This is the next in a series of guest posts from Brian Smith, an educator from North Carolina. Enjoy his tips for end-of-the-year storage and share your own in the comments.
Packing up any classroom at the end of year is bittersweet. It is sweet because you made a difference in a classroom of student’s lives and have now sent them off to continue learning and growing. It is bitter because you will miss those students and the bond that developed AND because you have to pack up your classroom, which can be a nightmare!
In the lower elementary grades, packing up means finding a way to store all the reading materials, math manipulatives, and centers that are your students used to learn with all year long.
If you are lucky, you have a closet, although it’s probably nowhere close to large enough. If you aren’t lucky, you have a classroom bathroom that hopefully smells like sunshine and lavender, but I doubt it does. I hope you aren’t one of those truly poor, unfortunate souls who have three cabinets and half a wall of counter space. My heart aches for those teachers.
Through the years, working in many different schools, with many different storage capabilities, I have come to rely on one tried and true packing-up-the-classroom solution: 20-gallon rubber storage bins.
Luckily, my wife loves these big bins and has taught me well about spending the few extra dollars to get the good quality ones. I once bought a great, clear plastic bin with a blue lid and that thing cracked like a plumber’s backside! It is barely able to store my Easter egg collection!! After of years of end-of-the-year organizing incorrectly, here are my top 5 tips for making it super easy for the end of the year and, more importantly, helpful at the beginning of the next school year.
- Get totes with the attached lids. This way you can always stack them because you will always have the lid for each tote. Please don’t ask how many tote lids I have lost, through no fault of my own! They just disappear (much like your student’s pencils!). These totes are also better because you can fill them a little more. The lids interlock in the middle of the tote so I am always able to gently position (cram) a few more things in each box and still get the lid on.
- Use different size totes. I find it helpful to have multiple sizes because I like to pack my teacher supplies by theme. One of the larger size totes is used for my Block Center supplies, like my marble track builder kit, blocks, Legos, etc. A smaller tote is needed for my Imagination Station Center which houses puzzles, Matchbox cars, and craft supplies.
- Purge when you pack. I have a one tote rule. I want all of my supplies for each center or station to fit in one tote. It may be a big tote but one tote is my goal. If I have too many supplies to fit in one tote then I begin purging until it all fits. Many schools have a designated area to put items teachers are getting rid of. This helps out the new teachers the following year. You can also donate items to Goodwill or Salvation Army. The final option is to throw it away because it truly qualifies as trash.
- Label your boxes. This is the biggest help in the fall when you are setting your classroom back up! I didn’t feel like labeling was that big a deal but those summer months are so full of professional development, theme planning for the following year, and trying to squeeze your nickels together to go on a small vacation, that I always forgot what is in each box. I would then end up having to open every box for the one thing I was looking for and that is one quick way to turn an empty classroom into a hot mess. Using this label maker and taping them to the ends and sides of your totes will make unpacking a breeze in August.
- Stack strategically. It takes one extra minute before leaving for the summer but will save countless minutes and frustration the following fall. If you have supplies that you don’t use at the beginning of the school year, stack them on the bottom or in the back. Everything is labeled so finding it when you need it will be a breeze but you don’t want to move that box around 10 times to get what you need to begin the school year.
Bonus tip! – Go ahead and have a few extra totes for the following school year because this is also a great way to store your holiday supplies with ease. When you get out all your St. Patrick’s Day supplies from their hiding places around your room, you can then put them all in one place – your labeled tote! By the end of the year, you will be super organized and you won’t have spent an entire weekend trying to get it organized. Those weekend organization plans always end with me being hungry, frustrated, and tad more disorganized anyway!