Jul 22 2008

Setting up my classroom (Part I)

As I move into my fourth year of teaching and move to a new school, I’ll be doing something that I haven’t done since I was just out of Institute and nervous as hell: setting up an entirely new classroom. My old room was set up entirely to my satisfaction and I was quite proud of it. Now I’m in a new, smaller room with a new subject to incorporate into my physical space. I know that hundreds of 08 CMs are out there setting up their new classrooms as well, and I thought it might be fun to do a series of posts documenting my efforts.

I got into my classroom for the first time right before I left for San Diego. It was hot as the bejeezus, so all I had time to do was haul my stuff in (and take some pictures).

New (to you) classrooms come in two basic varieties:

1) Completely stripped of everything that wasn’t bolted down.

2) Crammed to the gills with useless, yellowing supplies and papers dating back decades that no one seems to want (but that they think you should probably keep, “just in case.”)

Sometimes you can luck into a fun combination of the two. My room basically falls into Category 1, which is probably the better of the two options. The former teacher took all of the furniture that might be even remotely useful, but at least the closet isn’t full of professional development binders old enough to vote.

If you do have a classroom of the messy/dirty/cluttered variety let me give you one small piece of advice; ignore most of it. I have seen a lot of new CMs spend their entire three or four workdays cleaning and organizing their new classroom only to realize at 3:00 on the day before school stats that they have barely made a dent in the mess, that there is still nothing on their walls and that, oh my god, what am I going to actually do with real students tomorrow!?

That said, here are my tools for day one in the classroom:

Pictured: 409 Cleaner, rags, scrubby sponges, a container for water, Goo Gone.

Not Pictured: A pad of paper and a pen, Tennis Shoes and shorts or pants

You should allot yourself exactly half of a work day to do whatever cleaning you feel is necessary. Any more than that and you’re just putting other things off. The Goo Gone is not strictly essential, but extremely useful in my experience. There is almost always sticky residue from something or another on boards or desks. 409 is the cleaner of the gods and works wonders on pencil and pen markings on desks.

On your first workday there may be some sort of staff meeting or convocation ceremony for which you want to dress formally, which is fine, but be sure to bring work clothes to change into. No one wants to be climbing on desks and squatting under tables in a skirt.

I try to keep my supply buying to a minimum until I’ve spent a little work time in my room. You will inevitably need things that you forgot or didn’t foresee, I promise you. I took approximately 623,754 trips to buy supplies during the work days my first year and wound up with enough plastic bags to practically wallpaper my room. Now I hold off on shopping. On that first day I clean in the morning, noting down things I think I might need (pens, tape, white board, construction paper, etc.) as they come to me. I use my lunch break to go shopping. This tends to save me trips. If there is a dollar store or Big Lots in the area try to buy as many supplies as possible there rather than at Staples or the like. You’ll save a ton of money.

I have a rather motley crew of furniture in my classroom right now, as mentioned above. I’m sincerely hoping I’m getting new student desks next year, as there are only two left in the room right now. Of course, I banished the three rolly chairs, even though they were in good repair. I discovered in my first week of teaching that pretty much anything rolly in the classroom was a bad idea.

You, as a new teacher, will most likely have a set of old, broken, mismatching, graffitied on desks. It’s just the law of the land, the only teachers in the building with nice new matching desks have usually been there for a while, building their collection.

Scavenging will probably be necessary. I intend to set my desk up across the back of the room with a reading corner next to it. The bookshelf above is the only one in the room, however, and I don’t know if it’s got another year in it.

Don’t count on there being a computer you can use in the room. It will likely be near (or after) the first day of school before your computer gets fully hooked up (you won’t be allowed to do it yourself) and your school login is set. Likely this is the sight that will taunt you, as it does me, during the work days.

This computer setup isn’t even mine. The former teacher is taking the phone, computer, printer and floppy drive as well as everything else in the room. Don’t be surprised if this is the case for you. Either bring your laptop to work on, or you’ll be doing most of your typing at home.

Next up: Arranging the room. Re-arranging the room. Arranging the room some more.

5 Responses

  1. Too funny. Excellent idea. And yes, 409 does work wonders on that pencil and pen art that gets left behind.

  2. CM

    Hee Hee

    “…at least the closet isn’t full of professional development binders old enough to vote.”

    Hee Hee.

  3. chrisb

    Brilliant post. Love it.

    When I started teaching last year, the school had been restructured at the end of the year before. So, various district people had spent the summer shuffling random things around the campus, and it was a crap-shoot as to which kind of classroom you would get: full of old random crap in cabinets, or full of old random crap in cabinets and all over the floor. I got the first kind, and I think I spent an hour looking through some stuff, threw away some 1970′s community-type posters, and then abandoned all hope of organization until the end of the year. That was probably the only decision that was actually inspired from the beginning of the year. So just to reinforce your point, seriously, as much as your type-A personality screams to organize all that stuff, just don’t. You can’t organize stuff if you don’t know what it is anyway.

  4. grace

    would you mind if i share links to your blog? my city friends have been pestering me for photos because they can’t imagine rural carolina as i describe it, and i am allergic to my camera but find your two photo posts perfect for the purpose :)

    where are you teaching this year?

  5. Grace,

    I’ll email you too, but that is not a problem, as long as they don’t send the links to any administrators in the area. ;)

Post a comment