“Where’s All Your Stuff?”
During my first year of teaching, I built a pile of papers on my desk that was literally ten inches high. It wiggled, wobbled, and constantly threatened to cascade off my desk and turn the whole room white. Luckily, it never did.
When the annual Open House event approached that year, I knew I needed to clean up and make a good impression, but the huge pile of papers, and all of its smaller relatives, certainly wouldn’t help. So I gathered the entire stack and put it in the closet. If this were the end of the story, it wouldn’t be so bad. Unfortunately, the end of this story features me finding that stack three months later, long after anything important in that stack was needed.
However, this week, my newest colleague came into my room, looked at my desk and said, “Your desk is so clean…Where’s all your stuff?” I give all the credit for my transformation to two books: Spaces and Places by Debbie Diller and The Together Teacher by Maia Heyck-Merlin. From these books, I have five main improvement I have made that might help your classroom too.
1. Build an online calendar – If you haven’t built a Google Calendar, this has to be a starting point. You can set repeating events so you don’t forget anything and receive an email notification each morning full of reminders. The poster-sized desk calendar just becomes a place to stack stuff.
2. Use Post-Its but make them a intermediary – Post-It notes work well for quick reminders, but they collect and create a mess. Transfer the information you write on Post-It notes onto something neater. I use an app called G-Tasks because it integrates easily with Google Calendar.
3. Buy and label trays – I have two sets of labeled trays on the shelves next to my desk. One set is labeled with each day of the week; it’s where papers for the upcoming week go. Another set holds labels like “To Be Filed,” “Keep Handy,” etc. This leads me to #4…
4. Only move a paper once – You stop by your mailbox in the office, and you have a stack of papers in your hands upon arriving in your classroom. Resist the urge to set them down and start working on something. Take the fifteen seconds needed to put them in the correct tray or straight into the recycling bin.
5. Get rid of the junk drawer – Yes, that drawer in your desk where you put random things. Honestly, you don’t really need any of that stuff. It’s probably a jumble of junk you took from students, old CD-ROMs, and expired medicine. Empty the drawer, buy a drawer organizer, and stick with it.
People who knew me as a first year teacher would probably laugh to know I just wrote a post about organization. My mom definitely would. Good luck organizing your desk!