De-stress: Get Rid of the Classroom Clutter
As I was getting my planning done for 2018, I took the time to create a theme for the year. This is something new for me. But, I thought I'd give it a go.
My theme is Doing More with Less: Calm, Simple and High Impact
It's so easy to let life and work get complicated. The teachers I am working with right now are all asking for ways to simplify and create calm but still have high impact teaching. Music to my ears!
Here's a good place to start. Get rid of the clutter.
Physical clutter often becomes brain clutter. What do I mean? Well, our brains can only focus on one thing at a time. Yes, multi-taking is total bunk. I've heard it called switch-tasking, a much more accurate term. When we live and work in cluttered spaces, our brains are less efficient because they are distracted (in varying degrees) by all the stuff. Staying focused and concentrating in cluttered spaces is difficult for our brains. The seconds and minutes that are lost as our brains focus, switch focus and switch back add up.
Think of your living room at home. Do you completely cover your walls in your living room with stuff? No. That would be stressful and disturbing. You pick and choose what goes on your walls thoughtfully and leave plenty of "white space".
Sit in every seating area in your classroom. Just take a minute and view your classroom from your students perspective. Look at your main whiteboard or blackboard. Are there things all around it? How busy is it? Think distracting. As you are teaching there, what do you want your students focused on? Remove anything non-essential from the area around and on your board. Find new homes for each item, put them away or get rid of them.
Now, look at the other areas of your room. Are bins clearly labeled? Are your walls plastered with stuff? Our students' eyes need a lot more "white space" to rest on than we think. If your walls and cabinets are covered with stuff, try to clear away half of it. Decide what is important to your students' learning and your teaching for THIS MONTH and leave that.
Just because your decor is pretty or cute doesn't mean it is helpful. Pare down to pretty, functional and simple.
For example, that alphabet strip way up high above your board is helping no one. Children struggle to accurately transfer the information from that distance. Kill two birds with one stone. Use name tags or desk cards with the alphabet on them. These are much more helpful for accurate reference.
Take a look at your horizontal spaces. Countertops, tops of cabinets, book shelves, tables, etc. Is every area covered in stuff? Is it useful on a regular basis? Yes? Great, leave it. No? Time to rethink it.
Are there stacks of papers on your counters?
Schedule time on your calendar to sort, grade, file, put away, distribute, shred or recycle. Just deal with it all in one sitting, if you can. It's really hard to get motivated to tackle the paper and even harder to get to it two days in a row. Set aside a day or half day and just do it! Stacks of papers and to dos are stressful and distracting. Trust me. You will feel liberated if you can just deal with it all.
I want to know... what is your biggest organizational challenge in your classroom? You can let me know if the comments below.
P.S. Want to simplify your parent communication too? Get it done with my Free Parent Communication Blueprint. Grab it here.