getting organized

The phone rings as I'm sifting through papers.  I catch a glimpse of a post-it note reminding me of a meeting that was apparently scheduled in the morning.  I pick up the phone and listen to a lecture from the school counselor about why it's important for me to go to my duty station on the assigned week.  Apparently I had missed it.  "Aha," I remark in the middle of her well-reasoned, psychologically enhanced monologue.  I had found the poem I was going to read aloud.  By now, students are walking around, whispering, throwing papers.  There is a line of students asking about papers they had turned in but never recieved them back.  "You're supposed to do that?" I thought.  I didn't have the heart to ask them to search the trash can next to my desk.  It was my third week of teaching and my lack of organizational skills were actually making me an irresponsible teacher. 

So, here is what I came up with.  I'm not sure if it would work for others, but it has helped me immensely.

The Paper Trail

I think all teachers should think through the paper trail from start to finish.  Here is my system.

The Beginning: I use hanging file folders in a crate called the Administrative Bin.  What happens is this: at the beginning of a unit (usually lasting three weeks), I make photocopies of a daily assignment sheet and any handouts I will use.  I do my photocopies on a Friday afternoon, after school, when the staff lounge is empty.  The assignment sheet has a list of assignments and the homework for each day.  So, that is the start of the paper trail. Each stack of assignment sheets and handouts go in a hanging file folder (marked day 1, day 2, etc.)

Recieving: I have students pass out the papers.  It is their designated job and they have to fill out an application.  They also write down the names of missing students on the assingment sheets, so the students will have their make-up work instantly accesible. 

Turning In: Students turn their work in to the five separate crates (one for each class period)

Not graded yet: I have a folder in the Administrative Bin labeled with each class period of the work that still needs to be graded.

Graded: After I grade a class period, I set the papers inside of folders marked with each class period in the Administrative Bin.  These folders also contain the massive amounts of paperwork that the office and the district send home.  It functions as a sort of "outbox"

Storage: After work is graded, students  store their work in either a binder that they must keep or in a portfolio folder in my classroom.

Other Paperwork: In hanging file folders in my file cabinet, I keep track of other paperwork.  These include field trips, referrals, positive note home templates, etc.  At the front of this cabinet is my inbox and outbox.  In the inbox, I put all the mail that I get (when I'm in the lounge, I quickly throw away anything that is not important) and in the outbox, I put all the mail that I need to turn in.  


I check e-mails twice a day and keep folders with labels such as "Health Insurance," "Parental Communication," "Committee Work," etc. 

I check my voice mail once a day.  With both the e-mails and the voice mails, I keep a log of parental communication on a spreadsheet, so that I can document them as interventions. 

I keep an updated phone list in one place on my computer.  This way, I am not looking through stacks of post-it notes


At the beginning of the year, I ask for students' birthdays and I place them on my calendar on the computer.  I then try and give a birthday card and candy bar on each students' birthday.  I also add to this calendar the information from all of the calendars we recieve - the duty schedule, curriculum maps, the testing days, vacation schedules, department meetings, professional development - the list continues.  Keeping it all in one place has allowed me to avoid double-booking and missing important information.