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Get Organized the Week Before School!

Updated on May 1, 2015

Before School Survival Guide: Getting Organized as an Itinerant

Hello there! I bet you’re excited to begin the school year- maybe frustrated that you don’t have a classroom to call your own, or maybe relieved that you’ve actually scored a job! Either way, here is some wisdom I’ve accumulated after teaching in ten different schools over the last few years.

1. How to Organize Classroom Supplies

Set up your classrooms. Since they will most likely change, gather as many boxes and bins as you can (Dollar Store! Liquor Store!) and use packing tape to put labels on them. Create your own labels using wrapping paper or construction paper and a Sharpie. These boxes are incredible because if you’re asked to move classrooms (probable), you can in less than an hour, and still have everything intact! DO NOT CLEAN YET.

Supplies in the Closet

2. The Basics for Your Classroom Walls

Obtain one of the following for each room:

  1. An academic calendar for the year
  2. A behavior chart
  3. A list of rules and consequences
  4. A list of rewards
  5. How to head a paper
  6. A yearly calendar (again, the Dollar Store!)

Rules- Keep them Simple

3. How to Painlessly Meet Your Colleagues

Meet all of the teachers. Whether you are teaching ESOL, Gifted, whatever, go around as teachers are putting up their bulletin boards, and let them know who you are with a smile on your face. These relationships are incredibly important and you will not have time to chat once school begins. Let them know their input on your students (some teachers might have a say in who comes to your class) is very valuable to you. Make sure they know to contact you with any questions or concerns. After meeting them, record their names, classes, and emails in a chart. You'll thank me later.

4. Let The Office Know Who You Are!

Meet the Principal and office staff. I’ve gotten some weird looks for marching in the office and announcing who I am, grinning like the Cheshire cat, and shaking hands. I don’t care. I’m going to need their help later on in the year and I want to make sure they know me! Create a chart to record information after you walk out, or while you’re in there.

Office information to include: Name, email, phone number, and location for- principal, assistant principal, guidance counselor, data clerk, secretary, lead teacher,and testing coordinator.

5. Secure Office Supplies

Office supplies. If you can, spend a day doing these things in each of your different schools. Smile at the janitors. If you can’t catch them distributing paper, ask the office. Do not be afraid to ask for everything. Chances are you probably don’t have much. Make this clear to EVERYONE.

6. Obtain a Copier Code

Get a copier code! You will probably have to ask. Whatever you do, get that copier code the first day you’re at the school. Emailing and asking for one will probably not be effective. I admit that my copier code at one school is a “temporary” one given by the secretary. Oh well, take what you can.

7. Get Informed on Your Students

Get access to student information. If it’s not given to you (lucky you, if it is!) make friends with the data clerk. Get a log-in for the database. You’ll probably have to wait on that so obtain rosters for every single grade you’re working with. That way you can easily remember who is in which teacher’s class. If you don’t have electronic access to test scores, come back to the testing coordinator with a list of students to get their information.

8. The Best Rolling Cart You Can Buy

Buy the most expensive rolling cart you can. Hopefully you get a teacher’s supply check. I’ve made the mistake of buying the $30 carts at Staples, they break after a few months. This year I found the most expensive one on Amazon here, it’s for artists and it was $90. It has done fine all year. Trust me on this!

Rolling Cart of My Dreams


9. Selecting and Organizing Students

Students- the most exciting part! If you know your students, great. If you are choosing them or have someone helping you choose them, great.

  1. ROSTERS- You will most likely have your students changed multiple times throughout the year. Simply create an Excel Spreadsheet, one page for each class, and save it with a new name every few months to keep a current record of your students. Include student's name, teacher, beginning of the year scores, and grade level.
  2. DAILY ROSTERS- Use a grid (pictured below) to write down the students’ names for each class. I number them alphabetically 1-whatever. Their number distinguishes them in the behavior system and helps them line up quickly. Each column is a day where you can write their behavior grade and any rewards they earned (also keeps attendance). If you’re taking an informal grade by observing them, you can use a column for that. When a student moves and is replaced by a new student I simply write the new student’s name at the bottom of the chart and give them the old student’s number.
  3. SEATING CHARTS- Color coordinate-for each class at each school, fold a piece of construction paper into four pieces, cut it, and use black marker to write the student’s first and last name. Remember their number? Include that. Each class will be a different color at your school. Laminate the name cards. At each school I have an accordion file where I keep the name cards, first-day interest surveys, and blank behavior certificates for each class. Once you get to know your students you will know who should sit where, and it takes less than a minute to set out the seating chart. If you don’t have time for that, create a PowerPoint template.

Class Roster

Color- Coordinated Name Cards

Accordion file for Name Cards- Target- $1

10. How to Get the Necessary Information on Your Students

Paperwork! Create a letter introducing yourself to parents and describing the class, a parent survey for the kids, and an information sheet with medical information and contact information. Send this home with students the first day.

11. Minimize the Terror of Lesson Planning

Meet with other teachers to obtain samples of their long-range plans for the year, then create your own, as well as your first week’s plans. DO NOT TRY to DO THIS BY YOURSELF AT FIRST! You will have a breakdown. More information on lesson plans and the probably-overwhelming flood of curriculum to come in a later post.

12. Create a Mega- Binder

Set up a binder with information that will be useful to you. Create a tab of important information, a tab for testing, and a tab for each school. Put everything in page protectors! They are your best friend.

1. Important Info: Paperwork regarding calling in sick, etc., weekly schedule, academic calendar, long range plans. I print out a calendar for each month and put it in my binder so that I can cross out winter break, work days, testing days, and so on.

2. Testing: Rosters, parent letters, etc.

3. Tab for each school: student rosters, school rosters, contact information for office and teachers, handbook.

The Binder of All Good Things

13. What About File Folders?

Set up file folders for each class in your school. (This is where the parent info goes. That way when a kid starts throwing a tantrum, you calmly find the class’s folder, get his sheet out, and call home- without skipping a beat.)

Folders: parent forms, pre and post assessments, and parent info

Am I Done Yet?

After doing all this use the last day to clean out your classroom, if necessary. The reason you shouldn’t do this first (although you’ll want to) is because you will most likely be switched to a new room and have done all that choking on dust for nothing. Put your posters on the wall, organize your boxes in an available space, and relax. RELAX!

Don't Be This Guy

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