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10 Easy Tips on Packing Up Your Classroom

By Melody Johnson, Former Teacher, Curriculum Developer, and Writer from Georgia

As the year is coming to the end, you need to pack up your room.

For those of you who are not teachers, please know it is like moving in and out of a house every year. So, remembering where everything goes can also be a daunting task.

Instead of feeling that dread, here is a list that you can create to energize you to pack your room within a three-week period, and make life easier for you!

1: First, take pictures

Before you pack up ANYTHING, take a picture of your classroom setup. This is going to help you when you want to change furniture or items mounted on the wall. Trying to remember where everything went two months later can be a daunting task!

2: Set a schedule

When do you want to start packing, when can you pack, and when should your classroom be completely packed? Sometimes principals will give you dates on when they want your room packed up so cleaning crews can paint, clean floors and do other repairs. Plan accordingly. Put it on your calendar like you would for an appointment. This is not a task you can push off until the last minute. I have done the last minute packing and the ahead of time packing. I think you know which one is more effective. Waiting will cause you massive stress.

This brings me to the next item…

3: Have a packing goal by quantity

Your packing goals might be different from the teacher next door. As long as you can handle the goal you have set out for yourself, then do it. When I worked in Kindergarten when I finally figured out how to pack after being in a public school for almost five years.

My goal? Pack up one “center” at a time. When we did this (I was lucky to have an assistant), it worked fabulously! I packed the center up in certain box numbers so I could find them and we could enjoy the days to unpack the classroom quickly when returning from summer break. Our goal was to either pack ten boxes a day or to pack a center up. This worked perfectly for us and we were fully packed by the first week of May.

4: Start returning items early

At the end of the year, some schools require that teachers return their materials sometimes to the school media center or their own book room. If you have finished using it, then go ahead and start returning them now. Think of it like this: How many other teachers are in the school? Do you really want to wait in a long line to return your items?

5: Separate what belongs to you vs. your school

Label your items and your schools items. If you ever decide to move classrooms, move schools, or even leave the profession of being a teacher altogether, and you want your things, you will not have to think — did I buy this? It is so easy to mix up your items with the school’s items after years of owning and using various resources— especially if you bought items for students — and you certainly want to make sure the next teacher is able to use it if it belongs to the school. Label your purchased items with unique labels so you know the difference between school items and your own items.

6: Ask yourself: Did you use it?

Did not use it? Don’t hoard it. I WISH someone had told me not to buy items for those “I might” lessons. The only lesson you’re going to get is: Why did I buy this and why am I now short ten dollars?

You can send out an email to your fellow teachers that might come by your room that may need that item. Gift it to someone! But don’t just keep it for a potential lesson… it will cause clutter. I knew a teacher that taught for over twenty-five years and had boxes packed to the ceiling. She had twenty-five years worth of items she didn’t need. When it was time to retire, she had to take the entire summer to sort through her belongings.

Go ahead and get rid of the things you know you won’t use and use that ten dollars on something you would enjoy for the summer.

7: Number boxes and use Google Keep

Google Keep is one of my favorite apps, because I can use it on my phone and on my computer. To start, make sure you number your boxes on ALL sides (you never know if the cleaning crew has to come into your room to move boxes or furniture around into other classrooms — If the boxes are all stacked on top of each other and you cant see the number, then it can be a mystery box!) Get your student that has the best handwriting to help you number the boxes! As you work, write on a list what you will put in each numbered box so you are not trying to figure out where you packed certain items. I use the Google Keep list because it’s digital and you will not have to worry about losing this list either!

8: Find little helpers

Have your students help you — they are the best helpers! They know where things go since you taught them this skill in the beginning of the year. Have them clean and dry your bins. Trying to do everything yourself is hard, so have the kids help pitch in. This also reinforces community in the classroom.

Tip: If you wrap up certain items in cling wrap (such as a large book shelf for big books), that will also ensure that you keep items clean when you unpack your classroom!

9: Ask yourself: Do you really need It?

Yes, I know it is similar to what I am asking from #6, but if you have two of the same thing and you did not use it you need to donate it or throw it away. It will just take up more clutter for you and your students.

10: Put safety first

Don’t overload these boxes. This can possibly cause injury to you, students, or custodians moving these boxes. I know… you might be running out of boxes…you’re desperate and so is every other teacher looking for boxes. But it really will help you to move things faster when unpacking your room. (This is also why you are packing early, because there are also other teachers looking for boxes, too!) When you’re packing, make it light enough that you can move the boxes from place to place. Be safe while bending your knees when picking up boxes and do the same when putting boxes down. Also, let your students know not to climb on the boxes. If you can push boxes under a table, this will help.

BONUS TIP — Make a checklist for students

Yep, this one is just as important!

While you are packing your classroom, begin having your students take their belongings home, starting about a week before school ends. That includes jackets from Lost and Found, books, toys, reading bins that they own, or even items you don’t want (kids love taking teacher stuff home to use)!

That way, it’s less likely that you will have a parent try to contact you over the summer looking for a child’s item.

Good luck packing your classrooms!

Melody Johnson is the CEO and Founder of Loving Literacy, a reading intervention program that helps struggling readers in grades K-2. She escaped the classroom and also guides fellow teachers to start side hustles along with creating their own business. She is also a speaker, writer, influencer, lover of coffee hot or cold, reading, drawing, writing, and baking. Born a New Yorker, but living and loving the Southern life in Georgia, she is married, with three amazing kids.

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To be reminded why your work is so very important and for more stories and advice, visit our collection of teacher perspectives at The Art of Teaching.

You can view the McGraw-Hill Privacy Policy here: http://www.mheducation.com/privacy.html. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author, and do not reflect the values or positioning of McGraw-Hill or its sales.

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Resources, ideas, and stories for PreK-12 educators. We focus on learning science, educational equity, social and emotional learning, and evidence-based teaching strategies. Be sure to check out The Art of Teaching Project, our guest blogging platform for all educators.

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