Awesome # 261: Organization

I’m a person who thrives on very systematic orderliness. While some people can function among organized chaos, I just can’t – no matter how hard I try. I like things to have a place, and places to serve a purpose.

I’ve established this, more or less, in my home and, seeing as I live alone, I’ve found maintaining this a breeze. In my classroom, however, I’ve found this to be a struggle.

During my first year teaching here (during which I taught grades 3 and 4), it was easy to stay organized, as much of the curriculum was largely supported by school board-made coil-bound workbooks. However, now that I’m also teaching grades 5 and 6 – neither of which are supported by really anything school board-made and, thus, teaching them is left largely to my own creation – I have seemingly endless stray “paperwork” of which I must keep track.

Despite the fact that I’ve designated binders, boxes, folders and shelves to be very specific “homes” to various things, I’ve had trouble employing my little organizational system, and I’ve had trouble training my students to follow it. Here are some examples:

Boxes and binders get knocked over (accidentally, most of the time) and the papers get picked up and shoved back in willy-nilly. This happens frequently and, it seems, no matter where I place them in the room.

I’ve tried a 4-folder system in which folder 1 is for the worksheet pertaining to the lesson in question, folder 2 is for extra work (for students who finish quickly), folder 3 is for work that needs to be re-visited to fix mistakes, and folder 4 is for completed work that needs to go into their designated “home”. However, folder contents get all mixed up as students pay no attention to their labels (no matter how explicit).

Shelves turn into hiding places for miscellaneous things, from one student’s prize Lego skidoo to another’s favourite things such as BINGO chips (which, by the way, have their own place) to another’s garbage.

And, worst of all, every day my desk is transformed mountainous jumble within just one period, no matter its tidiness in the morning, as students have a stubborn habit of just throwing their work among everybody else’s shambles the moment they think they’re finished. This is something I spend far too much time at the end of each day to clean up, and it’s something that I’ve been working very diligently and consistently to try to remedy. Though my students are improving, it’s still a work in progress and my desk, as far as they’re concerned, is still the “dump”.

And, to further complicate matters was the haunted ghost village on which we have been working since Halloween. For the better part of October, my desk was practically inaccessible on account of stacks of boxes and newspapers, bottles of paint and all of the various props we’d put together, as there was nowhere else to store them.

With Halloween in the past, however, I can now work on re-establishing organized normalcy.

Today was a compensatory pedagogical day – a necessary Saturday consisting of a staff meeting and in-class work to make up for leaving a few days early for Christmas vacation. Today, my plan was to finish marking the various and seemingly countless worksheets and assignments that my students have done over the term, and to organize my classroom in some way.

Two hours of work later, I not only had everything in its designated binder, folder or box again, I’d also created a checklist for virtually every subject that I teach, to keep track of all of the work I give to my students, and who’s completed what.

Once again my classroom is organized, and this is very awesome.

My very organized desk on my first day of teaching in 2010.
My very organized classroom on my first day of teaching in 2010. I have significantly more on the walls though – seeing as I’ve been teaching them since the beginning of the school year, and I’ve been teaching the same students for the past 2 years already.

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