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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Organized Disorganization--Is that you, too?

OK....this is a secret.  Don't call my administrator.  Don't email her.  Don't schedule an appointment.  PULEEZE!  You see...evaluations and the conversations and actions that take place afterwards are supposed to be a secret.  But anyway.....this is my life and I have already decided to share it with you, my wonderful bloggy reader!  So...I guess I am in need of some therapy and need to talk this out.  So...since I can't call you up and I probably don't have your email address, I decided to just write you.  I like to write anyway. goes....<taking a cleansing breath>....I will probably have to go lay down in a dark room after this.  But, first, I have to tell you that his little jewel has saved my life and has been a great asset for organizing student work!

Say hi to my friend Wanda who agreed to pose with the
pocket chart for this very cute picture.
Isn't she a doll?  She's pretty quiet, too!

For years I was overwhelmed with paperwork—or at the very least, it looked as if I was overwhelmed.  And for years, my administrator has marked my evaluations because of the disorganization that she finds.  The disorganization ranges from the ‘stack’ of papers that I needed to grade, or crooked desks, or pending projects that punctuated the room (but only 1 or 2).  It didn’t matter that the stack of work seen sitting on the surface of some piece of furniture was from that morning.  To my administrator, I wasn’t ‘current’ in my grading or upkeep of my room

One particular Monday I needed to use counters for a lesson.  My kids and I had spent the weekend organizing the kajillion many manipulatives that came with our new math program and I had carried them to school in a garbage bag.  That morning, I had gotten busy fixing my computer and printer so that I could print my lesson plans and hadn’t been able to put the manipulatives up.  So, I had planned to introduce the students to the manipulatives bag by bag and put them up as I explained what they would be used for.  My gut told me that Murphy’s Law would be enacted, and sure enough, my administrator popped in to evaluate me.  When she saw the open garbage bag of materials precariously perched on a small chair, she began writing.  I knew I was in trouble.

So, what did I do?  I developed coping systems.  I learned to keep a tub or box under my desk to put papers in that were yet to be graded or materials I needed to hide.  Then, as I got busy during the day I would set a stack of papers on my desk for later, planning to move them when I got a chance.  At that point, I was marked for my desk being too messy.  (Of course, the inside of my desk was a mess, too, because I only used it for storage and it didn’t help that during an evaluation that my administrator needed a pencil, went to my desk and opened the drawer, and was horrified because of the calendar cut-outs that were mish-mashed in the drawer.)  At that point, my boxes of papers were seen, and again, my room was labeled ‘junky’ and disorganized.

So, in order to meet requirements, I surrendered my desk.  It was a sad day.  I wore black, hummed TAPS, and off it went to the stage to be picked up by the school system.  And I had 3 new boxes to store somewhere.  I ‘hid’ them back behind the coat rack area.  I didn’t know where else to put them and wished I had a blanket or table cloth or SOMETHING to cover them with.

 So, this year, there were no boxes to hide papers in under a desk, and no desk to sit them on, so, in times when I was utilizing every spare second for teaching, papers would be put on the one, lonely, round table that was used for various work stations. One particular day, there were 3 bundles of papers from the previous 3 lessons we had done—one bundle was a graphic organizer we had used that morning, another bundle was a diagram that went along with a non-fiction shared reading that we had done, and the third bundle was a flip booklet we had worked on for some vocabulary that had been introduced.  And no, I am not the Queen of the Copier or the Princess of Paper—I just believe in practicing what I teach with my kids as I model or do a mini-lesson (even if it is just for 5 minutes).

The crux of the problem was that students were also using this table to do work stations.  Again, I was marked for disorganization.  That, and the tub of work station activities I planned to go through during my planning time that afternoon, and the stack of Scholastic books from the order I had received 2 days prior were sitting on a counter waiting to be leveled.  Apparently, it made it look like I did not have a handle on my room again. Again, I was marked down and told that I still had too much ‘stuff’ and I needed to get my room cleaned.    I was frustrated that I was doing what I was supposed to do as far as teaching,  but, that the organization of my room or lack thereof was not meeting the standards of my administrator.
At this point, I am ashamed to admit; I turned and walked out my door in the middle of our conference because I WAS DONE.  You could have stuck a fork in me.  I had tried not to take it personal which was almost impossible. 
That night, I felt defeated as I walked out the door to go home, carrying my tub of work station materials, my bag with the scholastic books in them, and of course, the papers from the days assignments and work stations.
That night, I did some soul searching and heavy thinking.  Maybe I need to be a secretary or go to McDonald’s.  Teaching was just not my thing anymore.  I was losing my touch because I couldn’t manage my materials anymore.  I had to come up with a solution for the ‘clutter’ that frustrated my administrator but apparently I was ok with because it was just part of the job.  As I searched the Internet for classroom organizational materials, I came across the pocket chart that you see above.  An idea was born.  I ordered the pocket chart

When I received it and took it to school, I put a different colored folder into each pocket.  That day as we did assignments, students labeled their papers with the color of the folder that their work was to be turned in to.  I labeled work stations with a colored dot so that work could be turned in, gathered, and graded more easily.  I found success!!  Well….at least as far as organizing work and getting it graded.  I’m still working on my room…and wondering how to build some sort of a shield with a padlock so that I can hide my ‘clutter’.  Anyway, I hope this idea will help you and keep you out of trouble!  Now….does anyone have any invisibility spray for my boxes?  =)


  1. love it!!!
    Kids can certainly help in the organization and they will learn how to keep organized themselves..
    now it is easy when you want to mark or continue one bit of 'work'.. you and the kids know where the stuff is.. in the pink or whatever colour slot..
    Hope it works well for you
    A teacher/mom in Canada

  2. As frustrating as it was, I think you found a great solution! I have a super messy shelf that I velcroed a curtain on to hide things behind it. hehehe.

    I also have an office in my room, DISASTER AREA. SO BAD. someday Ill write a really honest post about it...

  3. Um, I am quite possibly the most disorganized person in my school, or America. So I understand. I'm working on it.

    Adventures of a Third Grade Teacher

  4. It is difficult to stay organized. You have to be teaching or supporting students throughout the day (not to mention duty!!!) and then have to spend hours marking and planning. Organization falls by the wayside often in my classroom - ooops, I guess that's what I should be doing now!
    Canadian Grade Four "Frazzed" Teacher

  5. Wow, as I read your story I "knew" your pain. I was transferred to a different school and for the past two years I have been hearing the same dialogue...even though other rooms are way more disorganized than mine...I took pictures to show my union reps. that I am being singled out. Anyway thank you so much for the great tip. I am in your corner, rooting for you!

  6. I know this is an old post but I had the same problem. I started with the little rubbermaid 3 drawer units. One for each day of the week. All my materials (now color coded by subject) go into the drawer. Next year I am also doing two of them for turning in papers and maybe another one for turning back papers. As for the desk I am making one of the teacher toolkits using a nuts and bolts organizer from the hardware store. That will be on my table. Hope this helps someone. All of the ideas I saw in some variation on pintrest.

  7. I completely understand your dilemma. I often feel Ike the Queen of Clutter and hear that there's too much "stuff" in my room. The paper-shuffling becomes overwhelming in such a short amount of time. I use a plastic file w/ hanging file folders for each subject that I keep on my front table. Each student is given a number so that papers can be put in order easily. Papers are in the same order as numbers in the grade book, and it's easier to tell whose papers are missing. My weekly student helper puts the papers in order and then puts them in the appropriate hanging file. Now I need to come up w/ a similar system to use back at my desk to control the piles until assignments have been graded and recorded. Once the papers have been graded and recorded, they are put in students' mailboxes which are letter trays stacked on the counter. Organization is a work in progress!

  8. I can appreciate your dilemma, but it kind of ticks me off. It sounds like you are amazing at every part of your job, but youactuallyspend time TEACHING when you should be shuffling papers. Your admin needs to gets grip on reality! Think about doctors...their offices are super messy, they have someone else clean/prep each office so they can spend time with patients.

  9. You must be my sister! My administrator came in 2 different times when I was busy crawling under my desk looking for something important I had hidden under there. She also popped in once while I was standing on the table taking a picture of my students all playing dead on the floor like Scaredy Squirrel. I am a mess, there is no doubt about it, but my kids are having fun while learning.

  10. Sounds like your administator doesn't have enough to do besides write you up. EVERY WORKING classroom has clutter.

  11. I'm with Danielle and Katy. Spending your class room actually teaching and inspiring your students is so much more important than being the Stepford Teacher! It does sound as if you are being singled out. In the back of my room behind the kids cubbies I had a 2nd desk for grading, my own printer and stuff. I put all corrections, papers and such there. I was lucky that the cubbies hid it. I also have a large roller bag that I take back and forth daily and get teased about how I must be traveling. As for manipulatives..I keep as much as I can at home and bring it as needed. My room is small and there is no place to put half of the stuff most teachers are able to store in their rooms. If needed I use it to hide things and started putting corrections and workbooks in my roller bag as soon as lessons were done seeing that I would be correcting at home anyways. How teachers walk out the door at the end of the day with nothing but their purse, I will never know. I need every minute I have with my students. Correcting, planning, and organizing while students or even one child is in my class...never. Thank you for your refreshing honesty!!

  12. I was once told that a teacher who is actually teaching has a messy desk because he or she isn't spending class time tidying up, but actually teaching and working with students.

    I remind myself of this when I can no longer see the top of my desk even though I came in early that morning/stayed late yesterday/came in over the weekend to do nothing but clean off and organize my desk. It happens.

  13. I was a classroom teacher for 21 years, then became a campus administrator for the next 12 years, and happily went back to a classroom when I was able to move to a district closer to home. I remember a fellow Kinder teacher in a large district whose room was always full of clutter (cardboard boxes, paper mache projects, etc.) We got a new administrator who wrote her up right away. Jean's answer was, "I teach children, and children are often messy. Get over it, because you will be seeing clutter in my a room a LOT!" She refused to change, and the administrator finally gave in, especially when she began to hear great reviews from happy and satisfied parents. (Jean had 18 years under her belt at the time, and the principal had only been in the class 4 years before moving into admin.) Sounds like you have a world of patience. Keep on going girl! Your kids need you.

  14. Are your kids making growth? Are they making benchmarks? Are they growing and learning? Your administrator should care more about that than your clutter.

  15. They are, Rachel. Luckily, I have a new administrator now and she is VERY understanding! She sees us as working hard, rather than making a mess. Glad you made it to my blog!


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