Organization and Summer Reading Challenge Check-In

Hi, Teachers!

I've been VERY busy for the past week or two, but it's been the good kind of busy! Last week I was working at a summer science camp that I was running with a friend. We had a blast! We observed bees, found monarch butterfly eggs on milkweed plants out in nature, saw first-hand how honey was packaged, and much, much more. This weekend, I also had a really nice time with friends. Mr. Word On Third and I had a teeny tiny engagement party with our close friends, and we had SO. MUCH. FUN! I love our friends. I've been working hard this summer, so it was really nice to take a weekend off to relax. I think we burn ourselves out really easily if we don't take time for ourselves.

All of the excitement has kept me from blogging this past week... well, that and the fact that my COMPUTER DIED. AHHHHH!! Luckily, I had a back-up computer to keep me going, but I can't wait until my other one gets fixed! This got me thinking about being organized (mostly because I haven't backed up the work I've done all summer and kicking myself for it. GRRR!). Usually I am pretty successful at school and at home because I am organized. For me, structure is what lets me be productive. I'll cover more of this during the year, but here are the two big tricks that I find to be most helpful in keeping me organized:

1. Keep your at-home workspace clean, organized, and pretty.
This is really big for me. If I want to leave school at a reasonable hour, I need to have a space all set-up at home where I can finish work. Whether you organize a work bag/one of those rolling cart thingys, or you go all out and use a desk at home, you will be way more efficient when the system that works for you is organized.You probably won't be motivated to get work done if you don't do this. I used to work on the couch next to my fiance, and I would find that I'd spend way too much time talking to him, watching the TV program he was watching, watching him play video games, or getting distracted in some other way. If I had used my own space, I would have been finished with my work much sooner. This is what my current work space looks like:
There are a few things going on here that I think are really important. 
  • I like the way this looks. It's inviting and comfortable for me. I have pictures of my loved ones, little decorative items I like, etc. The main point being that... I LIKE IT. If you like your space, you want to spend more time on it. It's just the way it is! I added a flower and a candle because they make me happy. The things we do in our classroom to make them look warm and inviting are things we deserve in our personal space too! However, don't put too many extra items on your work space. This brings me to my next work space idea...
  • My desk is pretty much clear of "stuff." Other than my computer/computer accessories, I have a cup for pens and pencils, the flower and candle, a notepad, and a picture frame. I also have a change jar on it (with like 4 coins... oops) because I want to start saving my loose change. I use this space for all school-related work, blogging, TPT creating, bill-paying, etc. I get things done because it's clear of clutter. This is what works for me.
  • Everything has a home. Whether you need to make the pockets in your bag make sense or the drawers in your desk make sense, everything should have a permanent home. My drawers are organized and clutter-free. Here's my art supply drawer. See how easy it is to access everything?
  • I don't let stuff pile up here. I've pretty much made a rule that before I leave, I put stuff away. Because everything has a home, I put papers back into their file folder or materials back in their drawer. Doing a little bit every day makes a huge difference.
  • Get a mini-bulletin board for yourself. Seriously. If you get a ribbon board or bulletin board or something to display the important papers you need to look at all the time, you will be much more successful. You won't have to grab for stuff--you can just look at it right away! Admittedly, mine is pretty much just a bunch of pictures and workout stuff right now, but when school starts, I will have a couple of school things on here too! At school I always have my class schedule, my prep schedule (you'll read about that next), a reading level conversion chart, any important health-related things (ex: what to do if your student has a seizure, asthma attack, etc) for my current students, and a school calendar.
Make sure you treat your work desk like this too! It makes getting stuff done so much easier. Find a file or binder system that works for you, but find ONE system, not 230,498,234. That's counter-productive.

2. Organize your work schedule so you can enjoy more of your personal time.
I remember reading about this on someone's blog, and I tried it. WOW, what a WORLD of difference this made for me! I used to work late 3-4 days a week and work 1 or 2 weekend days. After a year or two of doing this, I was really tired all the time. Something had to change. I ended up staying really late 4 or 5 days so I'd have weekends back. That was an improvement, but it wasn't enough! I think I have a pretty reasonable balance now.

First, I wrote down all of my prep periods. Be realistic with this. I get in at 8:15, and kids don't start coming in until 8:45, but I usually only get 15 to 20 minutes of actual work time in. Personally, I take advantage of 20 minutes before school, 40 minutes of a prep period during school (but one day I get two periods of 40 minutes-yay!), 20 minutes of lunch (again, I don't count the whole lunch period), and an hour or two after school every day. I try to leave by 5:30 at the latest every day.

Each period is assigned a different job to complete for the next week. This year, my schedule roughly looked like this:

Monday- plan morning meeting, word study, and science/social studies
Tuesday- finish science/social studies, start planning math
Wednesday- finish planning math
Thursday- plan reading and writing
Friday- make copies, create charts/reference materials if needed

At the end of every day, I left some time for answering emails and doing stuff like that. I don't always follow it perfectly, but this system worked for me really, really well. I was way more productive when I had a specific job to do, and I was way happier because I had more free time. Having more free time made me work faster. Not only was I not burned out, but I looked forward to the promise of more free time while I was working. I really only started doing this in the middle of this past year, and even Mr. Word On Third can't believe how much of a difference it has made. Of course there are exceptions to this system (like report cards and conferences), but it works much better for me than just hoping for the best when I get to a prep period. If you have a job that you just can't get done, re-evaluate it. Is it really that important? Can your students do it? How can you make it more organized so it gets done more quickly?

I hope that these ideas help you to get things done! Speaking of planning...... have you been following your summer reading plan? I took a week or two off due to all the craziness going on, so here is the plan and book I'm working on now. So far, I LOVE this book. Wait, what?! Me? Loving a Responsive Classroom book!? No way!

What are you learning in your books, guys?! What do you want to see more posts about? My hope is to turn this blog into a teaching community, so I would love for you to participate. Comment below!

1 comment

  1. I just wanted to share that after reading this post it totally inspired me to jazz up my work station at home. Ever since I have been so much more inspired and zen while at my desk. Thanks for the inspiration!