Monday, July 23, 2012

Decluttering: Desk and Files

Yesterday I talked about decluttering my computer, today I'm going to talk about the Teacher Desk area. My first year of teaching I had a horrible mess of a desk. There were papers everywhere! Graded assignments were binder clipped and stacked on the floor. Papers that needed to be graded were paper clipped and strewn (is that a word?) on my desk. Old transparencies and notes were falling on the floor. I even spilled a gallon of tea all over some notebooks that were precariously stacked on my filing cabinet. Looking back on my first year I wonder how much time, energy and headache I could have saved myself if I had been organized.

Enter Year 2 and two AMAZING math teachers with more experience than me. They whipped me into shape when it came to organization. What they started with me I have improved upon over the years and now will share my ideas with you. Just a quick disclaimer...you should always customize your organization for the type of person you are. Some of the ideas may not help you at all. Don't force yourself to do something you hate.

1) Transparency Rolls - If you use these in your class you can write on them with Sharpie for things you want to be permanent and Vis-A-Vis for things you want to be erasable. I would often write problems on the overhead roll in Sharpie and solve them in Vis-A-Vis. Saves SO much time by not having to rewrite the problems. This can also work with transparency paper if you want to keep it for future years.
2) Student Table - On this table I keep all of the supplies students should need. Extra pencils (I don't like to supply these but any I find on the floor are fair game!), stapler, tape, scissors, etc. Under the table I have my Project Boxes.
3) Also on top of my table I keep my "trays." I have a set of plastic letter trays like the ones below, one for each class. The top tray is for 1st period, the next for 2nd period, etc. ALL papers get turned in to me here. No exceptions. I hate when a student says "I handed that to you but you must have misplaced it." The blame is fully on the students when they are supposed to put it in the correct tray. When I'm ready to grade a set of papers I can pick up a stack and know that they are all from the same class (well, at least most of them are). I can easily narrow down a nameless paper. I can clip and take home to grade without fuss. I love my trays.
4) Behind the student trays is an identical set of trays facing my desk. These are my trays for graded work. As soon as I grade papers and record the scores in my grade book I place them in the corresponding class tray on my side. When I am ready to pass back papers I know that everything in the class tray needs to be handed out. I can tell who was absent based on which papers are remaining. I also will often place quizzes that still need to be taken here so I don't lose them.
6) Also on my desk is a small hanging file box. I keep some hanging folders in there for things like my attendance book and my paper grade book (yes, I still use a hard copy). These are my day-to-day items I like to keep on my desk but want picked up as well.
7) My file cabinet - my file cabinet is kept much like my computer files are kept. Each topic is given a hanging folder and I keep one copy of everything in there (theoretically). I have notes, quizzes, classwork, homework, games, activities, projects, centers and just about everything else you can think of. They're arranged chronologically based on how I teach the topic. Some are thin. Some, like fractions, span two or three folders. I also have a drawer for my personal files and folders like "beginning of the year" or "coupons" or "holiday extras."

I suggest choosing an area of your room that you always feel is cluttered and coming up with a solution for that space this year. You will feel so much more at peace when your classroom is neat and tidy and you can walk around without the fear of tripping over something :)

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