So this is my 5th full year of teaching. LIKE HOW DID THAT EVEN HAPPEN?!?! And I simultaneously feel like I’m figuring out a lot about what works for me and my kids and also realizing how much more I have to learn. I love that teaching gives me daily chances to try things, adjust, learn, and grow. In that spirit, this post is about my current iteration of classroom setup.
Full disclosure: I’m a scatter-brained mess. This post won’t contain any fancy organizational tips or ground-breaking ideas, but it is what works for me for now.
One side of my classroom has these awesome cabinets that are fantastic for storing all of my stuff. A couple of years ago, I bought some shower board from Lowes and hung them up with command strips for more whiteboard space, and I love them! It allows me to use VNPS when I want AND gives students who want to stand a place to work. The cabinet with all the math puns (these posters from TPT) has buckets for students to store their notebooks if they wish. I also use that as the place they turn them in at the end of the semester. My desks are currently in groups (5 groups of 4 and one group of 3 along the back wall). This changes several times throughout the year. Sometimes we do pairs, sometimes groups of 3 or 4 in lines, crazily spread out during finals, and rows during standardized testing. The supply cart in the back of the room contains paper, writing utensils, dry-erase supplies, glue, scissors, clipboards, and dry-erase sleeves. The wheels allow me to move it around as needed and the kids know they can grab whatever they need at any point during class.
The front corner of my room is full of astrobrights cardstock and encouragement. The welcome sign on the door is from Sarah at MathEqualsLove, the clock sign is a free download on TPT, and the math person sign on the door is from Scaffolded Math and Science. I have two bulletin boards at the front, one on each side of the whiteboard. The left one is full of growth mindset posters, my SBG scale (designed by me and printed at Staples), and information on where to get help. Turn-in drawers for each class, a stapler, and the pencil sharpener are on the table below this board. The other side of the big whiteboard is my “command center” during class. My document camera and projector hook-up are over here and I use my cart to store my notebook for each class and all of my notetaking supplies. The pocket chart under the board will eventually be a phone charging station and the bulletin board will eventually be “The Fridge” for students to hang up things they are proud of.
I LOVE this corner. Mostly because it contains my picture wall, which is my absolute favorite part of my room (other than my students <3). I randomly started doing this two years ago and the kids love it just as much as I do. They stare at it all the time, love when their picture makes it on the wall, and look forward to seeing the new layout when I replace it over winter break and summer. I love pictures anyway and it is an easy way to show them they matter to me, bring in some pictures of my personal life, and remember students who have graduated. On the other side of this corner, I have the half-finished “Calculus Wall of Fame.” Last year was the first year in the history of our school that students have scored above a 1 on the AP exam AND one of them even got a 5! To honor the challenge that comes with taking an AP math course, I ordered plaques for each of the two classes I’ve had so far and an individual one for the student that got a 5.
My desk has a couple of new additions this year. Most notably, my little IKEA frame that I painted and filled with my mottos for this school year (“You don’t need permission from other people to make your school a better place.” and Julie’s sticker from TMC18), the contact paper and “Chaos Coordinator” sign, and my desk baskets (also from IKEA). I have always been notoriously bad at keeping my desk clean. Like so bad that the kids could always tell if they were having a sub the next day because it was the only time they could see the top of it. I’m hoping that having the baskets for all the things I need to file but don’t have time for will help keep some of that clutter away, even if the baskets themselves are a mess. The area behind my desk is full of inspirational quotes and gifts from students. My planbook, which I create, print, and have bound at Staples every year, has my teacher catchphrase on it. I say “It’s Fine” so much that it was mentioned in graduation speeches the past two years and everyone around me has it as a permanent part of their vocabulary. 🙂
As I said earlier, I am terrible at staying organized. I see all of these beautiful, color-coded classrooms with bins for everything and I wish I could be like that. But it just isn’t going to happen. Because I am so scatter-brained, my organizational system has to be pretty minimal and has to be something I can keep up with even when things get hectic. For me, those vertical pocket charts that will fit file folders are the answer. I have two of these, one at the front of the room near my document camera and one by my desk. The chart at the front of the room serves two purposes. The top half is reserved for copies of stuff we are about to do. I use these project pockets to keep each set of papers together and have a separate pocket for each class I teach. I love that this allows me to make copies in advance and then find them quickly when I need them (without having to dig through all the piles on my desk). The bottom half of this chart holds papers that need to be returned for each class. I am SO BAD at passing back papers because I get so into whatever we are doing in class. Having them in a visible location reminds me to get that done. I also have this fancy silver file thing that I bought at Goodwill next to my front pocket chart. I use this to store extra copies of handouts and the empty project pockets. The pocket chart at the back is used to store master copies of stuff. I reserve a pocket for general stuff and then one for each subject, which takes up the top half. The bottom half is currently holding random stuff, but will eventually be used to store retakes. I color-coded all the pockets with binder clips based on subject. This system is about the only thing that I have found that works for me. It is just simple enough that I can keep up with it, but I also know where everything is (even if I have to look through a stack of papers). Then, at the end of the semester, I go through all of them and get rid of what I don’t need. Extra copies get recycled and masters are scanned (unless I already have a digital copy) and recycled.
Overall, I’m happy with the setup this year. The few in-progress things will probably be in-progress for months but I’m okay with that. 🙂
SBG Poster: Inspired by these posters from Sarah at Everybody is a Genius, PDF version here, and a Publisher version here if you want to edit. The small text on the poster prints a bit blurry just as a warning.