Here we are in May, the month when most teachers start gleefully counting down the days until their summer break. The kids are losing focus after completing their big state tests. Grade level teams are meeting to figure out next year’s class lists and everyone is getting excited about kicking off their summer reading program.
But this year is different… this year, you aren’t just doing the normal end-of-year race/stumble to the finish line. This year, you have to pack up your entire room. Not just for the summer- but for a move into a beautiful new school building. You reminisce back to last year, when you were irritated and whining about taking down your posters that you’d just have to put back up this year, and laugh at yourself. Preparing for a move is NOTHING like closing shop for the summer.
Luckily for you, I just went through this process last year, and I’m here now to share with you five tips and tricks for a successful move of your entire music room. Even if you aren’t moving buildings- these tips will also be helpful for those who are just moving to a different room and those who are just packing up their own personal belongings and leaving their classroom to a new teacher.
My biggest tip is a general suggestion: BE ORGANIZED. I consider myself to be fairly well organized, but my STYLE of organization is difficult to understand if you aren’t ME. I am a “piler,” not a “filer.” I know where everything is on my desk, but I also know I can’t leave it like that if there is a sub coming in! Cleaning and organizing usually leaves me feeling lost- I can no longer find everything I used to have within reach, and I get frustrated at trying to conform to society’s rules of organization. But when you are responsible for packing up a classroom- whether it be every single item, or just your own personal belongings, organization that is accessible to all is a must.
Tip 1: Plan your lessons accordingly
As we were approaching the end of the year, my school supplied the teachers with boxes. Most of the grade level teachers had a clear view of what they’d already taught and could therefore be packed up. I, on the other hand, teach seven grade levels. My fifth graders were done with the hand drums, but what about the first graders? I realized quickly that I needed to plan out my lessons for the remainder of the school year, paying close attention to the materials needed for each activity. Front-loading a month of planning helped me save time later in the month (since my lessons were already planned) and also allowed me to start packing up the materials that I knew I wouldn’t be using anymore this year.
Tip 2: Packing boxes thoughtfully
Our school supplied boxes when we were about a month away from the end of the school year. Since I’d taken the time to plan my lessons for the final month of classes already, I knew what I could start packing up early. Before the first item goes into a box, make sure to use quality packing tape and use several strips on the bottom of the box so nothing falls open when someone picks it up. As I packed each box, I was very aware of the weight of the box and the stability of its contents. Since I’d just moved from one house to another the previous year, I was very aware of how I was stacking items within the boxes for their own safety. I made sure to nest items like my hand drums within each other as much as possible and wrapped everything in bubble wrap and packing paper.
For my Orff instruments, I took the bars off of each instrument and wrapped them together in paper, similar to how a butcher wraps up meat. I labeled each paper package of bars with the instrument type and number (I have number labels on my instruments) so I could easily reunite the bars and bodies when we unpacked. I have a large collection of Beanie Babies and other stuffed toy props that made great padding around fragile items like my guiros. I did not seal boxes shut at first, just folded the flaps down in case I needed to get to an item or wanted to add something additional to that box.
Tip 3: Post-It System
After spending countless sleepless nights and tormented hours after school contemplating the task ahead of me, I decided to implement a Post-It system. I was very concerned about my classroom items making it safely to my new school. I worked in a 50+ year old building, and we didn’t have an official inventory system for many of my instruments and materials. How could I keep track and prove what was missing if any of my boxes didn’t show up in the new building?
My Post-It system provided a huge sense of relief. As I packed (or my student and family helpers packed) each box, we made a detailed list of every item being placed in the box on a Post-In note which was attached to the box. I counted every triangle and beater as it went in. This seemed mundane to my students, but it was the only way I felt certain that if a box was lost, I could request replacements appropriately. Knowing that everyone was making a detailed list of each item as it went into a box allowed me to feel comfortable with having helpers pack, since I was easily able to see the contents of each box in my room. I opted to use the “Super Sticky” Post It notes for this application, and that was a great choice. I was able to move the notes around and take them on and off the boxes without any of them falling off while things were getting hectic in my room.
Tip 4: Labeling the Boxes
Once everything was boxed up, and I mean EVERYTHING, I started to tape the boxes closed (still using high quality packing tape and using three pieces of tape per box) and made a count of boxes. I had 76 boxes in my classroom. With everything taped shut, I started the final process of labeling the boxes. We had instructions from the district to include our school name code (two buildings were being moved in the same year), new room number, our last name, and box number/total number on each box. As I approached each box, I removed the Post It note from the box, numbered it, and saved it on a piece of paper. Then I copied the info from the Post It onto the side of the box, but in lesser detail. I was aware of how I listed box contents so that it wouldn’t look too appealing to the high school kids who’d been hired to help move everything, and didn’t include the quantity of everything. I already had that info on the Post It, I just wanted to be able to know at a quick glance later what was in a box. Then I used bright green duct tape and wrapped it around the top side corner of the box to label everything my district required us to include. Using bright green duct tape made it easy to find my boxes amongst all the others from the rest of the building. If there were any fragile items in the box, I also included a bright pink piece of duct tape that said “Fragile: No Stacking” on the corner. This provided another easy visual to know at a quick glance if things were fragile and if they were in danger if anyone stacked them incorrectly. Once I was finished with that, I had a stack of papers with my Post It notes on them. I kept those at home, but scanned them in and e-mailed them to myself and my principal so there was a digital paper trail of the contents of my boxes. I had every intention of returning to work in the fall, but wanted to make sure that if for some crazy reason I couldn’t, she had a detailed inventory to provide to a new teacher if needed.
Tip 5: Unpacking
When I got to my new building, I had less than a week to unpack and set up my classroom to start the new school year. As I unpacked, I checked off each box on my Post It list so I could report anything that was missing or broken. In the move I had a couple of pins broken on Orff bodies which I was able to repair myself and my piano bench leg became wobbly, which the custodian fixed for me. There was no major damage to any of my instruments or equipment, and I didn’t have any missing boxes. As I unpacked, I credited my Post It list with being able to locate the boxes that held the items I was looking for and keep my unpacking going in an organized fashion. I am really pleased with how my new room turned out, and so thankful that I took the time to thoughtfully pack up my old classroom.
I hope my experiences in packing up a classroom have been helpful to you if you’re planning a move yourself! Even though it is an exhausting and daunting task, I have to say, my new building is amazing and was so worth the extra time and effort.