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Don't mess with me

Advice for teachers in their early career

Clutter - we can so easily drown in it. One teacher on the TES website confessed: "I'm a bit of a mess magnet at the best of times, but being stuck in a tiny room with 31 children,I just find that my classroom gets piled up round the edges with heaps of stuff, such as instruments we made in science, the art project we haven't finished, felt tips or topic books."

The physical environment is crucial to teachers and pupils, but a well-arranged and organised classroom needs planning, and continuous effort and time to keep it so. Organise resources to minimise fuss and wasted time. Support staff are often brilliant at this, so ask them for ideas and help. Everyone should know where things are kept and the procedures for getting things out and putting them back. Think hard about the particularly troublesome things such as items brought from home, pencils and pens, sharpeners, rubbers, and the dreaded unfinished work. If you find the foolproof way of stopping pupils from using the sink as a bin, let me know.

Systems for tidying need planning, training, practice and reinforcement - basically children won't do it unless nagged regularly. The chances are, they did it for their previous teacher - even in their nursery days - so remind, reward then threaten.

After everyone has put their own things away, choose monitors for each area of the classroom. Some people find that doling out stickers and other rewards for star-tidiers works a treat. Ask a few willing pupils to help you tidy up at playtime or lunchtime.

What about the unwanted piles of paper on your desk and other surfaces. One new teacher has a radical solution: "It all gets chucked out every half-term because I can't face sorting through it!" Some people have a gigantic box into which everything goes that doesn't have an obvious home.

At least it's out of sight.

For leftover worksheets, have a smallfiling cabinet or case to put it all in for future use, but avoid the temptation to keep more than one. The rest can be put in the recycle bin... until it overflows.

Sara Bubb's The Insider's Guide for New Teachers is published by TESKogan Page (pound;12.99)See

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