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For the New Teacher

About this Daily Classroom Special
For the New Teacher was written by Pam Tyrrell, a teacher at Jefferson Montessori Campus, Dayton, Ohio. Designed to aid entry level teachers, topics focus on issues and concerns commonly expressed by the neophyte teacher. For more new teacher oriented articles, make sure to check out New Teachers On-Line.

Paper, Paper Everywhere... Taming the Paper Tiger

From the minute you are hired, it begins talking. Papers...papers...papers! Sure, you've dealt with papers before, newspapers, junk mail, syllabi, themes, but let your colleagues assure you, you've not dealt with papers until you have 0- 200 papers being thrust at you on a daily basis. You need to get these papers under control the minute they reach your door. Yes, you need a SYSTEM!

Start by making sure your room boasts a file cabinet. It's okay to start with a two drawer, but you'll be aiming for a four-drawer in o time at all! Ask the building secretary how you can get a hanging file rack for each of your drawers, and put in a request for 50 hanging file folders (self-contained classrooms), 160 if you're at a middle school/high school building where students change classes. You may want a matching number of "regular" folders which will be placed in the hanging folders for ease in removing folders for use.

The first drawer you should set up is yours. Start sorting through the papers you have already acquired and set up folders accordingly. Write exactly what each folder contains on the folder tab, and file alphabetically. Start a folder for anything which you send out to ALL the students, whether it is generated by you or sent by the school. This is the folder to keep a copy of your classroom guidelines, discipline policy, and newsletters which you generate to keep parents informed.

Start a separate drawer for District Items, such as Curriculum Planning Guides, Expected Learning Outcomes, Pupil Performance Objectives, etc. You might want to keep a folder for Minutes of Board Meetings, if they are distributed to teachers. This is a good place to store your Staff Handbook, and information relevant to your particular school.

A drawer for your personal teaching aids, such as duplicating books, die-cut letters for your bulletin boards, will quickly become filled if your colleagues (like mine!) are willing to share "ideas that work." Start folders for special themes, Martin Luther King, Jr., Presidents, environmental issues. Newspaper clippings often provide a wonderful opening lesson as you begin a new unit or theme.

Finally, get your students in a drawer and under control! As an elementary teacher, I have a folder for every child assigned to me. Teachers who have many more students may consider keeping a folder only on "extraordinary students." Whenever a parent sends a note addressed to you, be sure you have a folder to store it in. However many folders you maintain, you will want to consider keeping a copy of the students' Registration and Emergency Forms, tardy slips, samples of student work (especially important if you believe the child has special needs and may be tested), and all parent correspondence (both from you and to you). If I must confiscate an item from a student, I generally stow it in their folder to await parent pick up, or hold it until the last day of school. My students take home 2 copies of our discipline plan, consequences, and grading policy. Their parents sign them and return one copy, which I file in their child's folder. During conferences, the child's folder sits in front of me as a testimonial to the parent's level of school involvement. I always make extras and have them available so parents can get "with the program." Children DO lose papers, and busy families often shuffle papers frequently, so it's best to have an open mind and assume ALL parents really did intend to sign those forms!

If you will be taking your students on field trips, you might find it beneficial to keep the student emergency form in a separate folder. When you are ready to leave on a trip simply pull one folder and be off!

Keep track of all parent encounters. "Teacher Stores" have books of carbonless forms for teacher initiated correspondence. By using these, you always have a record of exactly what you wrote. When you are responding to a note, you might want to staple the parent note to your reply copy. For telephone calls, staple a sheet of paper inside each student file and note the date, time and relevant information concerning the conversation. Don't save only for phone calls, keep a record of extraordinary events on this sheet as well: "David read three pages in his reader without making a mistake!" "Judy just can't seem to keep her mouth closed today. This is not typical of her behavior."

Finally, put a container of some sort on top of your file cabinet as a "half-way house" for wayward papers. At the end of each week (at least), file those papers. Don't be unwilling to start new folders as the need arises.

Nothing is more frustrating than being called to a meeting and not being able to find the papers you need. Few things are more impressive to a parent than a teacher who can put their hands on information quickly and confidently.

Paper tigers can be soothed. Music may be calming, but organization can actually put them to rest!


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