As a Special Education teacher, I know how important it is to document everything, but I will be the first to admit that when things get crazy I don’t always do the best job of logging my phone conversations. Sometimes a parent calls when I’m not right by my desk, or when I’m rushing out the door to pick up my own kids from school. I scribble some notes on the first piece of paper or Post-it note I can find, and drop it in my file. This year I vowed to have a more systematic way of logging phone conversations, and making sure that I was following up with parents. Sometimes there are things I need to do on my end before I follow up with parents, so I create this phone log with that in mind. I plan to make a binder that I can keep near my desk or take with me to log conversations as they happen. Worst case scenario, if I have to grab a scratch piece of paper, at least I will have a central location to transfer the information to once I am able to do so. With only one call per page, it will be easy to copy if needed for inclusion in a student’s file or evidence of communication should any disputes arise.
There is nothing like hitting the ground running, only to realize that the group left an hour ago. That’s why getting organized right from the start is so important. There are so many ways to organize your stuff. Most of my masters are on my USB drive, which has made it easy to move from one place to another. I also keep a school binder, so that I have all of my important information for the year in one place. Last year, our school actually gave every teacher a school binder which I thought was brilliant, but you can easier make your own. There are lots of great tutorials and resources online from which to choose. I also usually have separate binders for my student data (because I teach Special Education, and I have a lot of it!), and my behavior monitoring/goal-sheet data. I have also found binders useful for keeping blackline masters handy and easily accessible.
There are some great resources out there on TpT for teacher binders and classroom organizers aimed specifically at middle school/high school teachers. I’ve listed some of my my favorite below. You can also find a great example of how to organize your binder by clicking in the image above from Beyond the Grades.
1. I found this classroom organizer from The SuperHERO Teacher on TpT. It is fully editable in PowerPoint, and contains over 70 pages to get your year started right. I choose the black/white one because printing in color can be really expensive, but she has other cute color combo’s if you want!
2. This editable Sub Binder is also from The SuperHERO Teacher. No one plans to be gone in the first couple weeks, so this can get overlooked. It’s better to be prepared, than to have to scramble to through things together if you have an emergency come up.
3. Finally, there is this fantastic Back-to-School Binder from Presto Plans. It has 90 pages of organizational goodness, and it comes both blue/grey chevron and black/pink zebra print!
The school year is just around the corner. It is about this time every year that I start to really think about how I want to organize my classroom. I will be in a new classroom this year, and while some may be dismayed at the thought of changing classrooms, I always look at it as an opportunity to reassess my organization strategies. My biggest challenge is organizing myself in a way that is simple enough to maintain when the year really gets going. I have found some ideas around the web that are definitely worth a look. (There are some amazingly organized teachers out there!)
1. Daily work files: Create daily work files at the beginning of the week with lesson plans, all the copies you need, and any supplemental material. I did this last year, and it was a life saver. It is especially helpful if you switch classrooms during the day, or if you happen to be gone unexpectedly.
2. Have a place to put missed work. Teach students to be responsible for finding missed lessons when they are absent or out of the classroom by utilizing a system like this pocket chart, or an absent bin. (Of course, with all the engagement we will be doing in our classrooms, it will be hard to put it in a file folder!)
3. Color code your room. I am a visual person, so I love this idea! This middle school math and science teacher from To the Square Inch share her strategy for keeping things organized by using one color for each class, so that student can quickly locate their guided notes, supplies and know where to put their homework. Brilliant!
4. Make supplies accessible. If you use collaborative teaching groups in your classroom, this one is for you. We know that middle school students will take advantage of every opportunity to get out of their seats, so bring the supplies to them! I have also seen this done with crates that sit in the middle of each pod.
5. Crates, drawers, and containers…oh, my! You can’t have enough of these invaluable items in your classroom. If things have a designated location, they will have a better chance of making it back to that location. Let’s face it middle school teachers, we could take a lesson or two from our elementary friends when it comes to cute and organized, right? Kindertrips, Following my Heart to First (she used to be a 6th grade teacher!), and this amazing site about Getting Organized have some really creative ways to get your year started off right.
I hope you found something useful that you can incorporate into your classroom this year! Be sure to follow my blog here and on Facebook for more great resources and stories about middle school! If you are a Texas middle school teacher, I would love to add your blog to my collection, and have you contribute to this blog! Let’s connect!