What Didn't Work This Year
As you work on your classroom cleaning and organization, this is a good time to think over what didn't work this year. Specifically, what do you wish you had done/hadn't done/had done differently the first week or two of class. So many of our procedures and routines become so entrenched by the end of those first two weeks (whether intentional or not) that it's really difficult to hit the reset button and start over.
Many of the ones that come to mind for me were lessons I learned starting in a new district. About two weeks into my third teaching assignment I desperately wished I had instituted a purse policy. This had never occurred to me because at my previous two schools hardly anyone carried a purse and for those who did it was just not an issue. At this school, however, not only did most girls carry purses but they carried ENORMOUS purses. This caused endless headaches. Purses on desks took up all the writing space, while purses on the floor blocked walking paths. Girls would spend half of class digging through these cavernous items trying to locate a writing utensil, and the other half "covertly" texting inside the purses. Fast forward to my second year: purses were to be placed on the back counter (in full sight of everyone in the classroom), and if you didn't take out everything you needed at the beginning of class too bad, you weren't going to the counter to retrieve something. Might sound harsh, but that alleviated everyone's fears of theft, eliminated constant disruption, and prevented texting trips. (BTW, same rules applied to backpacks - gender neutral policy!)
Starting at my fourth school, I noticed there were hand sanitizer dispensers by every classroom door but thought nothing of it. Mistake. Should have had a sanitizer procedure in place from day one. Especially because at some point the school stopped purchasing sanitizer and just put foaming soap in it instead (and this was a junior high - come on people, think these decisions through first!), so kids would get giant handfuls of foam when walking into the room and well, you can guess what happened.
Beyond bizarre examples like these, there are probably some daily annoyances you have to deal with that you could knock out by establishing a procedure right off the bat.
- Are there areas of your classroom that experience too much congestion at the beginning or end of class, when assignments are handed in, or when students are collecting supplies?
- Does a lot of time get wasted by dealing with minor needs (pencils, tissues, trash can)?
- Do the same kids always ask to go to the bathroom, their locker, etc?
- Does your desk fill up with random crap students toss onto it?
- Is the end of a class/lab/lecture/video/activity complete chaos?
- Is taking attendance/lunch count/whatever a headache?
Those are just a few prompts to get your mind going. What isn't working for you? What could you fix with a little training or change in routine? Think about it now, while you're still in the trenches and aware of the aggravations. By August you may think "That wasn't really such a big deal," and you'll probably be sorry by September that your judgement was clouded by New Year Goggles!