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Modified Work-to-Rule: Physical Classroom/Classroom Prep Edition

Dear Colleagues,


In trying to come up with guidelines for classroom prep in the light of modified work-to-rule, several things hamper a one-size fits all recommendation. For example, different schools have different levels of “packing up” that is necessary when school ends in June. Some schools pack up nearly all their classroom items, while others just wrap shelves or maybe not even that. We know that for some teachers, especially those who had to move classrooms, unpacking will take longer for others. (There is a stipend for teachers who had to move rooms involuntarily - see link here.) Also, we understand that Covid has changed a lot about the way families interact with classrooms, with many schools having far less access for parents than previously, which makes certain classroom actions, like not labeling supplies, less visible. With that in mind, and in consultation with a range of teachers, our overarching guideline for classroom prep is to prioritize STUDENT LEARNING over AESTHETICS. To that end, here are some work-to-rule asks:


For “Open House” family visits during those first two days (if your principal schedules this):

  • Wear your blue t-shirts!

  • Do not hang bulletin boards. You might hang a sign that says “Under Construction” and leave it up until we have a fair contract.

  • Leave chairs stacked.

  • Consider not yet labeling desks, lockers, doors, or cubbies, or simply labeling with sticky-notes.

  • If shelves are wrapped, consider leaving them wrapped.

For the Welcome Letter:

  • It should not be sent before August 30.

  • Consider adding text: We deeply value our partnership with families and are accustomed to being in regular touch with you all via newsletters/updates. As we begin this particular school year, we will not be able to be in touch in this way, but very much look forward to resuming these communications as soon as possible.

The first day and beyond:

  • Continue to leave bulletin boards bare, including for Curriculum Night, hanging only what is needed for instruction, for example, magnetic pockets for student papers or anchor charts.

  • Keep the mantra “Student learning over aesthetics!”

Possible ideas to dedicate more time for planning during our first two days:

  • Have students line up to receive materials instead of spending time putting them in bins or folders for each student.

  • Students label folders and supplies instead of teachers – pass out a sheet of labels and have students write their name on each label to be affixed to a folder, notebook, or material.

  • Label desks with stickies then have students tape their self-designed tags another day.

  • Label lockers with stickies then have students tape their self-designed tags another day.

  • Current students clean shelves, manipulatives, etc as they are being pulled out to be used, so you can spend your time planning and prepping the essentials.

  • SPEND YOUR HOURS PLANNING, NOT CREATING, DECORATING, OR REORGANIZING - Ask yourself if it is “educationally necessary” or for “aesthetics”?

Many thanks to Michelle DeRusha for sharing her brainstorm document, and Taylor Witherbee, Sarah Gross, Tina Fiscella, Edra Wigder, Marianne Shannon, and Brenna Green for your thoughts!


As always, if you have questions, you can reach out to building reps, CAT captains (each school has one), or your union officers.


In Solidarity,


Elizabeth Ross Del Porto

1st Vice President

Newton Teachers Association

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