Life as a teacher can be chaotic to say the least. That’s why it’s imperative for every teacher to stay organised so we can focus on what’s most important rather than getting lost in day to day tasks. Here are some quick and easy tricks that we think will make your life as a teacher just that little bit simpler:
Create a teachers folder for your own organisational needs; include sections for lesson plans, daily tasks, meetings, calendars, and whatever else you want to track. This way with everything in one place, you can easily access all your day-to-day activities, and never forget a thing.
Keep a separate students folder with a section for each child. You’ll then have instant access to observation notes, IEP’s, tests, notes from parents, samples of work and everything else. Super handy for grabbing and taking along to review meetings or parents evenings.
Finally, a classroom folder with need to know information about your class can be super useful for handing over in case anyone needs to step in at short notice or leaving out for a supply teacher. Consider including a short introduction to your classroom stating how you manage behaviour, table plans, class list, a short blurb on each child, and even useful items such as head bump forms. You could even incorporate a ready-made emergency lesson plan. If it’s ready prepared, you’re covered for any eventually and the supply teacher will most definitely thank you for it.
Take advantage of organisational technology
Technology has evolved in a variety of industries and education is no different. Chalk.com offers a wide range of organisational apps geared to teachers, allowing you to plan lessons, and coordinate with other teachers. Having a digital copy of your lesson plans allows you to ensure you always have a copy, even if you lose your folder.
Google Docs let you share work online and access your documents from anywhere and free personal organisation tools like RemembertheMilk or Evernote work online and with mobile phones and allow you to set yourself to-do lists and reminders.
Storing as much electronically as possible not only keeps your workspace chaos free, but as a result, you are prepared for anything and are always one step ahead of the game.
There is also an abundance of online tools to help you keep your children organised. My favourite is the classroom timer. There’s a great selection here. A multipurpose saviour for use during transition times, small group activities or tidy up times. Set it running on your laptop or smart board and watch your class spring in to action in a race to complete the tasks before the time runs out. If your classroom isn’t that techie then a kitchen timer works just as well!
Begin by weeding out unnecessary clutter in your classroom, then use anything you can get your hands on for storage; crates, vases and baskets are perfect for those things you want out of sight but within easy reach when needed. Once you’ve found homes for things, label everything! Photo labels work really well, take a photo of the items that live in each storage container or on certain shelves and place it on the front of containers or the appropriate shelf space so it’s super easy for little ones to not only know where to find things, but also where to put them back. Coloured shape stickers also work well. Place a sticker (blue star, green circle etc.) on your storage box and then stick a matching one on all items that live in that box. Rolls of coloured tape work well for colour coordinating items such as books too. Best of all it will make tidy up time quicker and you won’t have to field a thousand questions a day about where things go!
I find labelling two large boxes by the entrance to your class super useful too. Label one box ‘in’ and one ‘out’. When the kids arrive in the morning get them into the habit of putting anything for you (books, forms, money, homework) in the ‘in’ box. That way you can sort out the box when you finally get chance to catch your breath rather than being swamped first thing on a morning. Have your class place anything in the ‘out’ box that needs to go home with them. (Jumpers, drawings they’ve done or letters for parents) then 5 minutes before home time have a quick sort out of the box and hand out the items or get them to gather their own on their way out of the door.
Organise your supplies
All teachers know that allowing your class to get creative is an integral part of the day, especially if you are teaching young children. But even the best art supplies can lose their luster once they’ve been overused and thrown into a box or drawer somewhere. Scrunched up construction paper and broken crayons are somehow much less appealing and fun to work with than when they are fresh out of the box.
My favourite organisation hack for art supplies is to put construction and scrap paper into a filing box and organise by colour or use different trays for different colours instead. This way, it keeps the construction paper from bending and becoming less usable while also making it easier to find the specific colour you are looking for. I am also a huge fan of organising mark making equipment by colour. Place crayons, markers, and coloured pencils in jars, plastic containers, or something of that nature to make a decorative statement while also making it easy for each child to find the colours they want. Best of all, no more fighting over the most popular colours as each student will be able to find one of his or her own.
Share the responsibility
It’s very easy to end up spending precious time putting your classroom back to pieces at the end of yet another busy day, but you can save yourself those valuable few minutes everyday by delegating the jobs to the most willing and eager of helpers, your pupils. Give everyone in your class their own individual job or paired responsibility during tidy up time. This can be tidying the book corner, washing paint brushes, handing out books or sharpening pencils, let’s face it, in a primary classroom you’re never short of jobs. The children will relish the responsibility and you’ll have a tidy classroom! You can make this even more special for them by giving them ‘official titles’ such as librarian, pencil patroller or scrap master and even make badges for them to wear. You may want to change the roles round weekly to save yourself from getting nagged to do the ‘best’ jobs.