For many years, my organizational system was essentially nonexistent. It consisted of piles of papers covering my desk and colorful Post-it Notes stuck to every available surface.
I often felt overwhelmed and stressed out—like I was never able to catch up. Learning how to organize my classroom helped me regain precious time, valuable energy, and a sense of control. If your classroom needs an overhaul, these tips can help you learn how to organize your classroom and simplify your life.
1. Utilize Checklists
Checklists were my first step toward organizing my classroom. Checklists reduce anxiety, create structure, and offer a sense of accomplishment—all of which I desperately needed.
Effective checklists should contain no more than seven items and be prioritized to help you choose what you ought to be doing. Scheduling time to address items on your checklist is critical to ensuring things get done. Additionally, adding easy-to-complete items to your checklist allows you to cross off items, which is both rewarding and motivating.
While I still handwrite my daily to-do lists, there are many apps available that can help teachers create personal to-do lists.
2. Use Technology
Kate Humpherys understands the importance of getting organized. In 15 years of teaching secondary science, she's learned that effective organization can make all the difference in a teacher's life. Humpherys said technology has been key to helping her get organized and simplify her lesson planning and grading. Here are some of her favorite tools:
- Edpuzzle is a tool that allows you to make lessons and assignments out of online videos. Humpherys uses it almost daily to assign homework. The website also provides opportunities for assessment and feedback, and can grade student homework and assignments, which Humpherys calls a "massive time saver."
- For tracking student information and planning, Humpherys calls Idoceo "a great all-around tool." This app allows teachers to keep their schedules, gradebooks, planners, and seating charts all in one place. Teachers can also email personalized reports or resources to students or parents.
- Humpherys uses Google Keep or OneNote to quickly jot down notes and reminders. She finds this to be a much more efficient way to organize her thoughts.
3. Group Similar Tasks
Teachers who teach multiple classes often prioritize by completing all tasks for a certain class before moving on to tackle the next one. While this may feel like a faster way to cross items off your to-do list, Humpherys has found that this isn't the most efficient approach. She has improved her efficiency by grouping tasks by type rather than subject.
Further reading: 4 Curriculum Organizers to Use This Summer
"When completing tasks, batch similar tasks together and your productivity will sky rocket, rather than jumping from one task to another," Humpherys said. "If you are grading assessments, work for a set amount of time, turn off notifications on your phone, and power through as many as you can in the set time."
4. Declutter Your Email
A massive email inbox can make any teacher feel disorganized and out of control. While managing the constant inflow of emails can feel impossible, creating and utilizing an organized system will help you feel more productive and efficient.
Humpherys recommends setting certain times during the day to check emails. She suggests dealing with each email as you read it, and adding it to a folder or action list right away. Delete emails or add them to a saved folder if you may need to refer to them in the future. Letting your inbox become unruly is a sure way to feel overwhelmed and disorganized.
5. Get Creative About Repurposing
Organizing doesn't have to be expensive. Kathryn, creator of the Do It on a Dime YouTube channel, is a Spanish teacher who posts helpful and cost-effective suggestions for fellow educators. Her video Cheap Classroom Organization Ideas offers some handy tips for transforming common household items—including wine racks, baby wipe containers, and CD holders—into inexpensive and useful organizational tools.
Further reading: How to Get a Clutter-Free Classroom
Teaching can be a time-consuming and stressful job. Being disorganized is a sure-fire way to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and unproductive—I learned that the hard way. Learning how to organize your classroom is the key to reducing stress so you can thrive as a teacher.