Teaching is one of the most important professions in the world. This is why, as a teacher, you should have a classroom which is a reflection of the highest teaching standards as well as the embodiment of a hard-working, safe and comfortable environment for your students to receive knowledge. “How do I get there?” you may ask.
5S is a tried and tested tool and part of the lean method that has been used throughout the world in a variety of process improvement settings. There are five key phases in 5S, namely sort, set in order, systematic cleaning, standardize and sustain. Here, we examine each of these phases and some examples of each within an elementary school setting.
Sorting is differentiation of what is necessary and what is unnecessary in order to discard anything unnecessary. In the context of lean, it requires the elimination of all unnecessary materials, tools, work in progress, machinery, documents and papers. In this case, a teacher examines their workplace to find out the essentials that are worth keeping, discarding the rest.
In our example, we look at a classroom with more desks and chairs than students as well as cluttered boards and work tables. Sort dictates that we remove any extra furniture and store or dispose of old artwork and unnecessary paperwork.
Set in Order (Seiton)
Ideally, everything in the workplace should be in its rightful place and there should be a place for everything. Each item’s place needs to be clearly demarcated and labeled, with the items then arranged in a way that encourages efficient workflow. All equipment, parts and tools should be stored close to where it will be used, so that the flow path is straightened.
After the additional chairs have been removed from our classroom, it is now possible to arrange the tables and set them in order so that spaces are allocated for different types of lessons. Setting things in order creates independence in the students by giving them a sense of space and ownership.
Systematic Cleaning (Seiso)
It is important that the workplace stays organized and tidy. As each shift ends, the work area should be cleaned and everything that has been in use returned to its allocated place. Not only does it make it easy for people to know what goes where, it also ensures that every piece of equipment is exactly where it belongs. It should be noted that maintaining cleanliness needs to be part of daily work, and not performed occasionally when the workplace gets too messy.
At the end of the school day, the tables, desks and other workspaces within the classroom are wiped and shined, boards are properly cleaned and the whole space is returned to a pristine state, ready for classes the next day.
Work practices need to be standard and consistent. This allows everyone to focus on their individual responsibilities in the achievement of the previous three S’s.
In Seiketsu, we lay out our labeled class information, schedule, reminders, calendar and upcoming menus. We use different colors to ensure that we differentiate the different topics in order to visually manage each process.
Once the first four S’s are established, they need to be entrenched as the new way that the classroom operates. You should keep your focus on this new way in order to avoid slipping back into the old ways. You may also think about how the new ways can be further improved.
In our classroom, weekly checks and regular updates allow us to sustain our new, well maintained workplace. Not only does this make it a wonderfully pleasant place to learn, but it also sends out a powerful message to students, faculty and parents.
5S is a discipline within the lean methodology which helps organizations to maintain well-organized, visual workplaces. When the learning environment is well organized, children become more independent and teachers can spend time concentrating on students instead of wasting it trying to find teaching materials.