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NYC Helpline: How To: Manage Your Classroom

Organizing Your Day as a New Teacher
Rebecca Hollander

When I think back to my first year of teaching, I remember being totally overwhelmed at the sheer amount of information I was supposed to remember! Someone once told me that teachers need to be able to make at least one hundred decisions every class – I don’t believe that; I think it’s more like two hundred. The decisions they were talking about, of course, had to do with teaching and students, not with the topic of this paper: organization. Those decisions had to be taken care of before I entered the classroom. The hardest thing for me to do was to organize myself and my time so that I knew what was going on in every class. I had come from student teaching one group of students four times a week, to teaching six groups of students 3-4 times a week. I was teaching two preps (7th & 8th grade) and no class was ever going at the same speed.

What was I to do? At first, I started organizing myself the way my mentor teacher did…one sheet of paper per day subdivided into periods. In every box, I placed a different lesson. I knew what I was supposed to (in the ideal world where all students are the same), but I found that my classes went at completely different speeds, so I would do one thing with one class and forget to do it with another. I was constantly asking… “What did we do yesterday?” I am sure my students thought I was in the advanced stages of senility! 

I had the “brilliant” idea of writing down what happened in each class so that I could refer back to it before encountering the students. My margins started looking a bit ragged, plus I was killing so many trees! I checked around with my colleagues to see how they organized their time: some used a plan-book, some a calendar for each class, some used a number system (lessons 1-36, one a day). I chose what I liked and slowly, found my own system (a plan-book, combined with lesson number system and notes). This system works for me, but then again, I’m overly enthusiastic about organization!

I figured out what I was doing, but then I wasn’t sure how to keep everything organized. Where did I take attendance? Where should I store the students’ work? How was I to keep everything separate? Again I checked around and looked at what other teachers were doing. I remembered back to student teaching and I worked through it. I wound up with a system of individual class file folders, with attendance attached. This system has helped me to know who, where, and what I am teaching. In addition, it has allowed me to keep classes portable in a school where we all share classrooms.

My organization process has evolved over time, but what I have found is that the more I checked around with other people, the better I felt about what I was doing. I could take ideas from my fellow teachers and at the same time, get feedback on what I was doing. I still come up with new ideas every year and some day, I hope to perfect my craft (the organization part of it anyway). What I have found is that the less I had to think about organizing, the more I could begin thinking about teaching and the better my day/ life.


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