Q&A: A Teacher’s Call For Help With Endless Paperwork

filesQuestion: I am in desperate need of some organizing help for school work.  Over the past 18 months and with a career change, I have become a part-time college English instructor typically teaching in 2-3 different schools simultanesouly.  Within a semester, I have a ton of paperwork that I cannot seem to get my arms around.

Since I have no office space on campus, I use my home to store all the material I need. I have books, class activities, quizzes, tests, worksheets, homework and papers to grade and return. I have purchased 4 different colored “milk” crates to keep the schools separate.  That helps but I am still at a loss of how to control the paper that abounds endlessly.  My home does not have a room that can be utilized as an office.  Any suggestions you have will be greatly appreciated.  Thanks in advance.

Answer: When my husband started teaching school, he too faced the mounds of paperwork that came home.  And with 3 children in the house, we didn’t have the available space to create a home office for him to grade, create lessons, check homework, etc. He came up with some solutions that you could use for your schools. 

He began a “Lesson Plan Book”.  It was simply a 3-ring binder with plastic page protectors.  In each protector, he placed a new lesson or test or handout. These were his “master copies”.  When he got to the school, he could then make copies for the class.  Any extras he might wind up with could slide right into the correct page protector. As the year progressed, the lesson plan book grew and made following years much easier.  Since you have different schools where you teach, I suggest having a lesson plan book for each school, even if they all contain the same information.  You can slide the binder into each schools’ designated crate and always have it on hand when you need it.

Use colored file folders.  Assigning one color to each school will lessen the chance of the wrong folder going to the wrong school.  You can have a folder for each assignment you need to bring home.  Don’t be specific labeling the folders because the assignment will change constantly.  You could name them by the days of the week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday).  Or if you have more than one class on a given day, you can specify that on the folder (Monday 1, Monday 2).  Any assignments you take up that day can go in it’s folder.  It’s up to you to make sure that folder is empty again before the next week rolls around.

With only 2-3 schools, you should only need 2-3 of your crates.  If the crates tend to be too heavy, you may want to consider a Quik Cart.  It will hold as much, if not more than a milk crate and has a handle and wheels so you don’t hurt yourself lugging papers around.

craft-iconYou shouldn’t need much storage space at home, but for the things you DO keep at home, you could use a compact storage chest with individual project cases. Each of the 6 included project cases snap closed and can be transported. Assign a case for each school. If need be, you can pull the entite case and it’s contents from the chest and toss it in the crate or a tote bag.  If you need something similar, but smaller, there is also a 3-Tier Project Case available.

These may also come in handy for those projects you mentioned.  They are big enough to hold a lot of paper and smaller pieces together without anything getting lost.

Most other papers you bring home are probably not necessary.  When you get home, leave what you can in the car.  If you have assignments to grade, bring in those folders ONLY. Once they are graded, immediately put them back in the crate to be distributed to your students.  These are college students. They are plenty old enough to take the burden of paperwork off you.

If all you want to do is check that your students did the assigned homework, walk down the aisles and mark everyone who has or doesn’t have it.  You can cover any homework questions in class and you’ll never have to touch the papers.

I sure hope this helps you out. Papers will multiply before your eyes if you’re not careful. Good luck and Happy Organizing!

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