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Guru's war on classroom junk

The star of BBC TV's Life Laundry targets the unspeakable mess in many teachers' cupboards. Helen Ward reports

Dawna Walter, the television presenter who has persuaded adults to dump well-thumbed books and children to get rid of much-loved toys, has declared war on classroom clutter.

The "de-junk" guru who hosts BBC's Life Laundry series is horrified by stories of teachers having to clear their rooms of piles of waste paper left by former occupants.

Now Mrs Walter, who has a degree in education and taught English as a second language to Spanish-speaking children in the United States, is offering to clear up a classroom for one TES reader.

"Teachers are intrinsic hoarders," she said. "They hold on to things in case they might find a creative use for them in the classroom. But there is no excuse for leaving their mess behind, that is just rude."

In her television series Mrs Walter has persuaded families to empty the contents of their homes on to the lawn and make an emotional decision about what would stay and what would go.

Her offer to clear up a classroom comes after she heard of the pleadings of teachers too scared to open their cupboards for fear of an avalanche of old wallcharts, display work and books.

Some unlucky teachers have told The TES that they spent part of their summer holiday pulling on the rubber gloves and throwing out their predecessor's classroom junk.

"Samijo", on the TES website, said: "I am really p****d off about the state of the classroom. I've been in the room seven hours and still haven't even looked at the cupboards near my desk."

"Orangesam" said: "I've just done the same for the past two days, having a sit down, my legs ache!"

"Athro cynradd" said: "That happened to me last year. It was made worse that we had an inspection in that first half term. Was cleaning most evenings as well. I still found papers from the old teacher when I cleared out at the end of this year."

One primary teacher, while not suggesting a solution, offers a kind of solace. "I am also bracing myself to tackle a messy classroom," writes "hopeful". "The teacher who has left it like that is going to my old classroom which I have left really tidy in the hope that she will feel some guilt."

Mrs Walter, who founded the Holding Company, a chain of storage-solutions shops, has filmed three series of Life Laundry and written six books, the most recent being Dejunk Your Mind.

She suggested teachers get their pupils on side. "Children should learn at a young age to determine what is important, what isn't important, what to keep and what not to keep," she said.



Start as you mean to go on

* Start the term with a fresh, clean classroom.

* When setting up your classroom, make sure there is a place for everything that is clearly labelled and that students are aware of where everything belongs.

Each day

* Lead by example. Keep your desk and front of classroom clutter-free.

* Teach your students to put things away at the end of the day.

Each month

* Dedicate time at the start of each month to tidy the classroom. Enlist students' help to check that all the pieces of each game are in their boxes and reading materials are kept in order.

* Clear out materials that are no longer relevant or are missing bits.

Each year

* Don't keep things just in case they may come in handy. Once you let them go, you will generate many new ideas and materials.

* At the end of the school year, clear your classroom of all clutter.

* Box up any files that you need to pass on to the next teacher and include a note on anything special he or she might need to know.

* If you are changing rooms, pack away all of your personal belongings and clearly label each box with the contents.

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