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Imagine a substitute teacher dumping your desk drawers out on the top of your desk because they wanted to "reorganize it." That is what happened to my cooperating teacher during my student teaching days. My cooperating teacher's organizing skills were a work of art. Everything had its place, right down to how she sorted her pens by color and purpose. Her partner teacher and I spent the next hour restoring my cooperating teacher's desk to its original glory.
I always have that moment in my mind when I try to organize things. The beautiful way of organizing, not the tense moment. I want it done my way, in a way that makes sense to me. When I changed schools this year, it gave me the perfect opportunity to throw away lots of things that didn't "bring me joy," as Marie Kondo says. I enjoyed setting up my new classroom to meet the needs of my students and me. The following are just some practical things I hope will help you as you "spring clean" or think about next year.
Arrange your classroom to accommodate movement and clear sight to the board. After I arrange desks, I sit in different chairs to double check visibility to the board. I have my assignments written with due dates in bright colors on the dry erase board as well as their Google Classroom calendar. On the counter near my windows, I have one place to turn in paper homework labeled by class period and spots for make-up work and extra copies. Near my desk, I have an old-school filing cabinet. I use it to organize my teaching materials in alphabetized folders labeled by skill or title of specific stories.
My bookshelves are packed with books in the following sections: adventure books, dystopian, fantasy, sports-related, Holocaust, and WWII, to name a few. All my units are here in huge binders, but more on this below. Always keep in mind your students' needs. I am in the process of adding suspension rods to be a false back to support my books since the shelves are too deep, and books need to be more visible. So far, this works well.
My Teacher Desk
My pens are not grouped by color as my cooperating teacher's were, but my desk does have a system. I use a cute wooden letter tray with slots for graded papers, papers to grade, my daily journal, a seating chart, and a paper copy of my grade sheet. I organize in a functional way.
I always keep a paper copy of grades to log when assignments are turned in and a record of grades. If an assignment is missing, I note why (ABS for absent) or a question mark if I have a no-name. Speaking of no-name papers, they have a place taped to the board before I grade it. If you can prove it is yours, I will grade it later. A paper system may seem redundant, but it is a lifesaver when technology crashes. In addition to putting a "code" to note an absence, late, or missing assignment, I highlight that box where a grade would be recorded, so it stands out to me.
My lesson planning book is digital. The cute one I bought at the beginning of the year only has our schedule taped to the front. I plan everything in a Google Doc in a table format with the hyperlinks included and notes. That's all I need. For my Promethean board, I use the same Google Slides throughout one unit. The Slides include my bell work and other work tied to the day's objective.
The large three-ring binders mentioned earlier are labeled by units taught. They hold notes, handouts, and lesson ideas, safely protected in sheet protectors with a table of contents in front. In my Google Drive, I have created folders labeled by the same units to sort any digital resources I've used. I am slowly transferring everything to digital, but sometimes a paper copy comes in handy.
Organization is not a one size fits all concept. I am a long way from being as organized as my cooperating teacher, but I've learned many lessons along the way that have helped me. I also know that my effort to engage students with creative lessons can be hamstrung if students can't access the resources they need. For now, I have a system that works for me – even if a "helpful" substitute comes into my classroom one day.
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