Organizing in My Classroom

Photo by Lyn Lomasi

For those of you who know me and know my interests, it should come as no surprise that I have taken all my organization and productivity knowledge and applied it to my job as a teacher.

In some ways, I think that has all that has kept me standing on my feet some weeks.

Here are some things I did in the classroom:

  1. Shoe pockets for calculators. My first semester the biggest frustration was having kids who did not have their school-issued calculators with them. These calculators are used for everything we do, and it is necessary that the students have access to them. So rather than fight the battle I received permission to have the students turn in their school-issued calculators in favor of a classroom set. These are stored in clear plastic shoe holders on the side of my room. This allows me to see how many are still out at the end of class with a glance.
  2. Numbering the pockets (and desks) Along with that last idea, I numbered the shoe pockets and drew numbers on my desks with a Sharpie Paint Pen (which comes off with hand sanitizer). Now each student knows they get the calculator that goes with their desk number, and I can track down broken and dead calculators as well.
  3. Dry erase markers in the pockets. I got tired of students leaving markers everywhere or claiming they were dead, or whatever. So now in each calculator pocket is a dry erase marker, and I know they all get returned.
  4. Class binders. Another pet peeve were the freshmen not ever having their notes or previous classwork. And I gave up on homework within 3 weeks – the kids won’t do it. So my principal bought me a set of poly binders, and each student has one. They are stored in my classroom and emptied at the end of every unit.
  5. Batch planning. I have two “preps” – or two classes that I have to prepare for. Since I teach both classes for 90 minutes every day, I end up preparing 10 lessons a week. I have found that batching these makes it easier to do. On Mondays, for instance, I review past material and plan what needs to be covered. On Tuesdays I write my warmups, exit tickets and pull the activities together. On Wednesdays and Thursdays I write the SMART board presentations, and Friday is photocopy and lesson plan day. The last goes very quickly because at that point, I have all the parts assembled, and I just need to put it into the document that my administration requires.
  6. Using Google Drive. Google drive is a lifesaver. I keep all my stuff out there, and I can access it from home or work equally well, without the clunky downloads that Sharepoint/OneDrive requires. The teachers I collaborate with also use Google drive, and that makes it very easy to get to their materials – and them to mine.
  7. Going digital. The first semester I had two grade books – the paper one every teacher I knew insisted I needed and my one that I transferred electronic scores into. It was a nightmare keeping up with both. Second semester, everything is digital. Since it is on Google drive, it is backed up, and it is also backed up to my cloud storage. So I am doing single entry, and less work.
  8. Using Word Merge. Another thing that went out the window first semester was waiting for absent kids to come to me for makeup tests and quizzes. So now I write an automatic academic appointment for them to come after school the following Tuesday to make it up. But this required manual logging and writing out notices. So I made a Word merge document and track all the missed work in Excel. Then Wednesday I run the letters for the following week.
  9. Grading all digitally. My goal for the semester is to not grade anything by hand. Since the state math tests are mostly multiple choice, I write my tests in such a way that they can either be given in the school assessment system (for my freshman, who are supposed to bring their computers every day) or using an app on my phone that will allow me to scan the answer sheets and grade them for me.

I am sure there are more things I have left off. I am trying very hard to do a 40 hour work week, and for the most part succeeding. Yes, I still do the occasional odd hand-grading, but it is rare, and my grades are always up to date and ready to post.

At this point in the year, I am exhausted and my nerves are frayed. The administration isn’t helping matters, and I have several problem students that make me want to run screaming. I am looking forward to spring break, and I have been told that the rest of the year flies after that point.

Photo by Lyn Lomasi


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