Friday, January 6, 2012

Clutter-Free Classroom week 1 challenge: before pictures

I'm participating in the Clutter-Free Classroom Project over at the Clutter-Free Classroom blog, and this week's challenge was to take "before" pictures of your classroom clutter. Ugh! Not a very fun way to start, but of course, a necessary and helpful step.

I'm kind of cringing about posting these photos to the internet, honestly. I've long known my classroom needs a bit of work in this department! In addition to my general lack of organization, Christmas break used to be my two weeks of rather intensive work in my classroom - cleaning, rearranging, planning, you name it - all you teachers know how great it is to have time in your classroom with no student or coworker obligations! Well, in the past couple years, my school district has strictly forbidden teachers to enter the buildings over Christmas break. We get strongly-worded emails about how if we attempt to enter a district building over break, we will trip alarms, security will get involved, and we will get fined. All in attempts to save money, of course, which I applaud, but there go the best two weeks of my organizational year (I teach through the summer, so I don't have a typical summer break to do the big classroom overhaul).

So, I took these photos the day we returned from break. My classroom had not quite recovered from the craziness of the last couple days of school. Not to mention a lot of my stuff had fallen from the walls - sticky tack does not like temperature changes at all (building heat is turned off during break and then blasted back on for the first day back).

But, enough with the excuses. On to the mess!

First, a classroom 360 of sorts - doesn't look so bad here...(I believe if you click on the photos you can see them bigger.)

My classroom from the door. I have a huge room, which is awesome. I need a lot of open space to accommodate my students in wheelchairs, as well as students with balance issues and vision impairments. Individual student desks/tables are clustered towards the center of the room to provide movement space on the outside.

Classroom from the back. The two doors at the front lead to the office area and kitchen (both shared with the classroom next door). Front and center is our word wall (most of the words fell off the wall over break). The rectangle tables serve as individual "desks" for my students in wheelchairs.

View from the windows. The round table is a small group work area. It's currently the only one we have; when we have multiple groups/centers going at once we push two of the rectangle wheelchair "desks" together, which is less than ideal. I need to utilize space more effectively (and beg, borrow and steal to get another group table).

And the view from the front. The three doors at the back are, L-R, side room used for whole group meetings, storage closet, and side room used for rest/free time/play. I love, love, love my side rooms. But need to use the free time one much more effectively.

Now for the problem areas...

This is that second side room. Toys to the left. Mats/beanbags/physical and sensory therapy stuff to the right. I hate this room. It's such a pit much of the time. When my students were younger they played in here a lot during free choice time. Now, they don't bother with most of the toys and I really don't know why I keep them (toys, not the students!) around. Major purging needs to happen. I'd like to keep the mat area mostly the same, but I envision the rest of the room being where I set up my new small group work area.

Reading/library area. I'm cringing! I have tons more books than this, and don't keep them out because I don't have a good system for organizing or displaying them. I just rotate them every so often (but not often enough). I'd love to get better bookshelves - I need something workable, height-wise, for both my students in wheelchairs and my walkers. Also, that rocking chair is old and gross and is going to fall apart one of these days (sooner rather than later). The kids love it, though, so if I get rid of it, something has to take its place!

Student work cupboard. The top becomes a catch-all of stuff my classroom staff and I use frequently but don't want the kids to be able to reach. This has to change, because it looks a hot mess! The inside of this cupboard is also a nightmare - it's where we store students' individual work boxes and other various and sundry fine motor and academic materials. I neglected to take a photo of the inside but it needs some work. The papers on the front of the cupboard are my students' monthly homework pages they turn in, and a class tally of the homework points they earn.

This is where things get really scary. This is my storage closet. It's awesome in that it's huge and has floor to ceiling shelves. It's pretty horrifying in the way it's (not at all) organized. Those boxes might give the impression of some organization, but I have no idea what's in most of them. They used to be organized by month, but not so much any more. I inherited the classroom I'm in now from a teacher who was retiring. She left ALL of her stuff behind - which, don't get me wrong, was an incredibly helpful gesture. was 30+ years of teaching stuff. I purged a bunch of unusables right away (think folders of those old purple Xeroxed worksheets I used as an elementary student in the 80s...broken physical therapy equipment and toys...etc.) but the rest I kind of just shuffled around and/or stuck in this closet and added my own stuff to the mix.
It doesn't help that there's a lot of large items in here - spare wheelchairs, a student's own adaptive bike from home that he keeps at school, large boxes of diapers for my three students who are incontinent, a popcorn machine (our class makes and sells popcorn every Friday). The big things have to stay and this is the best place for them. But a lot of the other stuff in this area can and should be purged. Or reorganized. Or sorted into some semblance of logical order.

Well. That was scary. I have my work cut out for me! But I think these photos will be good motivators to stick with this whole decluttering project. I'm looking forward to it!

Head on over to the linky party to see other teachers' clutter, or to share your own!


  1. Your room doesn't look cluttered at all. Maybe some bins for the mats on the floor.

    Ms. M
    Ms.M's Blog
    A Teacher's Plan

  2. Thanks for linking up. I love how big and airy the space is. You'll do great things with it! ❤Jodi from...
    ★★The Clutter-Free Classroom★★
    Helping Teachers Get Organized

  3. I'm your newest follower! I love how much room you have in your seems like a really good set up for a special ed classroom.

    Lesson plans & Lattes

  4. @ Ms.M - I'm glad the room doesn't look cluttered! I guess disorganized would be a better term for it, though the storage closet is clutter central. Bins are definitely in order - I'm off to get some today!

    @ Jodi - Thanks so much for hosting this project!

    @ Becky - Thanks for following! I really do love my classroom's physical space.

  5. Thanks for entering my giveaway! Glad I found your blog!! I'm going to have to check out your go to book looks interesting!


  6. Ill have to post pictures of my storage room someday..

    I also have a huge popcorn popper. lol

    and I use the hallway for adaptive equipment.

    I think I'm too late to link up? I dont know!

  7. Rachel - you're not too late to link up! It's an ongoing thing, and there are still people posting theirs :)

  8. I love your big room! So much potential.

    And I had the same issue as you - I inherited my room from a retiring teacher who had inherited it from a retiring teacher. Neither of them threw out ANYTHING! I had so many of those purple Xeroxed worksheets, and I think those had gone away by the time I was in elementary school!!! I considered keeping some for math practice, but they were grossing me out, haha.

    Marvelous Multiagers!

  9. Im giving you a blog award tonight!

  10. I love how big your classroom looks! I think the room itself looks fabulous, but can see what you said about the closet. Can't wait to see the progress...I'm your newest follower!

    Living A Wonderful Life


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