Do you know a teacher who is a “piler” in the classroom?
I did. It was my cooperating teacher when I was student teaching many eons ago. For the record, she was an amazing teacher (now retired). She could inspire those students like no one else I had ever seen. And she knew exactly what papers were in which piles in an instant.
But when I walked into her class each day, I pretty much felt like I was drowning in paper stacks. Unfortunately for me, she was feeling ill one day and I needed to give the vocabulary test while she was resting for a few minutes in the lounge. From working together for a few weeks, I knew that the test papers were somewhere in one of the multiple stacks placed all over the room. But, I did not know the method to her self-proclaimed madness. I was pretty much panicking as students started walking back in the door from their specials class.
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There must be a reason why some teachers prefer paper piles
Paper “pilers” often have pretty good internal reasons for keeping the piles – and it isn’t always from just being too lazy to put them away at all. Take a minute and really think about the answers to the following questions:
- How does the pile of papers make me feel?
- How do I feel when I file it all away?
- Teachers that have organized filing cabinets are…
- I wouldn’t have paper piles if I had more ? (time, containers, space, etc.)
Some teachers feel more secure and in control when they are the only one to know exactly how their paper stacks work in the real world.
Some feel that colleagues who have spotless rooms are spending more time organizing than teaching the students.
Some just don’t have the time to create a system or get the supplies needed.
Knowing how your internal thoughts are feeling deep down about those paper piles can be something that relates to how you relate to those stacks of paper.
But how does it feel to others?
Next answer this question: If someone famous you admire walked into your classroom and wanted to teach a lesson, would you be proud of your classroom space? And more importantly: would your students be proud of that space too? Students don’t always verbalize how a classroom environment makes him or her feel. In fact, they may not even think about it on a deeper level. But we can all agree that students need as much stability as possible. Part of that stability includes a space that is free to allow mistakes, inspiration, and collaboration. I would place pretty good odds that few students would actually feel free to flourish in a classroom full of paper spires. In fact, those paper piles probably have the opposite effect. Even when you might feel as though the papers are secondary to the amount of actual instructional time you spend with students. In the end, you want the stability to come from being in a space that is open rather than oppressive.
Let’s create your paper system.
Once you know you want to give those paper stacks a new home, having a paper system in place is important. Otherwise, they will come right back even after you have filed everything away the first time.
How do papers come in your room and where do they accumulate?
Know the Flow.
Some simple steps to managing the mounds of paper that some through your classroom every day:
Number 1: ANY papers that come in to your classroom that don’t need to immediately be taken care of that second, should go into an “In” Basket or stackable tray.
Number 2: Before leaving for the workday, place papers from the “In” Basket into the following stacks on your desk or cleared table: File, Toss, Today.
Number 3: Take care of each pile appropriately.
- Today: Take care of that item today and toss the paperwork (or place in filing tray if needing to keep a paper trail)
- Toss: Self explanatory
- File: Place in another marked tray for filing and once per week, file or scan those papers away
That’s it! You really can get those paper piles organized much faster than you believed – even if it seems overwhelming right now.
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Let’s hear from you! What is your biggest paper pile truth? Share it in a comment below.