(And Staying) Organized Pat Haughney
As I get older, I think,
"If I only knew then what I know now.." With that thought in mind,
here are tips for making your teaching career easier by setting
up a filing system.
To begin this process you must
understand how much stuff you will accumulate in your teaching
career. Teachers are creative, resourceful people, which is a
tremendous strength. It also results in an amazing amount of paper,
which can quickly overwhelm you. I found that I never used some
of my best information simply because I couldn't find it.
First, invest in some type of filing
boxes. I use those plastic boxes from the office supply store
-- the type that support hanging file folders. I found it most
useful to buy five different ones. They hold; books units; general
reading and language arts materials; science materials; math materials;
and miscellaneous items such as school communications, parent
feedback, and personal information. You may also wish to buy a
box to hold photocopies of future homework assignments, etc.,
but I found it easier to file those by subject matter.
Next, buy different colored hanging
folders. This is a lot easier than finding five different colored
storage bins and makes it easy to identify which materials are
in each box. I keep an extra supply of folders at home so that
I can throw in all those clippings and downloads I accumulate
and use a traveling storage box to bring them to school. I also
finally learned to take the time to thoughtfully label those file
folders. "Miscellaneous writing tips" does not really help you
find that information on Writers' Workshop you're so desperately
Put the boxes in an easily accessible
place and religiously file information in them. This sounds so
logical but I have wasted many precious moments circling my classroom
in a last ditch effort to find the math links that I photocopied
last month. Also, I would recommend that you keep it simple. My
first efforts resulted in an aesthetically pleasing, clever storage
system that utilized every square inch of my room. The problem
was that I had to stand on the countertops to access it (not a
good move when you're teaching 23 children).
Finally, be religious about filing
information when you first get it. My desk was such a disaster
of newspaper clippings, school bulletins, workshop tips, and other
clutter that I panicked when a parent or school administrator
came in. I would quickly shove the piles into desk drawers or
in a big box under my desk. This is extremely counterproductive
in terms of your original intent of getting (and staying) organized.
Once you have your basic filing
system, think about other areas of the room that could benefit
from better organization. I found it useful to keep a simple in/out
basket for collecting and returning homework. I kept a checklist
next to the in-box and students would check off that they had
handed in assignments. They quickly learned that I would verify
the checklist at lunch and were very honest about recording their
assignments. I also kept a crate to hold Writer's Workshop folders
and notebooks. Students liked the continuity, independence, and
flexibility in storing and using their materials. Finally, I organized
my books, labeled the shelves, and appointed class librarians
to keep them in order. This saved lots of time when we were looking
for particular books. I also used this method in arranging books
on my own professional shelf. The key was to have materials at
my fingertips and to always know where they were.
This is only a beginning list of
ways to organize your classroom. I would love to hear other teachers'
advice and look forward to your comments on my bulletin board.