Staying Organized - Lists are the key
Some of my colleagues can show up for work on day one and are able to pull everything together in a way that works for them and I admire that very much. I, on the other hand, always have to work on my classroom a week or two before our first day of staff development so I can take the time to unpack my closets, organize my desk and student centers and take stock of what worked for my students and what I want to change. I actually enjoy this quiet contemplative time very much. Thoroughly organizing for the new school year, both in my classroom and in my lesson plans, helps me to be a better teacher and allows me to leave early most days during that first month of school when everything is so intense and you really need to head home and relax as soon a possible!
There are couple things that really help me stay organized and plan for the upcoming year, my laptop and my lists. My laptop carries almost all of the information I need to write quality lesson plans. I can access the Internet for information, I can move entire chunks of a unit from one page to another, I can make notes about student’s progress on the lesson and use that information for formative assessments, I can access my own lesson plans from past years for easy updating, I can create slideshows and power point presentations to share with my students and so much more. My laptop has become the most important tool I own and I highly recommend purchasing your own laptop if you can afford the investment. It allows me to streamline my work so I have more time for my personal life.
Speaking of my personal life, I am quickly approaching my 39th birthday. I have no complaints except that my brain doesn’t seem to be able to hold as much information as it used to! I can either expend much needed energy trying to remember scads of information or I can just write it down! So I have become a master of list making. Not for everyone, I am sure, but for me, it works! Lists help me condense several different ideas or “to do’s” into manageable areas. I have also learned to make excellent notes to myself throughout the school year on lesson plans and in my lists, so I am sure not to lose any creative epiphanies that hit me while I am in the thick of a lesson or attending a professional development class.
I thought that sharing some of my list titles with you might help you on your way to contemplating your new beginnings this year, whether it is your first new beginning or your 25th! Be sure to check out the other Scholastic Teacher Advisors blogs as well. They have wonderful ideas to share about classroom themes, monitoring our classroom language, preparing for a student teacher and setting goals for the school year. If you have any lists that you use to help you organize your classroom, I would love to hear about them!
• Professional: This is where I update my professional resume. I also keep track of professional development classes, educational contributions I make outside of my school, instructional programs I am interested in and professional books I would like to read.
• Educational Grants: I list grants I would like to apply for in order of their due date, in addition to jotting down ideas I have for writing grants.
• Organizing My Computer: I update all of my passwords (and goodness knows we seem to have a lot to remember!) in one word document. I review organizational folders I have set up, create slideshows for units and more.
• Cool Websites to Checkout: I list professional websites that have been recommended to me or that I have read about. I also list student websites, educational learning games and interesting educational videos I have heard about but haven’t had the time to watch.
• Books: I love to purchase funny or heart-warming picture books to share with students. Sometimes I hear a colleague read a story I have never heard or I scout out books on our monthly Scholastic’s book order or the Scholastic website.
• Lesson Plans: When I find an idea that I want to try to incorporate on a daily or weekly basis I record it here. I can also make notes about a teaching method or activity that went exceptionally well or maybe one that didn’t quit go as planned!
• Centers: Centers are such an integral of any primary classrooms; I am constantly brainstorming new things to try and ways to modify for maximum learning potential.
• Homework: I strive to assign homework that allows for student creativity and supports all learning levels, so this list helps me to organize possible homework assignments.
• Don’t Forget! (To Do Before a New School Year, or before Winter Break or for Parent Conference etc.): In the new year, this covers creating take home learning bags to printing name tags for the birthday calendar. The mundane to the very important goes in this inventory. That way I can just read it, complete the task, and mark it off. Year after year, this varied list has been a huge time saving tool.
• Apprentice Teacher: I categorize things I want to be sure and share with my apprentice teacher, as well as keep a list of tasks that I need help with over the semester. Everyone’s time is important and I always want to have something productive for my apprentice teacher to do.
• Back Burner: These are things I would like to create or try, but aren’t pressing. Sometimes I get around to them, sometimes the ideas get transferred to a new list or sometimes I just remove it because it never happened and it lost its interest to me.
• Students: Do I need to IMPACT a student, call a parent, write a nice note, arrange an appointment with a counselor, check back with them about an assignment, create a re-teach group, pair them up with a buddy etc? If so, I file this information here.