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May 26, 2016 Getting Organized for Academic Success: Tackling the Paperwork Trail By Angela Bunyi
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8



    Think about the positive and negative components of teaching. Working with students and having an impact on their lives probably ranks highest on the positive list for most. A large majority, I suspect, would rank keeping up with papers as the top negative aspect. With stacks of paperwork to correct, reams of forms to pass out, and files to complete and return, how does one balance the positive and negative components of teaching? In this post I will share the eight tips that allowed me to tackle the paperwork trail and organize myself and my students for academic success.  

    Note: This post uses photographs to demonstrate how you can organize your incoming and outgoing paperwork. 


    Use This, Not This: Organizational Tools for Academic Success

    If you find yourself surrounded by large piles of paperwork, know that it doesn't have to be that way. With a few resources and tools you can be on your way to organizational nirvana. Here are a few "must have" tools for the classroom.


    Tip 1: Skip the large open mailboxes for housing graded assignments that need to be returned to students.

    They take up a lot of space, look cluttered, and allow papers to slip out easily. Instead, why not try a large file tote like the one pictured below? You can house it nearly anywhere in your classroom and easily transport it home. I have had this tote bag for several years, and I am amazed at how durable it is. At times, I have even thrown my Mac laptop in the back, and had room to spare.



    Not This...


    Tip 2: Skip the usual paper trays and pockets for assignments that need to be graded/turned in.

    Again, it looks cluttered and unkempt. Instead, consider purchasing another file tote bag for turning in assignments. Having a sleek, small file tote bag allows you to take papers anywhere with ease. With this tote bag, you also have two convenient side pockets.



    Not This...


    Tip 3: Don't throw that extra sheet away: organize it for easy access!

    It seems like the moment I throw away that extra sheet notifying parents about the Book Fair, here comes a student asking for an extra copy. It makes you want to hang on to every extra sheet that comes your way. And now you can. In moderation. I purchased a closed green filing box and put files labeled Monday-Friday inside it. Whenever I make copies for an assignment, I make an extra two. These then get filed under that day of the week. I also save two copies of school administration papers, such as the lunch calendar and field-trip forms. This system has saved me many times and only requires me to remember what day the form or sheet was passed out. At the end of the week, I combine Monday-Friday papers and place them in a yellow file. I do this for the entire grading period. With the new grading period, the files are cleaned out and the papers saved in a separate filing cabinet. 



    Not This...


    Tip 4: Instead of cramming it in a cabinet, use containers and label makers.

    My room is literally labeled from floor to ceiling. It took some initial work, but there is not one item I can imagine that doesn't have a labeled bin and spot. My students appreciate this organization as well. They know how to find and return school supplies because all items are clearly marked and do not move from their labeled spots.



    Not This...


    If you have a specific brand of pen that you adore, go ahead and create a spot just for those pens. (See the photo below.) Be proactive! What is it that you want easy and consistent access to? Create a spot. Find a container. Label it. 



    Tip 5: Invest in file folders for incoming papers.

    With so many passwords, test results, faculty meetings, and so forth, it is essential to have a place for paperwork. My file folders are not the prettiest ones around, but I can find important papers and I have a clean desk. These file folders are housed in my teacher desk drawer.



    Not This...


    Tip 6: Instead of open bins, consider using containers with lids.

    For lunch count, absentee notes, and forms that need returning, I have a letter-sized box with a lid. It keeps our room looking crisp and clean at all times. Open bins instantly make me stressed. This way, I choose to open that box and deal with paperwork when I am ready.



    Not This...


    Tip 7: For favorite units, conference notes, resources, and frequently used paper resources, consider a labeled notebook.

    It also helps to include a few clear sheet pouches at the back of the binder to quickly store new material without worrying about a hole puncher. You can even use a notebook to record grades or save turned-in lesson plans.




    Tip 8: Whatever you do, clean your desk at the end of the school day.

    The first thing I do at the end of the day is make sure that my desk is cleared off entirely and that all papers have found their new home. I avoid having a "teacher shrine" on my desk and surrounding area. Instead I opt on placing family pictures and meaningful knickknacks in various spots around the room. 



    Not This...



    Other Tips and Suggestions?

    Feel free to share your ideas and success stories. I'd love to hear what works for you!

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