Happy back to school! I have no idea where summer went and why it keeps getting shorter every year. Yet, here we are—back to another school year and ready to change the world one student at a time. But before we can successfully do this, we’ve got to get organized!
I recently read a great quote by Christina Scalise. She said, “Organization isn’t about perfection; it’s about efficiency, reducing stress and clutter, saving time and money, and improving your overall quality of life.” The start of the school year can be stressful and overwhelming, so here are a few tips to help you ease into your year and improve your quality of life.
Making Lists: This is the number one thing I do to stay organized. It helps keep me focused and on track. The great thing about the digital age is I can type my list into my phone or even ask Alexa to assist. Although, I must say I also love paper and pencil just for the pure enjoyment of scratching off a task once completed! I do have a separate work notebook for taking notes at meetings and writing important information down. But when I make my list, I combine my work and home life so I can see the big picture.
Calendar: Keep a calendar of all important dates and long-range plans. I combine my home and work life on my calendar as well. Most districts post a yearly calendar with all the important dates for the year. At the beginning of the year, I sit with my calendar and add all these dates along with my own kids’ school events so they can all sync together. Then I look at my curriculum maps for the year and use my own version of shorthand to include this information. I begin each day by looking at my calendar to see what I need to accomplish. Again, technology can be your friend here—use that online calendar and maybe even send yourself a calendar invite!
Clutter: Ugh, how many times are we inundated with paperwork? Even with the convenience of technology, I still find myself swimming in emails, Google docs, and PowerPoints. It is a difficult task to declutter because sometimes you just need to keep important information. I have found the best way to attempt this is to immediately remove unnecessary paperwork and online clutter.
For starters, I don’t always pick up the handout at a PD session—I might use my work notebook instead so it is all in one place. Otherwise, I will organize paperwork in folders either online or on my desk. I also organize any handouts for my students using daily or weekly folders, and my number one goal at the end of the day is to clean off my work space. Coming to work having my desk already cluttered makes me start the day on pins and needles. Even if I am just stacking some organized piles before I go home, it makes me feel better.
Back-to-School Vacation: Wait, what? We just had a vacation! In August, I take another type of vacation and it usually involves life at the home front. I start by announcing to my family I will be taking a cooking vacation. This doesn’t mean I stop feeding my family, but it does mean I take some short cuts—think rotisserie chicken, mac and cheese, and take-out.
I also may or may not take a cleaning vacation. I have just had a summer of deep cleaning and getting my house to sparkle. Come August, I am focused on the bare bones like sweeping up the dust bunnies and Clorox wiping the bathrooms. I also pay my kids with cold hard cash to lend an extra hand around the house. Easing up with household chores gives me the gift of time to focus on my school year.
Schoolwork: In case you need reminding, here are most of the things we teachers need to organize at school: classroom decorations, seating charts, student records, data and testing, lesson plans, schoolwide events, objectives and standards, curriculum maps, PLCs and team meetings, staff meetings, parent conferences, field trips or extracurricular activities, professional development, and daily schedules. And because every school year starts over, we need to reorganize most of these things each August. No wonder we are completely exhausted at the end of each day!
Create an online document of all the things you need to organize, like those previously mentioned, then add a link of information under each heading for quick reference. For example, under your Curriculum Maps header, add the link to where your curriculum maps are located. At the beginning of the year, you will have all of your information in one place and can change or modify as needed.
Self-Care: It is so easy to let our own needs slide during this crazy time, but we have to put on our own oxygen mask first before we can take care of others. I am very forgiving of myself in August. I may not be eating the best right now or getting in all those workouts like I should. I give myself two weeks to slack off—I still try to eat marginally well and at least walk the dog, but I don’t overdo it. Then after those two weeks, I get serious about my yoga class, cardio routine, and healthy eating. By taking care of myself, I can bring my best self to my classroom each day, and my students deserve that.
Don’t forget to breathe. Seriously, just close your eyes and take a deep breath. You’ve got this!
How do you stay organized during this crazy time of the year? Let us know in the comments below! For more teaching tips and trends to get you through the entire school year, be sure to subscribe to the Educator blog.