Thursday, August 2, 2012

Before and During

I've been keeping very busy the last few weeks. I was overtaken by the urge to completely overhaul my classroom. Several contributing factors led me to go through every file, box, closet, cupboard, and drawer. I have been purging, recycling, donating, gifting, and tossing like....well, frankly, like it isn't my own stuff. Do you know that feeling? I love when I feel completely detached from STUFF and I like to take advantage of those periods of time. Teachers (elementary school teachers, in particular) are notorious hoarders. But I had three big steel file cabinets in my room....representing 15 cumulative years of teaching 5 different grade levels AND five years of being a math coach....and 90% of what was in those filing cabinets.....went straight into the recycling or the "free to good home box". I pushed those empty cabinets into the hallway and I feel about 2000% better already.

But more than just cleaning, and organizing, I've taken a big leap and I'm actually....well, I guess the word I'm looking for is "decorating". There are teachers who LOVE to make bulletin boards and pick a "theme" each year....The Beach, then The Rainforest, then Western, and on and on. Then there is me. I do not. I gladly leave up the backings for three years (and they were kindly left up by the person who had the room before me! lol) and have students staple up work when the mood strikes.

But I don't hit me this summer that I would nest into my classroom, the same way I nest into my home. And I'm never going to be what I am not, but I was suddenly inspired to be a much better "what I am".

So here are some befores and some durings, as I am not done.

 Here's something funny. I typically think of my closets as pretty organized. It's not unusual for me to even have some empty shelves in my closets, so this before picture of the first two kinda shocks even me. But, at the end of the year, things that are usually out and about in the classroom need to be stowed away in favor of a deep cleaning (our custodians work their butts off all summer! love them!) so that accounts for some of the haphazard look. But not all of it, no sir.
Here is the first closet. Bottom three shelves (blue, then white, then repurposed green worm bin haha!) are all base ten math materials. units, tens, hundreds, and thousands. Need them.
Next shelf is a box with my unit on rocks (a box of rocks! only a teacher!), a box of multiplication array cards, and on top, a box AND two tubs of dice - dice!!!! - and three big jars of assorted beans. If you're wondering about my mental health, so am I. SO MANY DICE. I actually labeled the box of dice with a small sign that says "OMG Dice" haha. For some reason, everything I touched had some number of small paperclips and dice. I cannot explain, but if you need either, give me a call.
 Nothing fancy here, and I've already emptied those shelves and am separating those books into "staying" and "giving away", but $7.50 for a shower curtain, rings, and a tension rod never looked so good in my opinion. And a coat of black paint makes EVERYTHING better, including two cement garden blocks and a shelf I found that, it seems, was once part of that very bookshelf.

 Speaking of black paint, I'm looking at you writing cupboard. This is a during and after, technically, since in the photo on the left I've already painted the top and sides with the black paint. Picture the "oak" veneer on the sides and straight up board on top, since the oak veneer panel had popped off long before I moved into the classroom. Contact paper left over from pantry (surprisingly easy to apply...I had certainly anticipated much cursing, but it was a pleasant 6 minutes) and it's no longer being used for writing.
 These are the extra math materials (a lot of these will come out and go into individual bags the students keep at their desks) and the shelves where their Problem Solving Journals are kept. The kids can use all of these at will.
 Black paint for all (love you black paint!) and some Dollar Store scrapbook paper....and the afters are so much nicer! In the after picture, I have the cubby facing the "wrong" direction because on top is a stacking 'inbox' system I use to keep their math folders. It only fits on the cubby in this direction, so for now, this makes the most sense to me. We'll see if the orientation is a problem once The Squirrels move in. Oh, why can't they keep these in their desks? Because they aren't allowed to. Things in their desks get ripped, lost, spilled on, stuck to.....and, whatever else. No desks for you!
 Before: 24 cubbies. These were when K-3 had 20 students. Each student was assigned a cubby for....I don't know? Homework? Book storage? Mail? I have no idea, but the tell-tale stickers of student names (students I've never even met who are, I'm assuming, driving by now) and generally grungy appearance has been hidden for three years under.....uh, MORE math bins. haha What can I say? I'm a hammer, so everything I see is a nail.
 During: Meet my new writing center. Black paint on the sides and run across the fronts, more Dollar Store scrapbook paper and this showstopper is going places. 24 cubbies for a writing center, you ask? Oh, it's full.

Anyway, I've been working, painting, sorting, tossing, and organizing. Feels good! Something more interesting soon, I promise :) and Michelle, I haven't forgotten about you... I have Disney opinions, believe me!


  1. Way to go! I know how much work it is to go through an entire classroom, and what you've accomplished is amazing!

    I found this post highly interesting... are more classroom photos coming forthwith?

    1. Oh dear, Carmen, try to stop me! lol It will take a few weeks to really show everything, because after today I'm working for two weeks with math consulting, then the week after THAT school actually starts again! But I have BIG plans. I'm documenting all of it. Every day I am making such huge progress....and every day the ending looks further away instead of closer. :D Hope you are enjoying your summer! xoxo

  2. i love the cubby shelves! the kids are going to be so excited to see the cool decor! super! i am already getting nervous for when the boys have actual homework and me not being able to help them - especially math wise! i do not think my french will ever be good enough......oy.

  3. OMG Michelle, that totally reminds me that when I teach in Spanish, I have a sweet spot lol When I'm teaching very young kids (4 to 7 years old) it's hard because the mix of their immature first language and my under-developed second language is a nightmare! and when i'm teaching older kids (11 to 13) the content vocabulary in my second language is so vexing! But, it turns out, from 7 to 11? It's perfect! So apparently, in Spanish, I'm about as smart as a third grader. haha! Good luck with that. Just saying. :)

  4. Wow! Nice work! I love LOVE getting organized. It feels great. I love the scrapbook paper on the shelves. :D