During the whirlwind couple of days I had to talk with my grade level partner before school started, she and I discussed the necessity of helping students keep their desks neat and organised. This topic first arose when we were discussing how small the desks were and how, as a result, we would not be able to give students individual copies of the reading and math textbooks. She mentioned that she has her students clean out their desks once a week in order to cut down on the clutter.
After my students had been in school for several days, I decided that this would be a worthwhile policy. So on the second Thursday afternoon of our year, I told them that they would be cleaning out their desks. At first they were excited about this. (I have not yet figured out what it is about cleaning that gets students so excited, and I have a hunch that this excitement does not transfer over to their home lives.) I was amazed that, after being in school for just one week, they had so much junk in their desks! My 26 (at the time) students managed to fill both of the trash cans in the room to capacity with the garbage they had accumulated.
The following week, which was the day of the open house, I told them that we needed to clean again. Again, they filled the trash cans plus the box I had designated for recycling paper–a box that holds several reams of paper when purchased in bulk. Still, the desks were cleaned, organised, and clutter-free.
For a week.
We cleaned them out again today. And again the garbage was impressive. I should have taken a picture of the two trash cans and the recycling box that were all over-flowing. I should have also taken a picture of the piles of miscellaneous junk that had accumulated on the floor as the students (still 26, but only because one has been out for a couple of weeks) emptied their desks and then put things back together in an organised fashion.
Maybe we will have a week go by without this process having to take place. I know that I clean my desk on a daily basis, and I still manage to accumulate various bits of paper and other odds and ends by the end of the week. I think that we will have some kind of celebration if we have a Thursday cleaning that doesn’t result in the floors being covered with papers and the garbage cans overflowing. In the meantime, we will continue to do our weekly cleaning. And one of these days soon I will get around to making my classroom job chart to help with other areas, such as the bookshelves and the pencil sharpening. One of these days…