With two younger siblings, my son Noah is used to sharing a lot. But the one thing he has never had to share is space. He’s had his own room and he gets the last row of the minivan all to himself. Even on vacation he somehow manages to be the one kid who always ends up with his own bed. That is, until, at age 11, he found out he’d be sharing a locker.
Noah’s reaction to this was not a very positive one. Luckily, learning that his locker partner would be his friend Isaac helped to soften the blow. Still, sixth-grade boys sharing a space that’s about 12 inches wide and under six feet tall is no small feat.
That said, the way I see it, it’s good practice for when Noah moves into a college dorm room down the road (and we’re breaking out that college dorm checklist). Or when he graduates and decides to move to New York – where he will undoubtedly spend a fortune on a 500-square-foot apartment shared with a roommate. All in good time.
Meanwhile, when it comes to sharing a locker at school, setting some ground rules is important to avoid overstepping boundaries or even winding up with a case of jealousy between friends – or a bevy of other issues.
Read on for tips to help two students manage this small space for the next nine months.
Organization is key
Donna Lindley, founder of Organize Your World in Rochester Hills, and Dr. Jennifer Friedman, dean of student learning at Hillel Day School in Farmington Hills – where Noah attended school during his shared-locker era – agree that organization, communication and collaboration are crucial for a successful year of locker sharing.
From an organizational standpoint, Lindley highly recommends locker shelves. “Shelves not only help students better utilize an already small space but also set physical boundaries so that locker partners know exactly where to put their books and belongings.”
Locker shelves – a staple among back-to-school supplies – can be found at just about any store selling school supplies, including Target, Walmart, Organize It, Staples and Office Max – not to mention Meijer locally and Amazon anywhere.
Lindley also suggests labeling the spines of binders and, if allowed by the school, books so students don’t accidentally take the wrong binder or book.
Working with differences
Remember that two different personalities are coming together in a small space. That means conversation is key. For one thing, as trivial as it may sound, Lindley recommends students talking in advance and deciding who will get which hook.
“Doing what you can to minimize conflict and promote collaboration is crucial for successfully sharing a locker. With any relationship, it’s about making compromises,” says Friedman, who oversees academic and social-emotional learning at Hillel, which has an early childhood program through eighth grade.
“In first through fourth grade, we share cubbies and desks, so the students are used to sharing space. However, as they become tweens and teens, their own space becomes very important to them,” says Friedman. “They can make their own space in different ways with their lockers. Shelves can set visual boundaries and decorations can make a locker feel like it’s theirs by reflecting their personality.”
However, before decorating, Friedman again recommends students chat with each other so they know the other person’s likes and dislikes. For example, if your locker partner does not like the color pink, it’s obviously best to avoid any vibrant fuschia locker wallpaper.
In the past, Friedman has seen students get creative with Fathead sports team decals, locker chandeliers, mirrors, magnets and family photos. A Hillel student once had a magnet collection from all the places he visited over the summer.
Tips for locker sharing
Other tips to give students to ensure a successful year of sharing a locker include coaching them to consider the following:
- Plan to meet periodically before or after school to clean out your locker together. Each person should make a take-home-pile, a trash pile and a stay-at-school pile.
- Pens and pencils always seem to disappear. A magnetic pen/pencil holder on your locker door is a great way to ensure you always have something to write with. It’s probably easiest to share a supply with your locker partner instead of keeping track of which pens are yours.
- Resist the urge to use your locker as a garbage can. With every piece of paper, if you don’t need it, toss it.
- After each class, put the books and folders you’ll need to take home in your bag so you do not forget them. This will help you stay organized and give you more space.
- Respect your partner’s personal belongs and don’t borrow or take his or her things without permission.
This post was originally published in 2015 and is updated regularly.