Moving Classrooms or Schools? #BestTips from Fellow Teachers

We are moving into a fancy new building in early August.

I know I should be extra-excited about teaching in a building that was built post-1950's. There won't be ugly avocado-green tiles everywhere. Anchor charts will probably stick to the walls. It will be outfitted with top-of-the-line technology and have more than just a few outlets in the classroom. Heck, it will even have an HVAC system that doesn't consist of a temperamental boiler and too-small window A/C units...

... but still...

I will miss that ancient old classroom of mine.

The one I have spent the last 10+ years of my life in. Through apartment living, my first house, my second house, my divorce... everything. This classroom has felt like home.

I'm not naturally a packrat or hoarder. But I am a teacher, so I still find myself falling for the timeless, "What if?" and "Just in case" trap when it comes to materials and supplies.

Movers are coming thirty minutes after the last bell of the school year on May 24th. I have to have my room ready to go so it can be emptied and demo crews can begin their overwhelming job of taking down a building that could have probably doubled as a fallout shelter.

I'm starting to feel overwhelmed, so I turned to you, my beloved readers and partners in this crazy world of teaching, to help me deal with what seems to be an insurmountable task of packing up everything (while the kids are still in school) to get ready for the next school year in a brand new place.

As always, I was floored, grateful, and so incredibly appreciative for your tips, support and "been there, done that" knowledge I could have never navigated myself.

And I can't wait to share these tips with you all, in case we find ourselves in similar positions this May (and subsequently August). To follow along, and even add your tips, head to my Facebook conversation HERE for more.

Here are your Top 15 Tips for moving to a new classroom/school/building:

Several of you mentioned doing this, and I'll be honest, this NEVER once entered my mind! Steph S. suggested,
"number your boxes then keep a sheet of what is in box 1, box 2 etc."
Numbering these boxes can help alleviate headaches if one (or more) box goes missing during the move. You can address it as it happens, not when you suddenly notice a unit has gone missing when you're prepping it in December.

I get this, I really do. But a part of my teacher brain is always hard-wired in the what-if's, so tossing whole chunks of materials can be challenging. But, truth be told, if it hasn't been touched in the past three years, it's time to go. I am realizing the freedom in this step, actually. It frees me up to focus on the projects, curriculum, and materials I DO love, so I don't always have these shadow materials lurking and reminding me of what I could/should/would teach...

In my rush to toss everything into a box before the deadline, I can completely see myself skipping this step, The procrastinator in me thinks I can just declutter when I'm in my new room..... FALSE! I should know me better than this! I still have boxes I haven't sorted through in my house from the old house, so what makes me think my classroom would be different? The other tip I'm working on is moving anything into a PDF that I still have in hard-copy. Some of our district curriculum I was able to scan and save in my computer, so I don't need to keep the bulky stack of papers. Plus, it's also easier to find in my computer.

Knowing what is in each box can help when it comes time to unpack, sort, organize, and wrap your mind around the new classroom and school year. This doesn't have to be anything extensive, but can help immensely come August. You all suggested making a spreadsheet or list to make sure every box is accounted. It also helps when prioritizing which boxes get opened first.

Our movers are providing labels, but they are about 2x3" and all one color (so they know what wing to deliver them), This is not the most helpful system once you get them to your classroom, so label each box well to ensure your unpacking is as streamlined as it can be. Meg B. wrote,
"I made box labels on bright blue paper with my name... I also made a spreadsheet, numbered the boxes, and typed what was in each one so I would know if anything was missing when I unpacked." 
Gigantic Sharpies are perfect for this, and use them in several different colors because...

I am a huge fan of color coding in my teaching (read more HERE), so it makes perfect sense to incorporate this strategy in moving. Tara S. shared another very helpful strategy about using color duct tape:
"Pick a colored duct tape to use on must-have boxes. Wrap the tape all the way around the box. Labels are great, but if you can't see the label, it's no help."
I love this! Using different colored Sharpies for different categories can also help when moving boxes to certain areas of the class for unpacking. Charlene B. even packs using a special color box:
"I have a green box [packed with what is needed for the first week of school], all the others are brown."
In a sea of brown boxes, all of these strategies will help your must-have boxes stand out from the rest.

I am in love with these free month labels HERE. They are clear, colorful, and very useful when it comes to organizing your materials by month. Tammy K. shared that she organizes this way:
"I organize everything by month, categories, and I number my book bins. That way, if I don't have time to unpack all the boxes, I would be able to find the boxes I need to start the year."

Brooke B. shared this strategy and it is pretty consistent with my current classroom storage. She wrote,
"I live like I'm moving. This means I store everything in clear plastic bins that I can access easily through the year and they stack neatly when I move classrooms."
I love these bins from Sterelite because they are inexpensive and readily available at Target and Walmart. They are on a shelf in my class, so they don't get a lot of abuse, but it's definitely easy to find what I need and they are easy to label for any purpose: month, subject, etc.

Many of you suggested this and I am so grateful for the tips! Several of you said to pack staplers, name tags, tape, paper, pencils, everything you need to make sure the first day goes smoothly, just in case. I love this, since Michelle M. shared that,
"We moved into a new building and couldn't move in the first couple of days due to [a] fire inspection. Meet the Teacher was in the hallway because rooms were a mess. We set up classes [over the weekend]."
Her experience reminds me that we never know what August will hold, and it's better to be overly organized than scrambling at the last second!

Our movers come to the old school on the last day and move things to the new building that we won't have access to until August. Because of that, I am going to be following your suggestions to bring the really important things home. I'm planning on bringing my personal items, my book bins, my colorful carts, and a box full of first week activities and storing it in my garage all summer. I may even do clipboards and personal white boards so, if all else fails, we can have hard writing surfaces and even work outside.

I had never thought of this, but Kasey H. suggested,
"Move your August- October-ish stuff LAST so it will be easy to get to."
Of course, that was completely the opposite of how I was planning on moving, but it makes all the sense in the world! Why would I want my May things to be the first thing I unpack? So smart, and paired with the color coding and other strategies, it will make it all that much easier.

Stephanie S. suggested this and I totally agree! The advantage of teaching third is that you can recruit former students to help and they are willing and able! Former students also have the advantage of knowing you, your classroom, and how you organize things. We also have a very helpful and amazing parent volunteer network, so come August, I will be enlisting their help to organize and unpack. For me, it also creates extra accountability when packing. If others are helping, I want to be sure I am organized and decluttered so we can all be as efficient as possible.

I plan on sketching out my room and where things will go over the summer, probably several hundred times! Having NEVER switched rooms for the past ten years, this will definitely be a challenge. Plus, our new room will have more windows, fewer shelves for storage, and more flexible seating options. It's going to be an adjustment, but the more I can visualize it now, the more goal-oriented I can be when we get into the rooms in August.

I swear I have this classroom burned into my brain, but I know when it comes down to crunch time, my brain will be blank. Taking lots of pictures now can help ensure that the areas I've relied upon for years can still have a place in the new room. And, if I have the help of volunteers, they can see the vision that we're working toward.

In fact, don't worry about a lot. Time will take care of all of it, and your authenticity through the process will help everybody feel at ease. Instead, why not hang up some of these cute signs and/or caution tape? It took a year or more to build this new school. Give it some time before it reflects who  you and your students truly are. Christy S. shared:
"Print signs that say Under Construction - Waiting for Student Work or Waiting for First Students to Make it Home. This will take pressure off of you. The parents and students will love it because it means you are all about the kids."

And when August rolls around and we finally get access to our classrooms again, Jessica W. reminds us to take unpacking "one box at a time." It will take time, energy, effort, and a whole lot of patience to get our new rooms to the places we want, but I have no doubt that in the end, this will be a positive move that will benefit more than just our students.

What other tips would you add to this list? Please share them in the comments and/or in our Facebook conversation HERE.

Best of luck to you all!

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