Before the Students Arrive: T – 5

Today was “T Minus 5″. Students arrive in five working days.

Two feelings: chatty and overwhelmed.

Importance of Chat
Each school year begins with faculty and staff assemblies. I look over a sea of roughly 300 people, about a third of whom I know fairly well. I want to hear about their summers. I want them to expand on their Facebook updates – all the fun stories they didn’t post.

I think the importance of beginning-of-year chat is underestimated. While stories of summer escapades do not immediately enhance student learning, the shared stories build community. A Professional Learning Community (PLC) is built upon teachers who trust one another. If my colleagues trust me enough to share the “unpublished” versions of summer stories, they will probably trust me enough to debate important issues later in the year.

Expat institutions can expect a flood of new teachers every year. Chat time allows me to get to know them as people before I get to know them as professionals.

The Overwhelming
I estimate it takes anywhere from 8 to 16 hours to set up a classroom well. I can set up a room in eight hours if I have a teaching assistant to do bulletin boards and my classroom library is in relatively good order.

My one and only performance goal this first day is to make my classroom look more ready than it is. “Looking ready” means this: desks and furniture arranged, bulletin board background material and borders are up, my bookshelves look neat, and other messes are hidden.

First impressions matter. If an administrator or parent enters the classroom, they’ll think I’m ready to go. Also, I need uncluttered space to do my more complicated thinking about classroom management, student placement, and planning.

Classroom at the end of Preservice Day 1
Total work hours to set up classroom: 5

Desks are arranged so that students can have guided conversations the first few days. Also, I spread them out for easy student movement throughout the room. No name tags yet - just keeping it simple.

The common area is open. Bulletin boards in the background are the same as they were last year (I covered them with paper before I left the previous June).

Bookshelves look tidy - but that is an illusion. My students will re-organize the books during their first week back. The purple board will remain empty so that I can hang lesson anchor charts. Carts on the left will house students' computers.

My desk is in the back of the room with bookshelves and shelves for extra student supplies.

Other Organizational Considerations

School parents pay for school supplies as part of their tuition. I put supplied in plastic pencil boxes - one box for each student.

Extra supplies are kept in the back of the classroom. When students find items on the floor, they put the "lost" in these bins. When students find something missing from their personal pencil box, they go to these bins to get what they need. Students no longer search in their desks for long periods of time or ask me for extras.

I don't allow students to sharpen pencils during class (it interrupts my teaching or students' trains of thought). If a pencil is dull or broken, it goes in the blue container and the student grabs a freshly sharpened one. Each morning, one group of students is responsible for sharpening all pencils in the blue container.

As student supplies arrive (items on the left), I begin piling them up along a line for distribution later. As parent reading materials arrive (the piles to the right), they are also stacked for later distribution).

I cannot overstate the importance of staying late the first day to finish these “big” pieces of furniture arrangement. Very soon (if not already), the meetings and extra duties will begin.

What are your classroom arrangement tricks? Organizational tips?

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3 thoughts on “Before the Students Arrive: T – 5

  1. Pingback: “T – 4″: Thinking Through Organization of Students and Their Supplies | Expat Educator

  2. Pingback: “T – 3″: Zooming in and Zooming Out | Expat Educator

  3. Pingback: “T – 1″: First Impressions on Parents and Students | Expat Educator

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