It was the first day we were allowed to reenter the school after a major renovation. It was a disaster. Before the end of the previous year, we packed up everything and carefully labeled it. Nothing was returned to the classrooms. Students would be arriving in ONE day! Yup! You heard that right.
What a nightmare! Fortunately, we worked with the most amazing staff on the planet. We planned out a solution to bring everyone’s anxiety level down to a manageable level. We hosted a walking set-up bus.
What is a walking set-up bus? Keep reading to find out.
The Buy-In Needed to Set Up Your Classroom in One Day
Each teacher (who by the way had an EMPTY classroom) made a list of the things they absolutely wanted to be done in his/her classroom by the end of the session.
Our situation was rare in that we were literally pushing construction workers out of the building the day before students were to arrive. This plan works if you are moving to a new school, new classroom or have a brand new job.
Nothing is worse than being the only teacher without a room set up. If you can wrangle up a few friends to help with the heavy lifting, you can have your room set up in a jiffy. (That’s still a word people use in the twenty-first century, right?)
Make the List
- moving desks, tables, chairs, and shelves
- locating and returning miscellaneous furniture or classroom items (like the stools for a reading table, step stool, garbage bins, recycling bin)
- collecting resources like teaching materials, books, classroom supplies like staplers, pencil sharpeners or hole punches
- collecting items like a classroom easel, classroom carpet, reading resources on a shelf, library book sets
- covering bulletin boards with paper, fabric, or borders
- set up the teacher desk in its location
- connect technology like the teacher computer, printer, interactive whiteboard, and document camera)
- check that the technology works
- bring in any boxes of the teacher’s supplies from the parking lot or from other parts of the school storage areas
We encouraged each other to include things on the list that you needed help lifting or where a chain of people loading things down a hallway would make the work faster. In one case, we managed to bring thirty-five boxes of library boxes from the front of the school to the library in about fifteen minutes.
Think of these items as the things you absolutely need to get through the school day with children. Your classroom doesn’t need to be decorated or pretty. It needs to be functional and safe.
The Agreement to Set Up Your Classroom in One Day
If you agree to have people help, you agree to help others.
We put our phones away while we worked. Everyone agreed to work as efficiently as possible.
Fourteen of our fifteen teachers opted in. One was very pregnant. She opted to have her husband and brother do her work for her.
People get tired, leaving the last few people on the list to get shortchanged. To help with this, no one was allowed to stay in their room until all the jobs were finished. We moved as a crowd, stuck together, and pushed through until it was all done.
This could of course work with a smaller group. One year, the four teachers in one grade level worked together in a similar way, helping each other set up each room in their pod.
The Logistics to Set Up Your Classroom in One Day
Each teacher got thirty minutes in their classroom. The teacher in their classroom pointed where things went and make quick decisions about where items should be found and placed, even if that just meant putting a stack of items on a shelf. All of the rest of the teachers did the lifting and moving.
After each classroom was set up, teachers had to continue on the walking set-up bus. I’ll admit it was really difficult because there was still so much left to do. The little things can always happen later.
The Pay Off to Set Up Your Classroom in One Day
Now it might sound crazy-seven hours of work (and we moved so much furniture) but most teachers didn’t actually need the whole thirty minutes. When you’ve got fourteen people moving desks, tables, shelves, and boxes, it’s super quick. In about four hours every teacher had all their furniture and all their boxes were back in classrooms. That left the rest of the day to get ready.
Shout out to our lovely principal who did not make us do icebreakers and professional development that day. We received a very long and detailed email for all the first day of school stuff.
One person volunteered to print out first day of school resources and stack them neatly on the counter. Teachers would text a picture of the first page of their printing job and the teacher beside the printer would let the item print, stack it up and put it in the teacher’s mailbox. This only works if your school’s copier prints directly from teacher computers without needing to enter a code at the printer.
Another teacher took some time to deliver items from the office to each of the classrooms. Art supplies, photocopies of newsletters, school calendars, parent handbooks and all the other wonderful things handed out to families on the first day of school.
The Unexpected Benefit of Setting Up Your Classroom in One Day
Our first day with students was not a Pinterest perfect classroom (side note-it rarely is and that’s ok), but the students didn’t notice or care and our staff felt so proud that we’d worked together. It set the tone for the whole year.
Leave your bulletin boards empty. Students can hang their own work. That’s a great activity for the first day of school. We usually do this Back to School Power Words art activity. It’s the perfect activity to fill a blank bulletin board and it’s a great idea for back to school. Students love to see their own work on the walls of their classrooms.
If you need a bulletin board idea and an activity for the first day of school, try a collaborative poster. Each student colours one piece and then they get assembled into one big poster. The prep is relatively low (just print it out) and it brings your students together.
We’ll send you the collaborative poster for free when you sign up for our email list. Being on the list also grants you access to our free Resource library. If you’re already a ninja, the poster is in the library. And it comes in a French version (just follow the link).
Check that you have these things done:
- Students have a place to sit.
- Students have a place to store their supplies (even if that is just a bin for the future).
- The teacher has access to the attendance program or a plan for taking attendance.
- Students have a place to put their outdoor wear, backpacks, and shoes.
- Students and the teacher know the plan for recess and lunch (where to eat, when to return, where to meet)
- The teacher has a plan for introductions and activities for the day (keep it all very simple). There is more information below.
The Modifications for Special Classrooms
You might not have a completely empty school (with brand new floors and paint that looks wonderful) but you can still host a similar style walking bus. Get those bulletin boards designers, photocopiers, decorators, and tech set-up helpers around the school together to get it all done quickly and efficiently.
Don’t forget about those common spaces like the band or music room, drama room, library, makerspace, and learning commons. They need your love and attention too! Make sure you return to their rooms to help, especially If those teachers help you set up your classroom.
Don’t forget about the office. They usually receive a tonne of deliveries in the days leading up to the start of school. There are boxes and boxes of office supplies to put away. Offer up some time and score some points with your office staff.
After You Set Up Your Classroom in One Day
Think about the smaller details once the physical space is together.
We print out our own planner pages and assemble them in a binder. You can get your own copy of our simple planner pages when you join our mailing list. You can also find a copy in our resource library. If you’re looking for a commercial planner, read our post Ways to Plan That Work For You.
Once you have a planner, plan out your first day of school. We have a list of ideas in our post 10 Things We Do on the First Day Back to School. It’s our go-to first day and it’s pretty simple to get you through the first one. Once you have everything in place for your first day of school, you can begin to think about putting everything else in place.
Now That You’re Ready for Day One…
We always get our emergency substitute teacher plans ready in the first few days of school. Collect activities that can be done any time of year. Our Emergency Sub Plans come with everything you need to get a sub binder or bin set up. And then we’ve written two full days of lesson plans and provided everything for the supply teacher (even if it’s not a teacher filling in).
Our grades 4-6 about Hoaxes and Ogopogos can be found in our TpT Store or our Brain Ninjas Shop. We have another set called Sticky Situations which can be found in our TpT Store or our Brain Ninjas Shop. We have a set for grades 3-4 about Video Games which can be found in our TpT Store or our Brain Ninjas Shop. And if you teach French class or FSL, we have Les inventions which can be found in our TpT Store or our Brain Ninjas Shop. Check out this blog post called It’s Time to Get Your Emergency Sub Plans Ready for more information.
Have you tried this? Did it work for you? Have you tried other ways to get your classroom set up quickly and efficiently? Let us know what other strategies you’ve tried for a quick set-up in the comments below.