Deal with Your Paper and Stuff: How to Find What You Need in Under Ten Seconds
Learning Objectives
Carefully sort your incoming and outgoing papers to access materials as efficiently as possible. Set up your desk and instructional resources to create a focused workspace. Create an easily accessible method for referencing frequently used materials.


I remember emptying my pockets and folders at the end of a school day and finding a note that Terrell had written to me asking to make up a math quiz, a small slip of paper the school librarian had left in my teacher mailbox informing me of a change in the library schedule, a note a parent had handed to me at dismissal asking about additional independent reading, and a confiscated Pokemon card (or three!). And that was only in my pockets! Never mind the permission slips collected for the upcoming class trip, the math exit tickets from the past four days, the notes from my PD session last Friday, and copies of the social studies test for next week. All of these are also sitting somewhere in the vicinity of your desk, which, last time you checked, was buried under paper. Let’s say you teach sixth-grade math—four sections each with twenty-five kids per section. You collect exit tickets every day and send home homework every night. Your papers for math instruction alone may number over a thousand each week. In addition, you probably have notes from parents, materials from a PD session that you meant to review, and a new character-education curriculum that just landed in your mailbox. As you move from your classroom to the office to the teacher resource room throughout the day, you find that slips of paper are handed over to you “for review ASAP.” This chapter is designed to help you deal with the daily paper avalanche in a systematic way by arranging a Teacher Workspace, figuring out how to transport papers between home and school, organizing your lesson plans and other teaching materials, and becoming able to locate those PD materials you “carefully” tucked away last year.

Teacher Workspace: Most likely a desk, table, or corner that functions as a home base
for you throughout your teaching day. May also be where you sit to grade, lesson plan, or enter data into your computer. Your Workspace is where you sit down and concentrate on lesson planning and other important work.

Reflection Question: How quickly can you locate papers and other “stuff ” you need?

Most teachers feel a bit lost without a clipboard. As mentioned earlier in the book, the problem is that our clipboards usually hold everything we need during our teaching day, including lesson plans, to-do lists, notes on students, notes from students, places to track student behavior, places to track student mastery, state standards, leveled reading books, and notes from your teacher’s mailbox on the upcoming field trip. The challenge, as we well know,


The Together Teacher

is that your clipboard becomes very full very quickly and transforms into a jumble of stuff— some of which requires action and some that you just need to reference occasionally. Reflection Question: Go get your clipboard or your equivalent (folder, notebook) and take a look at what is on it. Anything outdated? Stuff to get copied? To bring to the office? Now that you have given your clipboard a cold, hard look, let’s talk about what should be on there and how it should be arranged. Your Together Teacher System Your Together Teacher System is for maintaining your time, your to-dos, your thoughts, and your notes. However, to keep it all in one place, some teachers choose to insert their lesson plans, behavior systems, and mastery trackers right into a tab in their Together Teacher System—usually a small flexible binder with sections. That is totally fine. You just need to make sure that your Together Teacher System is easy to hold while you are teaching, recording data, or referencing questions that you inserted into your lesson plan. However, if you want to carry your instructional materials separately, which many teachers do, you can use a clipboard. Figures 12.1 and 12.2 recap these two options.

Teaching Materials

Together Teacher System • Weekly/Daily Worksheet • Comprehensive Calendar • Upcoming To‐Do List • Thought Catchers • Meeting/PD Notes • Reference Materials (School Schedule, Reading)


Teacher Clipboard • Lesson/Unit Plans • Behavior/Homework Trackers • Mastery Trackers

Together Teacher System • Weekly/Daily Worksheet • Comprehensive Calendar • Upcoming To‐Do List • Thought Catchers • Meeting / PD Notes • Reference Materials (School Schedule, Reading Levels) • Teaching Materials

Figure 12.1 Option 1: Flexy/iPhone + Clipboard

Figure 12.2 Option 2: Flexy

Deal with Your Paper and Stuff


Your Teacher Clipboard As teachers, we are constant collectors of data, and (at least for the time being) most of these data are on paper. I know that as a teacher I was never empty-handed. On my clipboard at all times were places to track informal instructional observations, behavior additions and deductions, participation points, and much more.

Lesson Plans

Lesson plans are usually the first things we refer to each day. Most Together Teachers like to have them on the top of their clipboard so they can refer to them while teaching. For example, if you have carefully planned higher-order thinking questions to ask while you read a history text, you will want your lesson plans easily accessible. Another option that many teachers I’ve worked with like is to binder-clip their lesson plans to the front or back of their Together Teacher System.

Academic Observation Charts

Academic observations are of course the backbone of our teaching practice. Now I’m going to let you know in advance that the need to properly record these observations is my obsession. As a frequent observer and evaluator of teachers, I die a little inside when I see teachers teaching without a handy way to capture and record valuable data to inform both their shortand long-term planning. When I was teaching, each week I would make a chart that had each of my students’ names down the vertical axis and the learning objectives for the week across the horizontal axis. During each part of the lesson—the warm-up, guided practice, or independent work—I would circulate around the classroom and note who had mastered or showed partial mastery of the objective. When I observed a student struggling, I would record it on my Mastery Tracker to remind myself to return to the student during independent practice, recess, or before and after school tutoring. For example, if I noticed that Tisha and Florence consistently answered multiplication problems incorrectly on their whiteboards, I would jot that down on my clipboard and make sure I got to them first during independent practice. This method is similar to Anna’s writing conference system in Chapter Four.
Behavioral Data Logs

Behavioral data are definitely other important things to track. Behavioral data include classroom participation, student positive and negative behavior, and any other student behaviors that you are monitoring and tracking. For example, to track voluntary class participation, many Together Teachers keep a sheet on their clipboard that shows the seating charts for each class each week. Many teachers say that just putting tick marks on a seating chart is much more efficient than scanning their grade book for names that are listed in alphabetical


The Together Teacher

order. At the end of the week, when going through their instructional preparation routine, they count up participation points and put them in the grade book.
Homework Tracking Log

Homework tracking really depends on whether you are grading for effort, for completion, or for accuracy—or for some combination of these. At the very least you will want to know that everyone completed the homework. If you cannot grade all pieces of homework every day, you should figure out a system for at least getting to it a portion of the time. Homework Checking Procedures: Determine How the Homework Is Collected • Physically turned in at Entry Way. If possible, use the Entry Way so you don’t waste class time collecting all of the homework. Create a form called “Missing Your Homework? Tell Me Why” that students must complete and put in the homework tray if their homework is missing. • Placed on desks, in a predetermined location, such as upper right-hand corner. As students start the warm-up, the teacher does a quick circulation and notes any incomplete homework. If you teach lower elementary school, you can usually get a very quick accuracy pulse during this scan. • Incorporated into lesson, usually in the warm-up. The teacher quickly circulates to ensure that it is done and then calls on specific students. You may choose to grade the answers to three to five questions. If you then go on to scan for accuracy, you may incorporate some of the homework sections in the warm-up, listen to students share with each other, and so on. Now that we have discussed various instructional materials that Together Teachers put on their clipboards (or after a tab in their Together Teacher System), it is your turn to think about what you need to carry while teaching.

Reflection Questions: What do you need to carry while you teach? Lesson plans? Behavior trackers? Homework logs? Do you want to use a clipboard or a section in your Together Teacher System?

Something to Write With! There are many classic cartoons that depict teachers in disarray, walking around in search of a pen that is tucked conveniently behind their ear! As teachers we need a variety of writing

Deal with Your Paper and Stuff


utensils on us at all times. Depending on your classroom setup, you may need dry-erase markers, permanent markers, overhead markers, and colored pens. Ways in Which Together Teachers Have Conveniently Kept Their Writing Implements on Them at All Times • In their pockets • Hooked onto a lanyard with their teacher identification card and keys • In a fashionable apron (really, they exist) or in a fanny pack (but cooler) or in a repurposed overhead projector storage pocket worn as an apron! • Clipped onto a clipboard • In a canvas pencil pouch that can be inserted into a three-ring binder Again, you will likely have a whole set of markers and pens in your Materials Pantry for classroom-wide use, and you will also probably have a set of writing tools at your Teacher Workspace (discussed shortly). Right now, however, we are just talking about what you need on your person during the teaching day.

Reflection Questions: What writing utensils do you need during the teaching day? How will you carry them around?

Although as a teacher you don’t have much personal space, most likely you at least have a desk, table, or corner that functions as a home base for you throughout your teaching day. This may also be where you sit to grade, lesson plan, or enter data into your computer. This space is most likely different from your Teaching Station (discussed in the previous chapter). Whereas your students may help you maintain your Teaching Station, your Teacher Workspace is where you sit down and concentrate on lesson planning and other important work. For some of you this may be a U-shaped table in the corner of your room, and for others it may be part of a table in a teacher workroom. The following sections outline various ways to keep your paper, projects, and materials in order in your Teacher Workspace so you can be as efficient and productive as possible. For an overview of a Teacher Workspace, start with the sketch provided in Figure 12.3.


The Together Teacher

Figure 12.3 Sketch of a Teacher’s Workspace

Establish an In-Box Many of us may already have an “action bin” or in-box but not use it smartly or systematically. In theory this is a silver basket on your desk that always looks perfectly neat, with just two or three papers to be dealt with in it. But let’s be real: most people’s in-boxes are full of stuff they don’t know what to do with. They just sit there collecting piles of junk that you actually never refer to, except for the random rifle-through when trying to locate a piece of information—resulting in more time annoyingly wasted. As a result, our in-boxes become a massive hodgepodge of a million different to-dos. When you glance at the stack, you cannot quickly tell what is a five-minute form to sign and what is hours of five-paragraph essays to grade. By creating more-specific categories, you may more efficiently process the massive amount of papers handed to you a daily basis. The next section describes a way to deal with your incoming and outgoing papers more intentionally. At first, all of these mailboxes seem overly complicated, but once they are set up, they empower students, who know where to put their late notes and permission slips (and therefore aren’t interrupting lessons to ask nonacademic questions), and they liberate you from spending your precious prep time sorting through piles.

Deal with Your Paper and Stuff


Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful

Master Your Semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master Your Semester with a Special Offer from Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.