08/18/2021 / Education

Preparing for a New School Year

Starting my organizational journey this summer in my home office was very beneficial. It helped me to sort through files, books, and other supplies. I found not only space as I threw out outdated materials, but as I scaled down from multiple copies of useful materials. My next step was to organize, clean up, clear out, and prepare my Google Classrooms for the new school year. I designate a Google Classroom for my math class and one for my homeroom containing topics on all other subjects.  I recently wrote an article for Middleweb, Prepping for My Next Google Classroom,  describing the steps I take to complete this task. I would love for you to give it a read and share your thoughts or any questions with me. 
So, now I am back in my physical classroom preparing for the new school year. Following the guidance of the CDC, classroom desks have been set three feet apart. With an incoming class of 24, this leaves little space for any other furniture. Sadly, the three bookcases I usually have in what used to be the library section of my classroom are now waiting for the light of day in my basement at home. However, that just made my mind go into a Plan “B” mode, which in this case “B” stands for baskets and bins. I should have also added an “S” to the plan, but that would not have looked quite right in print. The “S” actually stands for a few old brown, well used counter top single “shelves” that help contain and display books. 

Putting my creative thinking cap on, I decided to give these shelves some new life and paint them black to tie in with the design of my classroom curtains and accent borders. Using just regular art class black paint, in no time at all the old bookshelves were given a new life and looked mighty fine! It was the best feeling to be able to release some of my packed up, crammed into boxes, classroom library books. It was truly a thing of beauty to see their beautiful covers and book spines smiling out waiting for my students to enjoy! 

I also noticed that I needed to create a more open feeling in my classroom. With 24 desks set up in single rows, the classroom had a very tight vibe. Wow! I had a lot of posters, instructional bulletin boards, growth mindset thoughts, etc. on my walls! As I looked around my classroom I realized less would truly be more, especially this year. I decided to take down all of the wall posters, decorations, etc. and create a pile in the front of my room. What was left at the end of this task was a HUGE pile of “stuff”. At this point, I decided to take a break and create a new “vision” for what I wanted my students to see when they looked around the classroom. 

I sketched out a plan that basically had me putting back a small percentage of the wall materials, and covering my bulletin boards with fresh fadeless paper and borders. I also purchased some contact paper and cleaned up the front of my teacher desk, as it looked pretty sad from years of posters, being moved, etc. The idea that I wasn’t sure of until I actually constructed it was creating the idea of “windows'' on the walls. I purchased blue fadeless paper with a cloud print as a design. Covering one bulletin board in this paper, I then used a white scalloped edge border, framed with a black printed rectangular border. I was so happy with the end result as it really opened up the area of the classroom where my students' book bins are kept. 

Loving this “open” concept. I did the same effect above the shelves behind my teacher's desk. This time I needed to use a piece of poster board as there was no bulletin board in this space, just a painted cement wall. Using a large piece of sturdy white poster board, I covered it with the cloud paper and followed up in the same manner with the border. 

My classroom is starting to take shape and my pile of “stuff” is shrinking. Each day brings me that much closer to being ready for the new school year.

"Tomorrow is another day..."

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Kathleen Palmieri

Kathleen Palmieri is a National Board Certified Teacher, a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Learning Facilitator, and a fifth grade educator in upstate New York. She reviews professional texts and is an educator researcher and writer. As a writer with a passion for pedagogy, Kathleen's focus is on education practices, and strategies, as well as her own experiences as an educator. Educator well being is a priority, thus the name "Mindful Teaching Moments". Mindfulness along with knowledge is important. She has presented at math conferences, writing workshops, actively collaborates in literacy projects, and networks globally.