Organization: Why YOU Will Have More Time This Year

By Brent Vasicek on September 19, 2011

From homework collection and vocabulary words to emails and parent communication, you are probably realizing that you could use a little help with organization as the school year gets going. Read on for some ways that I set myself up for a successful school year.





Turn-In Trays

Let's start at the beginning of each day. This is when I collect notes, money, homework, late work, and other miscellaneous items. I have the students help me by sorting these items by priority as they turn them in.

Priority #1: I have a tray on my desk for notes from home, forms for the office, all money, and anything else I need to look at first thing in the morning. I specify to the parents that all money needs to be in an envelope or Ziploc baggie with the name, amount, and purpose. Vasicek Priority 1 Tray

Priority #2: I have a set of trays for any work due today or in the future. A stack of six trays is enough to adequately sort assignments by subject area.Vasicek Priority 2 Tray

Priority #3: The "Past Due" tray. This is for late work, make-up work, and any items that don't fit into the other two categories.Vasicek Priority 3 Tray


Email Organization

I like to have a clean in-box. If the number of messages in my in-box reaches the bottom of the screen, I know it is time to do some serious organizing or communicating. I create several folders for storing mail. The photo below shows the basic structure of my email folders. As you can see, the main categories for the 2011–2012 folder are Memos, Parent Emails, and Student Emails.


Parent Communication

I save almost every email from parents — just in case! You will notice in the photo above that I have parent communication broken down into three categories:

  • Positive: This folder houses any positive comments about the class. This is nice to scroll through when you are having a bad day. It is a good source of quotes if you are applying for jobs or transfers. It also keeps a nice record of things you do well should you ever need that data. Example: Johnny loves the music you play in class and enthusiastically talks about the day when he arrives home.
  • Negative: This folder contains any complaints or comments that may evolve into a situation. I don't recommend reading these emails regularly; however, it is nice to have a folder that sequesters these in one place. Example: I feel it is unreasonable that you ask Johnny to keep his eyes on his own paper during a test.
  • Neutral: This folder is for all the miscellaneous information. Example: Johnny will be out of school next Thursday. Could you get his homework ready in advance?

In addition to the digital folders, I have a manila folder for each student. In these, I file pictures they have created for me, notes from home, common assessments, and copies of work samples. On the inside cover of the folder, I document any phone call attempts (successful or not) and write a brief summary of the conversation.

Classroom Vocabulary Words

To cement information in the mind, the brain needs to review information ten minutes, 24 hours, and seven days after the initial exposure to that new information. As part of our morning routine, we review important words or concepts using the word wall. Because the word wall is so effective, I devote a significant amount of classroom space to it. The vocabulary words are color coded by subject and reviewed daily. We also play the Word Wall game at the end of the week.

Life Balance

At the beginning of the year it is important to organize your life to contain a nice balance of home and work. Getting to school early and staying late each night is not a healthy balance. Pick one or two  days to consistently go in early. Pick a few days to stay later. Reserve one of the weekend days for NOT thinking about lessons. This will keep your perspective fresh. If you are consistent with your stay-late days, then the important people in your life will hopefully adapt to your schedule when possible. Consistency and routine will help you achieve a balance.

What is your favorite organizational system or tool?

Excelling without excuses,



Thank you for these ideas! I have an In/Out box setup already, but papers coming in tend to get shuffled together. The separated stacking trays is such a great idea!

Welcome back Brent! I'm looking forward to reading more of your organizational, brain-happy, creative posts!

Thank you, Amanda. It is great to be back. Here's to another great year! ~Brent


As always, I read your post and think to myself "THANK GOD HE'S ON MY SPEED DIAL!" Your advice and tips are great for all of us.. practical and straight to the point, while being creative and ingenius, at times!

Thanks a million,

Melanie Kress

You are welcome! Thank you for the kind words. I will try to meet those expectations! ~Brent

Another great post! I need a lot of help with my email inbox. I love your folder headings! I will definitely be setting up something similar.

Also, I have to agree with the LIFE BALANCE advice. I made it a priority this year and things are great so far!

I look forward to your next inspiring post. :)

Loyal Reader Krista, I am glad you are back to give feedback this year. Life balance can be tough to achieve for a high performing teacher. Have the perseverance to keep balance your priority all year long! ~Brent

I was just curious as to what grade(s) you teach?

l have taught everything from first to eighth. I have the most experience with upper elementary and currently teach fourth grade. I will attempt to give tips that will span the grade levels this year. Thank you for reading! ~Brent

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