While planning is a huge component of teaching, so is reflecting. Teachers must keep this in mind while packing up their classrooms at the end of the year.

School's out!

The end of the school year is a highly charged time of frenetic energy, last minute deadlines and inevitable celebration. However, it is important for teachers to allow quiet time to decompress, process the school year and, yes, gear up for the fall. It is not too soon to ensure a more productive school year by carefully tidying this year to a close.

Prepare to Wind Down the Year

Saving the packing, organizing, and end of year preparation for last minute is never a good idea. Experienced teachers know the benefit of taking time to detach, debrief and disassemble before the students leave for the summer. In order to allow time for reflection and reorganization, teachers should plan to dedicate a specific amount of time each day to strategize for the new school year. The last month of school should include time when teachers improve their organization methods, think about what activities worked well and which ones could be enhanced and revamp their teaching materials to improve effectiveness for next year.

Improve Digital Organizational System

Teachers have at least two systems they need to manage throughout the school year: their digital world and their paper world. Digital files may not have been as carefully labeled throughout the school year as they should have been, so now is the time for teaches to review all files, deleting what is irrelevant and moving into properly labeled folders what will be useful in the future. Some teachers organize by unit; others by year and quarter. Each file should find a home within a specific folder or simply be deleted at this time.

The key is to find one system that works and be consistent with labeling and storage. Then, all documents for that school year should be backed up onto a jump drive labeled for that school year. This should be a brand new jump drive that is reserved for only back up purposes. Finally, teachers should spend time weeding through email and deleting any outdated mail, saving contacts, creating groups, and starring essential information. No one wants to return to school with an overflowing inbox; teachers will never have more time to purge than right now.

Improve Paper Organizational System

Teachers should also spend a little time each day sorting any outstanding piles of worksheets or other teaching materials. If they are obsolete, be sure to throw them in the recycling bin rather than the filing cabinet; resist the urge to hoard! If a teacher has the document stored in her computer, there may be no need to save random paper copies, especially if they are year-specific.

Next, teachers should peruse their file cabinets and purge any outdated materials. This can include prior year’s midterm and final exams as well as project worksheets that have since been revised. Since the original versions of documents should be saved on the computer, there is no need to clutter up valuable file cabinet space with multiple versions of worksheets. Only keep the most recently revised copies and recycle the rest.

Sort Teaching Materials

If a teacher was short a couple of novels during the year, she can send out an all-call email asking if anyone can donate a copy or two for her class. Similarly, if a teacher finds she has more yarn, scissors, or construction paper than she can store, this teacher can offer items up to a new home. Email is a wonderful venue for materials swap within the school, and its value should not be overlooked in the flurry of end of year activities. Once teachers have sorted their materials, they can make a list of items they need to purchase over the summer, when sales are likely.

While teachers are sorting, they can reflect on the materials that are working and make notes on those which need to be altered or edited. These materials can be stored in a file folder and taken home for a summer project. Any revisions that are completed over the summer months are guaranteed to make life easier for the teacher the next year, when unexpected tasks abound.

By taking some solitary time to organize their classroom and materials, teachers will reap the reward of enjoying a smoother transition into the next school year. As lifelong learners, teachers should acknowledge that there is always room for improvement. The last month of school provides a wonderful opportunity to do just that through self-assessment, reflection and reorganization.