5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Setting Up My First Classroom

I don’t know if you’re like me, but I had a dream (and a Pinterest board) about what my classroom was going to look like 😍

It was going to be cute and calming, and all of the pieces would be connected to each other. A common theme running through every piece of decor, organizational label, and bulletin board display. 

I quickly realized this was harder to do than I had hoped and planned. 😅

Here are pictures of what my first classroom looked like (hint: it was not like what I had originally hoped): 

This image shows a picture of me standing in front of the whiteboard in my very first classroom with "Welcome to Mrs. Vohs class" written on the whiteboard.

Also, I wasn’t one of the lucky ones to get that cute teacher handwriting 😜

This image shows my teacher desk area in my first classroom. It has a bookshelf next to it and a mailbox next to my desk for students to turn in their work.

I tried to piece things together from different teacher supply stores like GW School Supply and connect everything together with a teal and blue theme….but it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. 

It didn’t have everything I needed, so my classroom was kind of mismatched. PLUS the teacher supply store was expensive 😅

That’s why the first thing I wish I knew is that…

1. Printable Classroom Decor Exists! 

I wish I had known printable classroom decor existed! 🤯

One of the things I LOVE about printable classroom decor is I can create a cohesive classroom since the bundles contain everything I need (without breaking the bank!)

As a type A teacher, I didn’t like that I had a mismatched classroom. If I had known to look online for a classroom decor bundle, my classroom wouldn’t have been mismatched- and would have been a lot more cute and functional!

I am not sure a calm colors classroom theme existed at the time (in 2017) which is what I was going for with all the blues and teals.

Several years later, I decided to create that calm colors theme of my dream which is the printable classroom decor bundle you see below!

This image shows my modern calm colors classroom decor with a bulletin board filled with a calendar, classroom jobs, alphabet posters, number line, and number posters.

I wish I had this my first year of teaching because:

➡️ Everything you need is provided in one spot…your bulletin board headers, nametags, alphabet posters, calendars, everything.

➡️ If you ever need another copy of a nametag, a rules poster, a student number circle, etc. all you need to do is print yourself another copy. 

➡️ It includes editable files so I could type my own classroom rules, classroom jobs, and other posters I needed.

As a first year teacher, I would have saved time and energy, and had the classroom of my dreams had I known about printable classroom decor!

If you are also interested in printable classroom decor, check out all of my classroom themes here!

2. Laminate Things You Want to Last

I laminated some things, but not all of the things that would be touched often- like nametags.

(I learned this my second year of teaching- so below is a pic of my second classroom).

And let me tell you what happened 😅 I created adorable llama nametags for each student’s desk, taped them on the top of each desk and stood back to admire how cute everything looked! As soon as students entered my classroom, they started picking at the nametags. 

Long story short, those nametags barely made it to December  😂. 

So, don’t be afraid to take the time to laminate items that will be used and touched over and over again. It will save you SO much extra time. 

My second year of teaching, I got smarter with the nametags and placed them on the front side of the desk so they weren’t a temptation to play with during the day 😉. 

This image shows desks with llama nametags on the front of each desk.

3. Create a Space to Organize Weekly Copies 

Let me tell you, my desk as a first year teacher accumulated A LOT of papers between handouts for five subjects a day, exit tickets, sweet notes from students, lesson plans, things to file etc.🤪

It very quickly became Mount Everest of papers. Making it VERY hard to find anything quickly. 

I wish I had created a system where I knew exactly where to put copies for each day of the week. That way, I could sit down during my plan time and read the sweet note from a student instead of finding it days later while throwing papers into the recycling can. 😬

A few years later, I found a 10-drawer cart to be PERFECT for organizing my papers!

This image shows a 10 drawer cart with calm color labels Monday - Friday and grade, copy, file, misc., and sub plans labels.

10 drawers meant I had a drawer for each day of the week and then some extras for holding papers like Sub Plans and papers that need to be graded, copied, or filed away. 

Labeling those drawers made it easy to find what I needed, plus adds some cute decor 😍

Since my first set of labels, I have created MANY different styles of 10 drawer cart labels. Scroll through the pictures to see if there is a perfect fit for your classroom at this blog post. 

Another great paper organizer are these stackable Sterilite 3 Drawer Containers like @hellomrs.snyder uses in her classroom. The 10 drawer cart labels fit these Sterilite Drawer containers perfectly too 🙂

This image shows 2 sterelite 3 drawer containers with calm color labels on them from ELA, writing, math, science, social studies, and misc.

A third paper organizer option is the Essex Rolling cart. This one is great for storing papers, but also Misc. supplies in the larger drawers. And it makes a great workspace on top with the foldable table top!

This image shows an Essex Rolling cart with calm color labels. This cart has drawers and a table top to work on top of the cart.

The key to having a cleared-off desk is finding a paper organizer and system that works for your classroom! 

I wish I had some sort of organizer from the get-go my first year of teaching 🤪

Find the organizers I love on my Top Amazon Finds blog post.

4. Add Content Related Posters

During my first year of teaching, I only added an alphabet line, classroom jobs, and voice level posters, but I wasn’t super familiar with 4th-grade curriculum yet and didn’t think to look ahead and add some content-related posters that will help my students. 

I wish I would have known to look ahead at my curriculum and add some math or reading posters that my students could refer to throughout the year!  

I love all of the content posters that @craftingintheclassroom (on IG) has in her classroom! ⬇️ Most of these posters are included in the Modern Calm Colors Classroom bundle.

This image shows a classroom with calm colors alphabet posters, money posters, 100 chart, multiplication chart, and skip counting posers.

I recommend adding posters that help students learn and remember concepts like: 

🌟 Skip counting 

🌟 Place Value 

🌟 Class Rules 

🌟 Money posters 

🌟 Reading strategies

🌟 Sound Wall

🌟 and so much more!

I did not discover this until my second year of teaching and I wish I had known it sooner! 

This image shows place value posters hung below a smartboard in blue green colors.

One of the sets of posters I added my second year was a set of place posters it was a game changer for my 4th-grade students! They referred to them throughout the year and found them super helpful 🙌

These posters can be found in my TPT shop here. I printed the black-and-white version on colored paper to match my classroom theme.

Will your students be learning skip counting or multiplication this year? I have created a set of FREE calm colors skip counting posters 1-12 in this blog post!

This image shows calm colors free multiples posters for teaching skip counting / multiplication.

5. It’s Okay to Get Rid of Materials that You Inherited from the Previous Teacher

Opening your first classroom cabinets may reveal a lot of supplies, materials and books that were left behind. 

I had TONS of stuff in those cabinets below ⬇️

This image shows big wooden cabinets in a classroom with a bulletin board in the middle that says "Rejoice in Today"

But, I felt like I had to keep a lot of that stuff. 😅 I didn’t want the previous teacher to feel sad when she didn’t notice any of her old classroom things in my classroom.

However, I wish someone would have told me that it’s okay to get rid of it. You can give it to another teacher or drop it off at GoodWill and no one will be upset.

It might be helpful to look through things and make two piles – one to keep and one to give away. 

But I would encourage you to make the give away pile larger than the keep pile. 

Because I will tell you this, it feels SO much better to clear things out than live with a closet or drawers filled with clutter you will probably never use. 

So, here is your permission to let go of any hand-me-downs your first classroom came with that you don’t want. 😊

Setting up your first classroom is SO exciting and filled with endless possibilities! 

If you are wanting to set up your own printable classroom decor, but are overwhelmed at how to start the process, this blog post breaks down the steps

I hope this post gives you some tips and helps you to make your first classroom a space that you and your students love! 💛

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