Don’t end it this way

Stop packing up your classroom before summer vacation starts.

By Barb Szyszkiewicz

On the first day of school, you want your classroom to be picture-perfect: books on the shelves, colorful decorations on the bulletin boards, classroom tools at the ready, and your own personal touches throughout.

Why would you want your classroom to look any different on the last day of school?

The first time I decorated a classroom, I was in fifth grade and my mom had just gotten a job as a teacher in a Catholic school. My siblings and I climbed on desks to hang bulletin-board paper on the corkboard strips above the blackboard, and labored to create personalized decorations to welcome every child in the seventh-grade homeroom. Meanwhile, Mom unboxed textbooks and shelved books for the classroom library.

On the last day of school that year, we waved goodbye to our friends as they headed out the school door, and took down the late-spring decorations, carefully storing them away for the next year. Then we covered all the bulletin boards with newspaper as Mom re-packed all those books and boxed up classroom supplies. Whatever didn’t fit in the coat closet had to be carried to the car so she could store it at home.

Things had changed drastically by the time my own children were in school and I was a traveling teacher with a cart in a different school. Most teachers, by the last few weeks of the school year, had taken down the bulletin boards completely, removed other decorations, and were well on the way to a fully-boxed classroom.

I didn’t feel welcomed when I walked into those classroom. What with the bare bulletin boards and the cardboard boxes and the free rein for students to use ample board space for an end-of-year countdown, it looked like those homeroom teachers couldn’t wait to get out of there. Surely students were picking up on the same vibe — probably without even realizing it.

I mentioned this to my mom once, and she replied that she’d been following school policy. Other than collecting and stacking textbooks (which was to be done on the very last day of school), all end-of-school prep had to wait until the students had left the building.

Photo copyright 2017 Barb Gilman. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

The photo above was taken in August 2017, before teacher Barb Gilman of St. Margaret Mary School, Omaha, Nebraska, began to get her room ready to welcome her class. Chances are, your classroom looks just like this the week before school opens.

But there’s no reason it should look like this the week before school closes.

Barb Szyszkiewicz is editor at and managing editor of Today’s Catholic Teacher.

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