About Colette Bennett

Colette Marie Bennett is the Curriculum Coordinator for English Language Arts, Social Studies, Library Media, and Testing for the West Haven Public School System in West Haven, Connecticut. Previous to this position, she served as the Chief Academic Officer (7-12) for Regional School System #6 in Litchfield, Connecticut. She has 23 years of teaching experience in English Language Arts from grades 6-12, including electives in journalism, drama, and film studies. A graduate of the Alternate Route to Certification, Bennett also has a Masters in English from Western Connecticut State University a 6th year in Advanced Teaching and an 092 Administrative Certificate from Sacred Heart University, and graduate credits from the GLSP in Social Studies at Wesleyan University. She holds a Literacy Certification (102) from Sacred Heart University for grades K-12. She has presented how technology is incorporated in classrooms at the Connecticut Computers in Education Conference (2010, 2012, 2014), the National Council of Teachers Annual Conference (2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015), and the Advanced Placement Annual Conference (2011) the Literacy for All Conference (2012), and the ICT for Language Learning in Florence, Italy (2014). She blogs about education at Used Books in Class: http://usedbookclassroom.wordpress.com/ She tweets at Teachcmb56@twitter.com

What brought you joy last school year?

That is a question teachers should ask themselves as they begin to prepare classrooms for the new school year. As they open those boxes that were stored over the summer, teachers might consider what lessons can be learned from the decluttering guru Marie Kando?

More than likely, those boxes containing last year’s classroom materials were not packed with the critical eye that Kando advocates. Chances are that the end of the school year was rushed or so chaotic that there may have been little time to think about what really worked with students. Items were packed away without a thorough review.

What brought you joy last school year? Click To Tweet

KonMariMethod

Marie Kando’s KonMari Method™ could be the ideal way for teachers to declutter because “the method encourages tidying or downsizing by category, rather than by location.” In education, there are plenty of categories that can be downsized.

Everyone understands that the beginning of each school year brings a general desire for a fresh start. Packed items that were “good enough” from the previous year may not seem as appealing now.

That means the beginning of a new school year could be the best time to declutter and dispose of those materials that may be showing their age. Or this could be the opportunity to finally abandon those items that, despite the best of intentions, have never been used. 

Declutter to Personalize

By downsizing, there is also the benefit of creating space to make a classroom more personal for the incoming students. For example, dog-eared posters (however beloved they may be!) could be discarded in order to leave space for student work.  Similarly, a classroom library could be culled by students who can organize books or recommend removal. This process might be a great way to help familiarize students with what is available and increase their interest.

Those things not used in the classroom over the past two or three years are unlikely to be used in the coming school year.  Out-of-date math manipulatives should be junked; obsolete (maybe unsafe?) materials for science experiments thrown out. Even examples of student work from previous years should be scrapped in order to let a new crop of students start projects from scratch without preconceptions.

The beginning of the school year may also provide a fresh perspective as to what made student centers a success in the past. A great start includes time to reflect on what materials worked best.

Downsizing could also mean that items from the previous year could be repurposed rather than discarded entirely. Of course, any leftover classroom supplies (pencils, pens, paper, etc.) from last year may still have value and be made available for students. 

Discard the Paper!

The category of lesson planning, however, is where Kando’s methods may prove the most fruitful. Teachers should prepare lesson plans with a critical eye. The goal is to discard any lessons that took great effort but produced little to no result, no joy.

This is also the time for teachers to acknowledge that a digital copy of anything can be better stored and accessed than a hard copy. A cabinet filled with papers takes up floor space;  a removable disk does not. Even better, this could be the time for teachers to acknowledge that the clutter produced by copied paper worksheets is not necessary. Notebooks and journals can be far more effective teaching tools.

Seeing a New Year

Downsizing is one way to begin the school year with fewer demands on everyone, teachers and students alike. Seeing the classroom cleared from the clutter of past years can help teachers determine the needs of their new students and select those materials best suited to improve academic performance.

As they return to the classroom, teachers should take Marie Kando’s advice. What items may have worked in the past, may not work again. It is time, as Kando said,  “Thank those items for their service – then let them go.”

After all, it’s a new school year.

Declutter in order to discover what brings your new students joy.

Marie Kando

interracial kids hugging happy teacher at table in classroom

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