As the end of the school year quickly approaches, teachers are running on caffeine, chocolate, and visions of summer. It can be overwhelming to think of all the items on your to-do list while keeping your students busy at the end of the year. Get organized with these 12 practical tips for packing up your classroom with ease.
Tip #1: Prioritize.
When it comes to tackling your to-do list at the end of the year, prioritization is key. Determine which jobs are considered a “must do” and which ones are “would like to do” projects.
Make a list of each and then prioritize each list. You'll want to work on the “must do” list first as these are things you NEED to do in order to leave for the summer.
Set a date that each task needs to be done by and stick with it. If it's a date set by the school (returning library equipment, textbook counts, supply requests, etc.) then you'll need to factor those dates in too.
Afterwards, if you have time, go back and tackle the list of projects you would LIKE to do. Those might be changing bulletin boards, sharpening new pencils, etc.
Want to instantly make yourself feel better? On your list, write down something you've already done and then immediately cross it off. It feels SO good to cross items off of your to-do list and gives you a boost of motivation and accomplishment!
Tip #2: Manage Your Time.
Once you have prioritized, decide on one task to tackle and complete it right away. Don't stop until it's done. Be realistic though. Don't set out to do a huge project if you only have 10 or 15 minutes.
Work in one area of your room at a time, rather than jumping around to different areas.
Another great tip for packing up your classroom is to dedicate one or two days a week to come in extra early or stay late, rather than doing a little “here and there” organization and packing throughout the day.
It can be helpful to work in a longer time span when you can really get focused rather than in several short, 15 minute windows.
Tip #3: Start Early.
If you know that you are finished using a resource or an item in your classroom, organize it and pack it away. That way you don't have to wait until the very last week of school.
This does not mean that you should start taking down bulletin boards or putting away classroom manipulatives several weeks before school is out. You don't want to send a message to your students that school is over.
However, you can start organizing and packing up some of the small things behind the scenes without your students noticing, such as the inside of drawers or cabinets. If you have seasonal items that you are done using for the year, those can be packed up too.
Tip #4: Get the Kids Involved.
By May or June, your classroom manipulatives, such as magnetic letters, math cubes, and puzzles tend to get really unorganized. Your classroom library may look like a pile of books in one area instead of an organized reading oasis.
A great tip for packing up your classroom that will save you time and energy is to have your students help you. These are not projects that you need to sit and do yourself. Save them for last week of school and let the kids do it!
Kids can sort puzzle pieces, math manipulatives, magnetic letters, broken crayons, and dried out markers. It keeps them busy and it makes them feel helpful. Plus, it teaches them about responsibility and teamwork, which is always a win!
Tip #5: Clean, Don't Cram.
At the end of the school year, teachers just want to get out the door. It's easy to shove papers, supplies, etc, into hiding places and deal with it later. It's really, really tempting to just get it out of sight, out of mind.
However, when you return to school in August, you'll probably regret that decision. There is no magic fairy that comes in over the summer to tidy it up. It's still there when you get back.
Do your future self a favor and take the time to clean, organize, and file items away before you leave for the summer.
If your school allows it, clean and organize your shelves, then cover them with bulletin board paper. You can always re-use the paper for students to color on during the first week of school or to cover the tables during Open House.
If you have a lot of shelf space, another great alternative is plastic table cloths or plastic drop cloths. They work just as well!
Tip #6: Purge Baby Purge.
Most teachers are savers by nature. It's nothing to be ashamed of! It's part of their nature and creativity. You just never know when you'll need 30 toilet paper rolls or a chip canister to make that really cool project you saw in your Pinterest feed.
While there are definitely things you may want to save for next year, it's simply not practical to save everything. Cue the song, “Let It Go!”
If something has served you well, you haven't used it in years (or ever), or you know you won't need it next year, get rid of it.
Ask your colleagues or any new teachers coming in if they would like it. One teacher's trash is another teacher's treasure, right?!
If possible, start a “free” table, recycle it, or throw it away.
Tip #7: Take Pictures.
One of my favorite tips for packing up your classroom is to take pictures of your classroom from multiple angles.
In August, it can be difficult to remember what your classroom looked like the previous school year. Pictures serve as great reminders and can help you get your classroom set up quicker during back to school time.
Bonus, totally non-teacher related tip: do this in your house at Christmas time or for other holidays/seasons. It is so helpful to remember where you had your decorations and what you used from year to year!
Take a few notes of things you liked and that worked well. Also take notes of things that didn't work so great. If you've got a few ideas of how it could work differently, jot those down while they are fresh in your head.
Tip #8: Pack a Back-to-School Survival Box.
Have you ever packed to move, got to your new house, desperately needed a cup of coffee, and you realize your coffee pot is nowhere to be found? Or you have no clue where your paper plates and plastic silverware are that you are surely going to use for a while?
When packing, you always want to pack important things that you'll need right away in an easily accessible box. Packing up your classroom is no different!
Think about what you'll need first when you get back to school in August. You may need scissors, a stapler, sticky notes, Sharpies, pens, tape, etc. in your box. All of the items you'll need to help get your classroom decorated and organized.
Tip #9: Pack a Take-Home Box.
Clear bins or containers make the best take-home boxes. They are sturdy and you can easily see what is inside. Also, the items are contained so they aren't taking over your dining room table or your entire house.
In your take-home box, you may want to include any personal items that you don't want to leave at school. This might be that stash of chocolate from your desk, extra cash or change you had in your desk, etc.
You can even take your back-to-school survival box home with you over the summer so you know exactly where it is when it's time to head back to school. That way if your room gets rearranged during summer cleaning, you're not left searching for it in August!
You may want to include your first week of school activities and read alouds in your take-home box.
It might also be a good idea to pack up your community classroom supplies like bins, scissors, whisper phones, etc, to take home and wash or disinfect (this is a great job for the dishwasher!)
Tip #10: Be a Label Lady.
Have you ever told yourself, “I don't need to write this down, I'll remember it?”
Funny, right?! As teachers, especially at the end of the school year, there are a thousand thoughts running through your mind. Face it, you're going to forget what's in the boxes you are packing.
When August gets here, you're going to have memories of vacations, sleeping in, and spending time with your own kids, not what you packed in May or June. That's ok, it should be that way!
Just do yourself a favor and stick a label on it now as you are packing up your classroom. Label everything so you know what everything is and where it goes.
Tip #11: Make Lists.
As you are cleaning out and purging your classroom, make a list of the things you need to reorder, replace, or replenish over the summer. It's also a great idea to make a list of things that you don't need or have plenty of.
You can make these lists on your phone, that way you'll always have them when you're out shopping over the summer.
This will allow you to take advantage and stock up during the back to school sales, summer sidewalk sales, or yard sales.
Having a list of what you have plenty of will help you avoid buying things you already have a healthy supply of.
Tip #12: Plan Ahead.
The final tip for packing up your classroom is to plan ahead! The copy machine line is always so long right before school starts. It's no fun standing in line with a million things to do thinking “I really should be in my room working.”
If you know there are some lessons or activities that you always do the first week of school, make copies before you leave for the summer so they will be ready to go when you get back.
Now is also great time to prep activities ahead for the new school year. You can reference a kindergarten pacing guide to see what skills you'll be teaching in August and September. That way, you can gather and prep those materials over the summer.
Want to snag a FREE copy of this comprehensive Kindergarten Pacing Guide? Fill out the form below and it'll be delivered straight to your inbox!
Remember this: You've worked hard all year long. You've taught, loved, and nurtured your students as if they were your own children.
You've met standards, wrote lesson plans, held meetings, planned field trips and special events, and prepared too many report cards to count.
All of this, and so much more, you've done with beauty, grace, and a positive attitude! Give yourself a break. Relax, and do not get overwhelmed.
Plan ahead, get it done, and then leave it behind as you drive away to enjoy your summer.
I hope these tips for packing up your classroom will help you have a smooth transition right into summer! You've earned your break, teacher friend. Go enjoy it!