Where do I start?

Sara Bubb offers advice to students and NQTs

I'm sinking fast. My room is a mess and I feel as though everything is going wrong with my first job. All the other key stage 1 teachers set up their rooms in the last week of the holidays, but nobody told me this was an option.

Don't panic, you're not alone. Classroom organisation is very do-able - it just takes time. But address the problem now, especially if you're teaching in key stage 1, because things will only get worse.

The first thing to do is to explain the problem to your induction tutor and ask for his or her help and advice. Make a list of all the things that aren't working or that need attention. Think of the room arrangement, but your procedures may need looking at, too. Then the two of you can prioritise jobs, draw up a plan of action and identify people to help you. Perhaps you can have some extra classroom assistant time. Older children love helping teachers at lunchtimes.

Look at the furniture you've been given. Are there items that you don't need? New teachers are often given cast-offs. Is there enough carpet space? Are there enough tables and chairs? It's handy to have a couple spare in case of new arrivals, needing to split people up or children being sent from another class. Remember to allow space for moving around and for other adults working in the room, and any equipment for children with special needs.

Think about how you're going to teach when deciding how to arrange the tables: rows, horseshoes or clusters of four or six. Choose what is going to work best for you and the children rather than following what other teachers do - though what works for them could be good for you, too.

Make sure you've got a desk to work at (don't ruin your back by crouching over the children's tables after school) and shelves to store your files and so on. A lockable drawer or cupboard is useful for storing such essentials as money and staple guns.

Organise resources to minimise fuss and wasted time. Everyone should know where they're kept and the procedures for getting things out and putting them away. Think about the troublesome items, such as those brought from home - lunch boxes, bags, PE kits, pencils and pens, sharpeners, rubbers, scissors, books, worksheets, unfinished work and reading folders.

Don't worry if it doesn't work straight away. You'll need to adjust the arrangement of the room and procedures frequently so that they work for you and your class.

Are you a student or NQT? Email your questions to: susan.young@newsint.co.uk. Sara Bubb's A Newly Qualified Teacher's Manual: how to meet the induction standards is published by David Fulton, pound;15

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