The Organized Teacher


We think that one of the secrets to a happy, relaxed school year is starting out very organized. Then a certain amount of chaos can creep in without making you feel completely stressed out.

Organize your goals

Start with some goals, whether for yourself apart from school, yourself as a teacher, or for your class. If you’re going nowhere in particular, somebody once said, you’ll probably get there. You need some goals, and you need to commit to them by writing them down somewhere. Then you need a system to keep you actually taking action steps toward those goals. A few options:

  • Mini Goals Notepad  from Chronicle Books has a variety of tear-out lists, from lists of two things you’ll get done today to Every Day lists to lists for stuff to be done right after coffee. All with encouragingly cool illustrations to inspire you.
  • Check out our post on GTD for Teachers. Lots of links and resources there, as well as the basics of the Getting Things Done system.
  • MindTools on setting goals. They have free interactive tools for your smartphone.
  • If you like more direction, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Personal Workbook is a classic.
  • Mix goal-setting with social media at 43 Things. You list your goals, report your progress, and everyone cheers each other on.

Organize your stufficon

Do you want to be the teacher who spends the first ten minutes of class pawing through your desk/drawer/briefcase looking for your rollbook/pen/lesson plan?

  • If you use a big tote or book bag, use an organizer insert  to keep everything findable.
  • If you use a briefcase, use file folders to hold papers and stuff.
  • If you keep things on the desk, use expandable files
  • If you have more flexibility (and more stuff) use our absolute favorite, the Copernicus Reading/Writing Center , which is not just for reading and writing. We think every teacher should just get issued one of these. It rolls around, in case you need to schlep stuff to more than one classroom. Copernicus has a variety of rack arrangements for different needs.

Organize your classroom

Classrooms inevitably have lots of stuff in them, and all that stuff is an invitation to chaos. Get it organized before school starts so you’ll have a fighting chance at keeping it that way during the year.

  • Jonti Craft makes lots of sturdy wooden cases with plastic storage bins. The shelves/cubbies and bins system seems to work best for most of us.
  • Child’s Play is another source for classroom organizing furniture, and right now they’re having a special offer. Click the link for details.
  • Tot Tutors makes the kind of shelf that holds the bins at a slant so kids can reach in and see in.
  • If you don’t have a choice when it comes to furniture, you can still use the bins. There are so many options here that you’re bound to find exactly the right kind with a little measuring. One choice that we like is the Sterilite 66-Quart See-Through Storage Box but the key is to measure both the shelves and the stuff you’re going to put inside. Then put labels on both the container and the shelf you put it on, to encourage everything to find its way back to the right place.
  • Then take a leaf from Harry Wang’s The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher, and spend the first class session practicing getting things out and putting them back in the right places. It seems like a waste of time the first time you do it, but then you don’t have to keep telling kids the same thing over and over, which is the real waste of time.
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