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Sunday, March 25, 2018

How and Why I Spring Clean My Classroom

This school year has been one big long example of how life sometimes gets in the way.  Every time I feel like I have things under control again, something happens to push me back into survival mode.  I finally am fighting my way back to a semblance of normal now and one of the first I things I did to help me ensure I stay here was give my classroom a big old fashioned spring cleaning.  

5 Reasons Why I Prioritize Spring Cleaning My Classroom

Clear Out Clutter  

Like many teachers, I have a hard time getting rid of things that might be useful someday.  I have fought back against this urge by ruthlessly pitching things I no longer use each spring.  I think this works best in the spring because I can think about whether I have used something at all this school year or if I have plans to use it in the coming weeks.  If the answer to both of those questions is no, it gets thrown away, donated or recycled.  I also get ride of anything that is broken or no longer works as it should. This year I got rid of a bunch of non-geared mini clocks, a pile of very well loved student sized white boards, 2 boxes of math curriculum our district no longer uses, several board games that are no longer used and some old files on students who are no longer in my school.
When your flat surfaces are completely covered in books, manipulatives and more you know it's time for a good cleaning

Save Time

There is certainly some upfront time to spring clean my classroom, but in the long run, I save a lot of time.  As the weather gets nicer and I want to spend more time outside, I find myself wanting to be able to leave school earlier in the afternoon and not work so long once the kids go home.  When my classroom is clean and organized, I save time by being able to find what I need when I need it and having less clean up that I have to do by myself because my students know where to put things when they are organized. 
The way the heater is supposed to look!  I am so much more energized in clean spaces!

Rearrange and Revitalize

As I spring clean my classroom, I take a few minutes to think about the furniture and arrangement of the room.  Is there any furniture that I no longer use that can be removed to make more space?  Is there any furniture I am lacking that I can check the storage area for or think about ordering for next year? I re-arrange furniture to better meet the needs and flexibility of the space before I am finished.  This year I got rid of a few chairs that were starting to break along the side and dug out a few better ones from our storage shed.  I also rearranged some desks along the perimeter of my room to make them friendlier for pairs of students working together.  
This one is a bit embarrassing to share with the world, but this is what a math manipulative shelf can look like after being neglected for a bit.  Once things start to unravel, students don't know where to put things so they just shove them anywhere on the shelf.  

Clean and Disinfect

After 8 months of not getting wiped down, my book shelves, walls and those nooks and crannies the vacuum doesn't quite reach all needed a bit of love.  I use a bucket of soapy water and some microfiber cloths to give everything a once over.  I also disinfect all tables, desks, doorknobs and the sink area to help clear out those winter germs.  I also open my windows if the temperature allows it!  Getting everything back to clean and fresh makes me feel better every time I enter the room.  
So much easier to put things back where they belong now! 

Make Things Seem New

When I clean things up and move things around some, it makes things feel fresh and new to me and to my students.  I am much calmer and my thoughts seem better organized when I am in an organized space.  Switching things up with a few months left to go in school seems to help everyone feel more energized as well.

Finding Time For Spring Cleaning

I have three different ways I have found time to spring clean my classroom over the years.  Depending on my schedule and other life events happening during a particular year, I may use one strategy over the other.

This one is almost painful to look at!  Here is what it looks like when I have been in survival mode for to long! 

The Dedicated Day

I used this strategy for spring cleaning this year.  We had a week off for winter/spring break and my family was not traveling.  My mother in law wanted my own children for the day and the weather was terrible.  I spent the better part of a day at school alone and totally revamped my room from start to finish all at once.  I felt like I accomplished so much and got things exactly as I wanted them.  I feel like I have saved 1-2 hours a week in the 3 weeks since then.  As the weather gets warmer, those extra hours outside or at home feel great!
The top of my desk is brown!  I also have some empty spots on my shelves which is always a good thing! 

A Little at a Time

If I can't dedicate a bunch of hours together, I try to do a bit at a time.  Either choosing one area a day or just setting my timer for 10-15 minutes and cleaning furiously each day are great ways to get a lot done in small chunks.

Recruit Help!

Particularly for teachers who have the same kids in their room all day, spending an hour or so at the end of a school day doing a group spring clean can be a great way to get your classroom sparkling and teach your students about being responsible for their things and their space.  It can be a lot of fun to put on some music and work together to things back to the way they belong.  It is also a great chance for students who are great at organizing to get a chance to shine! 

What are your best classroom organization tips? Please share in the comments below!

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