Hello Lead Learners!
The classroom I teach in today looks nothing like it did when I left for winter break. On December 28, 2016, my entire classroom was engulfed in flames. I’m not talking about a little trash can fire. I’m talking about the kind of fire that destroys every square inch of the room and all its contents I accumulated during 13 years of teaching. Major devastation! (Photos at end of post)
Now for the blessing buried beneath the rubble. I learned I had way too much stuff! But hey, don’t all educators have too much “stuff” in our cabinets, shelves, and drawers? There are supplies and materials that are a must for teachers to teach and students to learn, but when I look at pictures of my old room, I am actually a little overwhelmed! Which, in turn, makes me think of my students. I’m sure many found it overwhelming and were just too kind and polite to ever let me know. There is a larger group that deems the new room boring and depressing. The second thing I have learned is that life is too short not to count everything, good or bad, as joy and the people (and students) in your life make it all worthwhile.
It is now about two and a half months later, I’ve settled in and starting to feel more at home. My new way of organizing is more efficient these days. Here are a few of the new systems I’ve put in place:
- Each of the tables now has a colored tub that hold markers, colored pencils, and graphing calculators. No need to pass out supplies students need daily.
- I’m lucky to have two very large white boards. I project my lessons and post each day’s learning target and success criteria on the front board. On the side board I have a 5-pocket hanging file for both preps to hold work for absent students (one pocket for each day). I write a list of the assignments for the week next to each prep’s hanging file.
- My new (and streamlined) cabinets and drawers hold the right amount of manipulatives, glue, scissors, and testing privacy folders. No more clutter and hoarding of materials, paper, books, etc. that I haven’t touched in years.
- On the counter, I keep only what is needed: a 5-tray paper sorter for work to be returned (by period); a 3-tray paper sorter for formula charts and extra notebook paper; another 3-tray paper sorter for work to be turned in (1 tray per prep and 1 for testing scantrons); a stapler, pencil sharpener, electric hole-punch, and scanner.
- My teacher desk is empty. I prefer the slim 4-foot table that I use for my laptop and document camera. I would love to ditch the desk for a small standing desk on rollers. Hmmm…summer project?
- A 10-drawer rolling tower hold’s each week’s copies for both my preps. One drawer per day, per prep. I never have to look for a stack of papers for the day. This is my “launch pad”.
- In a file cabinet, I have a folder for each unit where I keep all the working documents for planning meetings. Once the unit is done, I purge unnecessary items, scan in documents to my Google Drive, and file the folder away for next year. Very little remains in the file at this point.
- Next to the file cabinet is a chrome shelving unit. This is where I keep a stack of extra copies for each prep. I leave the stack out during the unit since there are always students who cannot locate their copy. At the end of the unit, any leftovers I keep one for the file folder and toss the rest. I also have a few math reference books and Spanish-English dictionaries.
- Answer keys are stored by unit in a large binder so students with make-up or late work can easily check their answers before I enter the grade. This one thing has made my life so much easier!
- A Leadership Binder hold items specific to being a part of our campus leadership team.
- A PLC binder hold items specific to serving as department chair and grade level team lead.
- I created a Substitute binder to serve as a “manual” for my subs. This is priceless!
My classroom IS my office. It is where I teach, learn, discover, create, laugh, and cry. My classroom is my home away from home.
Here is a glimpse of my room “pre-fire”.
Newspaper Photo: Jason Fochtman/Houston Chronicle
(personal photo of damage)
My room “post-fire”.
Bare bones the day I moved back in. New cabinets! Better than a desk! Launch pad tower