Organization

First of all, I would like to point out that I started this entry two years ago, nearly finished it, and then… forgot? Got distracted? Who-the-fuck-knows? Anyway, it’s just as relevant, so why not just post it? I ended up doing the exact same thing this year, anyway. Ha!

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Post drafted 17 August 2013:

Last Monday was the beginning of the new school year for me. It took me four days punctuated by various meetings (oh, the meetings!) to get my classroom in order because, even after three years at the same school, I am still going through and reorganizing the files from the previous teacher. Also, because my class is multi-age and I usually have students two years in a row, I teach science and social studies on a rotating schedule. I had to pack away the physical science and dig out the life science paraphernalia and roll up my US maps to make room for world maps.

This got me thinking about how we, as teachers, organize our classrooms and how it’s different from the way a doctor or a lawyer or any other professional would prepare for — well, actually, I suppose doctors and lawyers don’t actually prepare for a “new year”. Teaching is unique in that aspect, and that is kind of interesting, as well.

Every profession has files – patient files, case files, student files, etc – that is nothing new or interesting. Teachers have files for administrivia (one of my favorite made-up words, co-opted from a colleague long ago), subjects, previous years’ materials, tests, drawings, etc. I have two filing cabinets with six drawers absolutely stuffed with overflowing hanging folders. I have crates filled with more files, binders, and notebooks full of notes, worksheets, and tests. I have boxes and bins full of planets, rulers, flashcards, hand lenses, dice, clothespins, scissors, crayons, etc. I have six bookshelves that are nearly completely full of student books, textbooks, teacher books, workbooks, and reference materials. There is so. much. stuff. Everything has to be reasonably accessible. Everything has to be organized in such a way that students can find it, I can find it, a substitute can find it, and (most importantly), we can all put it back for the next time.

My ability to achieve organization (excellent) is inversely proportional to my ability to maintain said organization (dismal), so every year I spend a week sorting, recycling, deliberating, and pulling my hair out over where things go. Every year, too, my system gets a little easier to follow, so maybe by my tenth year of teaching, I’ll have a method that even I can maintain. [Edited to add that as of the beginning of year 8, my method is still improving, so maybe I’m correct!]

Anyway, while performing this yearly ritual I always damn the previous teacher’s seeming lack of any organizational system. I’ll find two or three (or four!) files with the same heading in as many different places (two filing cabinet drawers, a crate, and a binder). I found math in a language arts folder and a really great social studies project idea in a science bin.

Finally, I realized – I would not want to be the person who has to sort all my crap at the end of the year. Except, um, well – it kind of has to be me. Thus, I try to make the systme better, easier, and more, well, organized.

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Here’s to the start of Year 8 – may I last a little longer in remaining organized that last year, and may I find yet another solution that sticks.