Transitioning to a new classroom can be a headache if you aren't prepared, but with a few simple tricks, you can turn it into an adventure that even your students can get excited about.
Move Your Classroom Without Losing Your Mind
Whether a planned move or an emergency event, transitioning yourself and your students to a new classroom can be stressful. But, with a bit of careful management, it doesn't have to be. Using some tried–and–true techniques to prepare your class and your materials, you can make the transition easier. And, if you're lucky, your kids may even see it as an adventure.
Keeping everything where you can find it is always a good idea. This is especially true when it's time to move to another class. Meghan Everette suggests dedicating certain areas of the classroom to each subject. She has a cupboard for math texts and manipulatives, a section for science, one for literacy materials, and so on. Not only does this help during lessons because she can grab what she needs without frantic searching, when it's time to move, she can load up a cart and go without worrying about what might be getting lost in the transition.
Understand Your Limits
Meghan makes another valuable point about the allocation of materials in her post. It's important to make note of items you have purchased — those are yours to do with as you choose - and those the school has bought. If the school supplied the funds for your supplies, be certain that you're allowed to take them to your new class with you.
Many schools will let you keep your classroom materials so long as you're staying within the same grade-level. If you're transferring up or down, however, they may want the supplies to stay with the classroom. If you're moving because of damage to the building, such as a water leak or storm loss, then you're probably fine to take everything you can carry. In any case, it's best to be certain before you find yourself in hot water.
Not all children handle change well. When possible, it's essential to these students that they're forewarned when a significant change is coming. Virginia Head Start offers a handy guide to helping children with transitions and includes some of the following tips:
- Discuss the Reason for the Change with Students. Talking to kids about the reasons you need to switch rooms can help them get excited about the change.
- Talk to Parents. When possible, let the parents know what is happening too. They'll want to know where their children have gone to during the day and why. Plus, the forewarning can help them prepare their child for the change.
- Make it Fun. Tour the new classroom and get the students involved with ideas for decor, supplies, and seating positions. You may not use them all, but giving your pupils some input can make it feel like they have some control, which is always good.
- Get a Referral. If you have special needs students, get their counselors involved. They can provide valuable insight to help your student handle the change and may even be able to step in and assist you while the class gets settled.
Although many of these examples are geared towards children changing classrooms, rather than you moving the class, they are beneficial tips that can work here as well.
If you have a student teacher, parent volunteers, or even older students with a willingness to help, use them.
Martina Cahill, a fifth-grade teacher from Colorado has transitioned her class more than once in her short career. Each time she has enlisted students to help get supplies boxed up and ready to travel. Not only does this method help to ease some of the hard labor that comes with a big move, but it gives the kids a sense of ownership over the project. She also asked parents to bring in empty boxes to make it easier to pack up supplies and get them out of the way when they weren't in use. Thanks to the generosity of her class and community, she saves time hunting down packing materials, money on moving supplies, and helped recycle waste cardboard at the same time.
Be Kind to Yourself
If you're changing schools in the middle of the year, you'll no doubt be expecting great things of yourself. Good for you! But, as Jennifer Gonzalez, Editor-in-Chief at Cult of Pedagogy and former Middle School Language Arts teacher reminds us, being there is the most important part. Getting to the basics, establishing a relationship with your students and fellow teachers, and setting the ground rules and expectations for your class are more important than being super-teacher. It's OK if the first few weeks don't live up to your expectations, as long as you're hitting your marks and making progress, you have half the battle won already.
Relax and Enjoy the Experience
Whether you use these tips or not, the important thing is not to overthink the move.
Allowing yourself to become overwhelmed by the experience will impact the way you teach and your students will suffer as a result. Relax, do what you can, get help where you are able, and trust that everything will get done. Until it does, enjoy the adventure and new possibilities that a new environment represents and do your best — just like you tell your students to.