Plan a day and time to clean the classroom WITH the students.
My first graders loved helping me clean our classroom to prepare it for next year's students. Students of any age can wipe down desks, tables, and furniture. They can sort and organize classroom books, paper, pencils, crayons, and cubes. They love to help! Every year, I had students take down student work from the walls, which was very helpful. However, it can be a good idea to consider what can stay on the walls for the next year and only take down what you have to. Additionally, leave student work on the walls until the last week of school. Do not start cleaning too early. This signals to the students that the year is over.
Send students’ supplies home.
Send home folders, crayons, pencils, erasers, scissors, mostly used workbooks, spirals, and journals. A veteran tip: Save a handful of the most popular crayon colors for next year—you know, the colors that kids were always asking if you had an extra. Do the same with expo markers and glue stick tops. You will find dried out markers and glue sticks as you clean; save the tops for your next class. Students can put their supplies straight into their backpacks and will now have them at home.
Set aside some time to tackle the areas only you can clean.
Clean and organize your cabinets, supplies, and desk. As you are cleaning your classroom, think about what you can recycle and give away. Have left over Kleenex boxes? Gift some to a librarian or the music, art, or physical education teacher. They will love you for it! Think about how you used the space and what you would change in the future to become more efficient. If you have anything in your classroom that needs to be replaced or repaired, make note of it for the staff.
Break down the classroom.
The cleaning crew comes in the summer, and furniture will likely get moved around. Be mindful of that. Clean off your desk, cover bookshelves or move books, stack items on back counters, and put up decorations that you don’t want to be moved around or jostled. If you have items of value like a microwave, coffee pot, or mini fridge, take them home. Don’t risk them getting stolen or broken.
On the last day of school, take time to think.
Take a few quiet minutes in your classroom to think back since the summer. Consider what you liked and what you would change. Think about what worked and what didn’t. Think about your classroom setup and how you want it to look the following year. Make a list of items you need for your classroom when you come back after the summer. It’s easier to make a list now while your memories are still fresh. I would look around my room and it would jog my memory: I will need more magnets, more highlighter tape, hand sanitizer, and more blue fadeless colored paper for bulletin boards (it does exist). Print out any curriculum information. Take books you need for professional development in the summer. Take your teaching badge with you. Update passwords or bring passwords for different sites home in case you need access to them.
The best advice I have (from 16 years teaching in a public school) is to not wait until the last day. Throwing things in cabinets will not make the need for cleaning go away. Coming back to a messy classroom is like starting off on the wrong foot. It is more work at the beginning of the year when you are typically at your busiest.
Congratulations on closing out another year in a hard profession that rewards you with student accomplishments, hugs, and forever grateful families. Everything you do in the classroom matters. Every detail. Every plan. Every thought. Thank you for your dedication and hard work. Summer is almost upon us!
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