Setting up your first classroom!

As promised, here is a post about setting up your own classroom! It refers mainly to NQTs as I think the very first time you set up a classroom is different to the years after that, for a few reasons.

It’s Friday today and I have spent every day this week in my classroom and I am nowhere near done. It’s OK though because I’ve really enjoyed it! As I’ve been doing it though, a few things have already popped up and I thought it might be a good idea to write some little tips for other NQTs setting up their first classroom. As always, I know I am not an expert but I think any advice we can share between us is going to be helpful! Enjoy 🙂

Give yourself enough time.

While I knew I wouldn’t be done in a week, I didn’t anticipate how long it would take to do the smallest of tasks. I actively chose not to get a job over summer as I wanted to have as much time as possible to devote to my classroom, while leaving time alongside this to simply, chill. While this isn’t doing a lot for me financially, I’m so glad I did it and I know I will be grateful of it come September when everything is sorted and I’m ready to go. If you have to work then make sure to leave sufficient time to sort things out – you don’t want to burn out before you even begin!

Be prepared to clean. A LOT.

Of course, this will vary from school to school and will depend on your own tolerance of cleanliness (or OCD, if you’re a bit like me). My classroom needed a really good scrub, just due to a year of usage. Do this first, before you do anything else. Even though the cleaners were coming in the following week, I still ran the hoover round and wiped some things down. Starting with a blank canvas makes everything so much easier.

Lists are your friend.

Make lists. Lists upon lists upon lists. OK, maybe not that many, just enough to keep you on track. It can be overwhelming with the amount of things that need to be done but writing things out makes it seem a little more manageable. I started by writing down each display board and then all the things I would need to do on each one. Not only does it break things down but it’s also really satisfying ticking things off!

Enlist help!

I am so lucky that I have an amazing TA who spent three whole days in school with me helping me out. She did so much for me and it really helped. While you may not be able to have your TA in with you, do enlist help from others if you can. I persuaded my brother to come in for a day (with the promise of lunch) and he did lots of time-consuming tasks for me, such as laminating and cutting out lettering. (I also used his 6″5 height to help me put up my number line – he didn’t even need a ladder!). But definitely ask friends and family to help if possible because, as mentioned before, it’s the simple yet essential tasks which are usually the most time-consuming.

Check out other classrooms.

Most schools will have policies on what needs to be included in a classroom. My school have a list of “non-negotiables” which includes things that I need to have in the classroom. Even with this, it was difficult to visualise where everything could/should go, so I popped into all the other classrooms to see how they had done it. As I am in a 4-form entry school, I had three other classes in the same year as me which helped, but if you don’t, any classroom in your school will be useful to refer to.

Be careful about spending money.

I know looking through Pintrest can be tempting, as you see so many wonderful creations, but sometimes it’s better not to re-invent the wheel. Use free resource websites which often have lots of things you can download for free. I use Twinkl which, although you have to pay for a full subscription, makes life a lot easier. Your school may already have a subscription which will save you money, or you can go in with another teacher and save money. For example, I saw a lovely handmade sign on Pintrest for a reading corner. For a few minutes I deliberated buying all the resources for it and making it, which would have resulted in spending lots of money. However, on Twinkl, there was a template for it which, when laminated, looks just as good! Saved me money and time.

I had a good conversation about this on Twitter earlier today. I have already spent money on things for my classroom, such as boxes for exercise books, which although may not be deemed essential will help keep the classroom neat/encourage independence. I suggest writing down all the things you want for your classroom that you haven’t already been supplied. Look at the ones which are definitely essential (as in, you cannot teach and the children cannot learn without them) and ask your school for them. For the rest, decide if you really need them, if they can wait until you have more money, or if you actually don’t need them at all.

Finally, make sure you are happy with it.

It may sound obvious, but as an NQT it can be a bit awkward going into what was someone else’s classroom and moving everything around. But remember, it is your classroom and you are the one who has to teach in it. I moved a lot of furniture around, just because it was how I felt more comfortable. I changed some backing paper because the colours didn’t go with the lettering I had made. Basically, I’m starting to make it my own!

These pieces of advice may seem quite obvious but they have been very useful for me and have made sure my first week of classroom sorting have gone well! Hopefully once it is completely sorted I will post some pictures 🙂

Good luck setting up your classrooms, NQT or not and share any tips you have below 🙂

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