day may teach again.

At one of the elementary schools that I interned, the principal outlawed filing cabinets that were not built in as an attempt to curb the hoarding.

In the past, when I went to a conference, I found myself taking my SWAG bag to each of the presentations and collecting handouts–and free pens.

When I finished the day, I went through my notes and handouts and figured out what I wanted to use in my class. I returned the rest to the SWAG bag and then filed the bag away.

You heard that right, I would keep the bag with all the rest of the ideas! It wasn’t until a few years ago when I started developing a minimalist mindset that I parted with these bags. And I was still tempted to go through them to make sure I didn’t miss any great ideas. Don’t worry, I found none.

Give yourself permission to get rid of that paper clutter that you didn’t use this year. You most likely won’t use it next year or even the next. If the idea was SO great, you would have implemented it immediately. 

Decluttering goes for digital as well

This goes for your digital ideas as well. Have you ever been able to get your inbox to “zero?” Let me tell you, it is freeing! 

After you clear yourself of your paper clutter, take some time to go through your digital clutter. If that seems too daunting, make a folder on your computer for the next school year. 

As you create or use plans and resources, save them to that folder. You will then have all your curriculum in one place so you can find things easily. Then, the following year, you can move those things that you used to the next year’s folder and so on. 

As you go, it will be much easier to delete a file that you know you haven’t used for years. If you must, treat those digital files like your taxes and only hang on to them for three years.

Clearing off horizontal surfaces

This final end-of-year tip will make your room instantly feel clean and more organized.

Take the time to clear off all your horizontal surfaces. That’s any counters, desks, or other places where clutter seems to fall.

A great way to is by taking a laundry basket, milk crate, or box around your space and place things that don’t belong within. 

This doesn’t have to take very long and is a good exercise to do in 10 minutes. Set a timer and you will be amazed at what you can get done. 

After you have collected the items from your surfaces, return out-of-place items to their rightful places. Throw away any trash, and sort/file any paperwork. 

Now, take a deep breath and marvel at how clean and decluttered your space is in such a short amount of time.

End of year organization in review

Find ways to utilize your students to do most of the cleaning and organizing for you. It’s okay to have classes repeat the same job. Get rid of any projects, assignments, or unused ideas both physically and digitally. And, clear off your horizontal surfaces.

You’ll find that having clean and organized spaces at the end of the school year starts the next year off well and allows you to have a better summer break.

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