5 Ways to Stay Organized as a Middle School Teacher

Teaching is hard, right? Anyone who has spent even one week as a classroom teacher knows this is the case! Staying organized as a teacher is a daunting challenge! I'm going to tell you a TRUE short story about 2 teachers (the Type A teacher has been teaching for 22 years & the Type B teacher has been teaching for 16 years). 

The Type A teacher is obsessively organized. Everything in their classroom is organized including digital files, printables, etc. The Type B teacher tries year after year to figure out how to get their Google Drive in order and decide the best way to organize digital content. The Type A teacher has lessons planned weeks in advance while the Type B teacher plans the weekend before. 

In the above scenario, I am explaining me (Type A) & my sister (Type B). I'm not really sure how we are full blood related siblings! 😂 Organization comes naturally to me & I pride myself on planning weeks ahead of time. My sister struggles with organization & lives hour by hour. My point being, not everyone is an organizational freak like yours truly.

I'll be sharing some organizational tips that will hopefully help make your life easier:

1. Digital Planner, Paper Planner, or Both
        Decide which one of these you like better when lesson planning. Personally I preferred having a paper lesson planner that way I could take notes as I was teaching (more on that in a minute). I know some people prefer all things digital & some schools might even require you to submit your plans electronically. Luckily my school didn't require that. Even if I had to submit my lesson plans digitally, I still would've used a paper planner. There are pros & cons to using a digital vs paper planner. With digital, you can easily change plans at the last minute by copying or cutting & pasting. With paper, you need to erase or cross out your original ideas, so it takes longer & can get messy if you have a lot to change within your lesson plans. If you want to use both, your digital plans could be a more in-depth view of your day & your paper plans could be an outline of your daily lessons. Whatever you choose, do what is best for YOU!

2. Write Down Everything
        I started doing this my last 10 or so years of teaching. I used my paper planner as sort of like a very short diary, so when I was planning for the next school year, I could look back to see what worked & what didn't work. For example, if my class was conducting a lab activity testing bird beak adaptations I would jot notes in my planner on that day about what worked or didn't work. I could do this while I was walking around monitoring the different stations. To me it was just easier to walk around with my planner & a pencil & make notes on things like... allow more time for this activity, change this next year, or even make notes on things to add or delete for the activity. I promise that your next year teacher self will thank you!

3. Binder for Student Info.
        I recommend having a binder where you can put information about students. You can include IEP's, 504's, any discipline notes, or anything that pertains to your students. That way when you have those IEP, 504, or parent meetings, you can grab that binder & go. It is very difficult if you have 150 students or more, especially during the 1st semester, to know what accommodations Johnny gets or that Susie has a health issue. The binder might have to be rather large depending on your student population, but having that at your fingertips is so valuable even though it does take some time to set up.

4. Digital or Paper Files
        No matter what grade you teach, you will need to have an organizational system in place for the lessons & activities you use in your classroom. At the beginning of my teaching career, I liked to have everything as a paper copy except for the PowerPoints. As I advanced in my career & technology became more commonplace, I found that I really like to store everything digitally, sorted into folders by unit number. If I had a digital copy of an activity that I needed copies of for class, I wouldn't keep a paper copy. Each time I needed to pull something from my digital files, I would just print the activity & make copies. You might like to have both, which is totally fine as long as you can keep your content organized. If you don't have some activities in digital form & need to store them, I recommend a file cabinet or keeping the paper copies in files in your desk drawer. The hanging file folders can be labeled the same way as your digital files to make it easier. I know some people who like to use milk crates with hanging file folders instead of a file cabinet. It's completely up to you... whatever works best for YOU that doesn't cause any unnecessary stress. Here's how some of my Google Drive files are organized (I recently taught 7th grade BTW):

5. Jot Down Supplies for Next Year
        Let's look at a scenario: You just finished up the school year & you're heading to Summer Break! 🎉🎉 You enjoy your break, but it's time to report back to school. As you're planning for your first 6 weeks, you remember something about needing different supplies for a science lab you tried last year. But for the life of you, you can't remember that far back. To help you remember, like I mentioned in #2 above, you not only should write notes about what worked & didn't work for you (in real time) during the year but you should also include items that you'll need to purchase yourself or order from your school. For example, if my students do a lab activity on bird beak adaptations & I see that I'm running out of sunflower seeds, I'll include that on a running list in my planner. Doing that saved me a tremendous amount of time the following year! I would always finalize my list when I was actively monitoring (how many of you hate those words? 🙋) state testing at the end of the year. So, you could buy the items with extra school budget money, you can buy it yourself over summer, or at the very least, you'll be able to plan when you'll need the items BEFORE you actually need them.

I hope these tips help you with classroom organization. I'd like to end with a quote to summarize this list: 'PROPER PREPARATION PREVENTS POOR PERFORMANCE'! Get organized now to make your life easier in the future.

P.S. Do you feel organized in your teacher life? If you do, drop me a line in the comments letting me know about an organization hack you have for teachers. If not, let me know what you're struggling with. I would LOVE to help you!

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