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  • Writer's pictureJohn Hinds

Take It or Leave It

There are a few things in life that I hate, and one of them is clutter. It looks bad, it makes it harder for custodians to clean, and it doesn't convey that the classroom is ready for students.

table in classroom that is piled high with scraps of paper and other discareded items

That's why, two to three times a year, we held an event called Take It or Leave It. The event typically took place in the teacher workroom and ran for an entire week.

The concept was simple: If you had something in your classroom that you no longer wanted or needed, you brought it to the designated room and left it there. This especially helped those who struggle to throw anything away.

If you needed something, you could browse through the items left behind and take whatever you needed. This was particularly useful for new teachers who often had limited funds to furnish their classrooms.

I've seen everything from furniture to manipulatives, books, and various old items that had been hiding in the backs of closets. Every time we did this, I was glad to see old, unused things being discarded. Sometimes teachers feel overwhelmed because they have too many options or too much stuff.

To give the teachers a nudge, I would suggest they look through their closets and purge the following:

Monday – Extra tissue boxes and classroom library books

Tuesday – Extra construction paper and glue

Wednesday – Extra handwriting paper and paper clips or staples

Thursday – Extra bins or organizers

At the end of the week, I would go through what was left (usually not much of value) and bag up the leftovers for the custodians to throw away. This activity gave everyone a chance to find something they wanted. Some wanted more space in their closets, while others wanted more books for their classroom libraries. It was a win-win for many.

I encourage you to plan this activity three times each year. Start when teachers arrive before school begins, then around December, and finally at the end of the school year. It may take a couple of times for staff to see the benefits, but at each of the three schools where I've implemented Take It or Leave It, teachers started asking when the next one would be.

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