Do you ever feel at the end of your teaching year that your entire life is in complete and utter chaos? Are you a new teacher who is wondering “how on earth do I stay organized amongst all of the small jobs I need to stay on top of?”
All of those little things that you had put off or put aside can accumulate and snowball into huge tasks that you have no hope of completing.
It is easy to fall into a trap of disorganization, but getting out of it is much harder. Starting your teaching year organized can make you feel that you are in control when unexpected occurrences pop up during the year.
Feeling disorganized is not only detrimental to your work productivity, but it can also affect your emotional well-being, which in turn affects the way you work with children. Taking steps to begin your year with a plan to become more organized will benefit you in multiple ways.
- J. Glenn Ebersole shares the many ways being organized can improve both your personal and professional lives:
- you are able to be more focused on what you want to achieve
- you will be more productive
- you are more easily able to manage your time more effectively
- you will reduce your stress levels
- you will achieve more balance in your life
- you are able to prioritize your tasks
- you will have more energy and enthusiasm
- you will have freedom from chaos
- you will be able to set and achieve your goals more efficiently
- you are able to be more flexible and creative
Here are some simple yet effective strategies to employ that will support you to begin your year with some organizational systems in place.
- Get familiar with and use the calendar feature of your smartphone. You are able to set up alerts to notify you when you have meetings or events to attend, birthdays, or if you just need to remember to make a phone call. With Google calendar, you can set up various calendars, one for work and one for personal. You can then collaborate and share calendars with your work colleagues, ensuring everybody is “on the same page”. You are also able to sync your calendar across all of your devices, accessing it from both your phone and pc. This will eliminate the need to have reminders in your physical diary, calendar and on post-it notes. Having multiple methods of reminding yourself of important dates can serve to create more “mind clutter”, quite the opposite of what you are trying to achieve!
- Set up folders for each month of the year, both physically and digitally, to store letters, photos, files, templates and other documents that you may need to refer to at a later date. Having them organized by month ensures you are able to easily access them without wasting time searching.
- Don’t hide important stuff – set up a priority folder in both your emails and your desktop or cloud. It is easy to cast aside the things you don’t have time to attend to immediately, only to forget about them until it is too late. Setting up priority folders will help you to keep the important things that need your attention all in one place. They are then easily able to be accessed when you are free to attend to them.
- If you need to organize physical clutter and spaces, this can be a huge undertaking, which can be overwhelming and often ignored. A chaotic physical environment can create a chaotic mind. Consider breaking the task down into smaller and more manageable tasks. Having smaller mountains of chaos to deal with is far easier than tackling one that resembles Mount Everest! There are some really useful guides to assist you in decluttering every aspect of your life. Use them!
- Linking back to step 1, fill your diary with the important dates and events you need to plan and prepare for. Consider backdating these events with reminders that they are coming up in a week or a month. This will ensure that when the big date rolls around you can sail smoothly through it, having completed all of the prep work needed for it to be a success.
- If you are the person who bears the brunt of organizing all of the calendar events and celebrations in your learning service, consider sharing the responsibility with others at the start of the year. Your colleagues are more likely to put their hands up to share the planning for these special days if they have been given advance warning. There is truth in the saying “many hands make light work”, and it also helps to foster a sense of leadership and community when everybody works together in this way.
- Clear out your work locker, files, resource box, and work bag at the start of the year. This may sound like common sense, but there are some of us that keep every little thing that we had intended to work on from the year before. Teachers are great at collecting all manner of things to use “one day” 🙂 Somehow these things build up and have a habit of making us feel like the year is starting with unfinished business hanging over our heads. If you must keep these things, place them into a separate box to be dealt with at a later date. Trust me, you will feel much more on top of things when you don’t have these things in plain sight.
- Revisit last year’s draft stories on Storypark. Over the busy month of December it can be easy to start stories, and before you know it a month has gone by, and you still haven’t published them! Just looking at your draft folder can make you feel like you have unfinished business, but if you take some time to work on and publish any draft stories at the start of the year, Perhaps you could post the photos with a short line “I thought you would appreciate these photos taken last year of your child”.
- If all else fails, you can resort to using Pinterest. Pinning ideas on how to organize your life can give you an inner feeling of actually being organized.
10. Explore the Storypark features that you haven’t yet fully utilized.
- Take some time to review each child’s learning using the reports feature. With this tool, you are able to think about and plan for ways to support individual children’s learning.
- Get a room! The “rooms” feature is a great way of communicating with a small group of families and teachers. You can create teacher-only rooms, which are fantastic for collaborating on group ideas and projects.
- Set yourself up for a successful year by recording your goals and intentions in your Educator Portfolio. Educator portfolios are invaluable for educators just like you who need a space to record your reflections, ideas and plans for the children you work with.
- Boost your confidence by attending free professional development. Consider participating in an upcoming webinar to fully explore how these features can help you work smarter, not harder. We have many tools to help you stay organized and work more effectively.
- Use the planning feature in more ways. It is so adaptable. Make it work best for you! If you haven’t already, register for one of our planning workshops. They are a fantastic introduction to the planning feature, and you will walk away with tons of ideas. There is even a planning template for monthly events that you can duplicate and use for all of your upcoming events and happenings!
- Another great way to find creative and clever ways to use Storypark’s features and tools is by joining our professional practice community. We have thousands of Storypark users in the community, and there is always someone ready to share their ideas and support you with any questions you may have
- Lastly, check out what children and their families have been doing over their holidays. You can easily do this by looking at their Family Moments on Storypark. A great strategy for re-engaging children in your learning programming by building upon the adventures they have had over the summer!
Somehow, having a plan to start your year organized can bring about a sense of calm and a belief that you can handle anything that this year is going to throw at you. Even if you employ one or two small changes, this can have an effect on lowering your stress levels when things get busy. Perhaps you could make it a team challenge, that everybody takes steps to reorganize at least one aspect of their working life. Now the challenge is to just do it!