3 Things I Wish I Had Done Differently At The End Of My First School Year

The end of the year is stressful! Let me help you make the end of your first year of teaching more purposeful.

So I have a story for you. This is a story of my very first classroom. I landed my first job in kindergarten. This is actually the very grade I tried NOT to teach when I was subbing. Ha! Ha! You never know where you will land.

My first classroom ended up being TWO classrooms. One was my own and one I shared (and was already set up for me by the other teacher). I taught AM kindergarten at one school and PM kindergarten at a school 20 minutes away. Lunch was in my car while driving and I barely made it to my second school before the bell rang.

But…I loved kindergarten! I never thought I would…but I did!

However, I was overwhelmed. I did not have experience with this grade so I was learning so much all at once…two different classrooms and two different sets of kids in two different schools. All this to say…I was ready for summer break when it came.

WELL…”ready” is a subjective word. I was ready for a break and ready for sleep BUT… I didn’t have a plan for ending the school year with any type of organization.

Here is advice I’d give any new teacher who is ending the first year of teaching. It’s actually from 20 years of teaching (but I didn’t take my own advice for many years…)!

#1: Set Up An Organizational System

So, I got my first job THREE days before school started. I did NOT have time to think about organizational systems. Let’s just say…information on the internet was not what it is today. I had to do things the “old fashioned” way…trial and error. So, needless to say, I was running ragged the entire year and would throw things into a filing cabinet and never look at it again…

That is…until the end of the year when I was packing up everything that was mine to take home (I wasn’t going to be at that school the following year).

Since this was my first year teaching…I didn’t have much. But I had enough that I COULD have organized SOMETHING. But I just threw everything into boxes to organize “later”. Ideally I would have organized my papers throughout the school year…but I didn’t…so here we are at the end of the year with papers stuffed in boxes.

My advice is to take some time at the end of the year and organize your papers before leaving for the summer. You will thank yourself in the fall.

Here is how I organize my paperwork:

How To Organize Paper In The Classroom

#2: Clean Out The Clutter

Getting rid of things goes against how many teachers are wired. Why? Because we love to collect…stuff! Teachers are collectors. We love egg cartons, tissue paper, streamers, glue, paper, worksheets, games, jars, containers AND BOOKS!

My first few classrooms had so much stuff in them. Once I got my first permanent room you would think I could clean it out and just keep what is important. However, I was terrified that the teacher who had the classroom prior to me was going to come back looking for that 1976 worksheet and need all those containers. Oh! It was a problem that kept me from truly getting rid of…well…anything.

You know what? The teacher prior to me RETIRED. Yes, that’s why I was in that particular classroom. She was no longer teaching…I was. I can tell you, she did NOT need the worksheets, books, games, puzzles and art supplies. She probably didn’t even care what I did with them.

But here I am…shoving things I no longer wanted into the crevices of my cupboards and drawers. So…please…don’t do as I did. Find out what you are truly allowed to get rid of and what must be kept and clean out those drawers and cupboards. If you really aren’t going to use something then get rid of it and make space for the things you will need and want to store in your classroom.

Check out this blog post if you want to see how I actually do this:

5 Steps To Transform A Cluttered Classroom Into Your Dream Classroom

#3: Reflect

Overwhelmed, exhausted and ready to be done…I didn’t even know reflection was a word during the summer months. Ha! Ha! My advice to you is to take some time off and enjoy the summer THEN sit down with your coffee (or hot chocolate or coke or whatever it is that you drink) and think about your school year. What went well? Could anything be improved? What are some areas that you could actively research and improve on during the summer?

I often find that new teachers and veteran teachers BOTH want to improve on their routines and procedures. Often when things are not going as planned with whole class behaviors it tends to be because we need to fix, strengthen and tighten up our routines and procedures.

If you need something structured I have a resource that lists and gives you space to write out all your routines. This entire resource is especially great for kindergarten and first grade teachers (but the routines section applies to all grades). Pretend it does NOT say Back To School (especially if you are reading this at the end of a school year). But there are parts of this resource that will help you reflect on your routines and procedures and summer is a great time to think about this…when you actually have time. Then when it IS back to school season you can use the rest of this resource.

Back To School Forms and Checklists resource cover and link could use for reflection for the end of the year

There you have it! Three things that I wished I had completed before summer vacation (or at least before the next school year). Organize, get rid of what you don’t want or need anymore and reflect on your year. You will be so glad you did when you return in the fall.

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