Even though you're only a few months into your teaching career, chances are your file cabinet — overflowing with a semi-organized jumble of packed folders and teaching materials — looks like you've been at it for years. The bigger the jumble, the more likely it is that you're losing precious minutes of your day wading through papers and paraphernalia. These tips should help you keep a New Year's resolution to tame your file cabinet once and for all:

  1. Use a yellow highlighter to label original copies of reproducible worksheets "Master" or "Original." The highlighted word won't show when you copy it, and you'll never give away your master by mistake.

  2. Write the name of the file from which each idea and worksheet came on the lower right-hand corner of the page. It's a breeze to file items when you've marked where they go! Once you identify papers, a volunteer helper can do your filing for you.

  3. Does a favorite unit take up too much file cabinet space? If, for instance, your Pilgrim unit is overrunning your cabinet, give this a try: Take all of your Pilgrim materials out of your file cabinet and put them in a box labeled "Pilgrim Unit." In addition to your files, place all of your Pilgrim books, props, and bulletin board materials in a box. Store the box in a classroom cabinet or closet. When you're ready to teach your Pilgrim unit, all of your resources are in one place. The boxes that reams of photocopy paper come in are perfect "unit" boxes.

  4. Do a major file cabinet tune-up at the end of the year. Set a goal to go through five files every day before or after school. A strip of bright construction paper placed behind the last file you went through can mark where to begin the next time. Ask yourself these questions as you go through each file:
    • Do I need this?

    • Does this really belong here?

    • Is this something I will really use again?

    • Is this a duplicate?

    • Is this still up-to-date or is it old and outdated?

    • Is it relevant to my current assignment?
  5. You need a file cabinet that is clutter-free and user-friendly. Get there by discarding unused items. Don't feel guilty about getting rid of things you don't use. Put your discards in the staff room in a box marked "Free." Your discards will become someone else's treasures. Your goal is to have a file cabinet that's filled with ideas that you can access easily and that you'll really use.


This article has been adapted from the Instant Desktop Organizer Teacher Handbook by Barbara Gruber and Sue Gruber (© 2004, Scholastic).