Sunday, January 15, 2017

Classroom Operations Manual and an UPDATED Absent Binder

Last October, at the height of DEVOLSON craziness, I noticed an ongoing organization problem in my classroom that I deemed “The Ungodly Stack of Miscellaneous Paper Piling Up on My Printer and I Don’t Know What the Fuck To Do With It” (hereinafter referred to as The Stack). These were all the papers that didn’t have another home somewhere else in my room because I only had to keep them for a short time, things like overdue library book lists, lists of team members for one-day activities or group projects, late work that never made it into a homework drawer, makeup quizzes and tests, department of education memos worth keeping (they are few in number, but they add to The Stack nonetheless), individual notes for specific students,… you get the idea.

In addition to The Stack, I had another problem – my Absent Binder hasn’t been doing its job this year. That is partially because I neglected it, but mostly because it had somehow run out its course of usefulness this year. This year is really the first time that I have had more than one or two students that are absent for significant amounts of time – and by significant, I mean 10+ days. I probably have eight or more kids that are just never at school. Some have serious health problems, others are having problems at home, and others still have been spending stints at the alternative school, which is not on our campus. The Absent Binder, in its original form, is not designed to keep track of massive amounts of paper for weeks at a time. It’s really just designed for the occasional absence.

The Stack + chronically absent students = a very frazzled Mrs. Richardson.

This gif pretty much explains it, but random paper in place of the equally annoying random Tupperware containers. Also, might I add that there are far too many lids in this gif for it to be a representation of real life? I can never find the lids!

So, after gorging myself on Christmas festivities, I went back into my classroom a few days before our return date on January 3rd and I vanquished both The Stack and the piles of absent work. 

Here’s what I did.

Here is my classroom operations manual. It is bright pink and sits in the very front of the classroom at all times. (I say this like I've had it forever when I've only had it for two weeks. Bear with me.) It is essentially the how-to guide for running my classroom. It includes syllabi, classroom procedures, and rosters, while also housing the majority of the stuff from The Stack.

When you first open it, you will see that there's important stuff in the front pocket, like seating charts and items that need returned to students ASAP. On the right is a page protector with the "Here's What We Did Today" paper. After my first period of each of my three preps, I jot down on this page what we did that day.

Here's what a completed page looks like. This page then goes in my updated Absent Binder (more on that in a bit).

The binder is divided up into four sections - one for each of my preps, and then the substitute teacher section. Each of the course sections includes my syllabus and a paper layout of my white boards (discussed in this post). I keep the board layout in a page protector as well so I can write on it with dry erase markers. Saving paper. Look at me go.

After that, we have each class period. On the right is a page I designed that has my numbered roster and three different spaces for keeping track of various notes. I keep this in a page protector as well so I can write notes and then erase. This has been SO useful already! On the left is where I'm keeping things like group assignments, notes to students, library overdues... basically 95% of the crap that was in The Stack. Now it's there when I need it, and I can toss it when I'm done with it.

Just to show you what I mean about taking notes using a dry erase marker.

In the back of the binder are my substitute teacher plans. I used to keep a separate folder for this, but that's honestly just one more thing to keep track of. If I'm going to have one binder that is the operator's manual for the classroom, I may as well keep my substitute teacher stuff in there too. This section starts off with the standard letter I write to my subs (not pictured), and then it's followed by another set of rosters and the emergency sub plans. I try to make sure I always leave thorough plans for my subs, but sometimes you get a sudden raging case of the pukes at 3 a.m. and you can't pull together a decent sub plan in time. That's where an emergency all-purpose plan like this comes in handy.

So, that's the Classroom Operations Binder.

Now a look at my Absent Binder.

Not sure what an Absent Binder is? Check out this post for the original plan.
As stated above, I have had a ridiculous amount of absent work to juggle this year. It's been far worse than ever before. There are so many great ideas on Pinterest for keeping track of this work. An idea I see quite often is the crate with hanging files. Each file is given a number (1-31 for each day of the month) and the material goes in there. So that was the inspiration for my binder update.

Each page protector is numbered (1-31). I put the "Here's What We Did Today" paper in the front of the page protector, and in behind that I put the absent students' handouts with their names on them. This keeps each day's work neat and orderly, but the binder is still portable so a student can take the binder to their desk to copy down what they've missed each day.

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I hope you've found this post useful! How do you manage the mountains of paperwork that come along with this job? Are there any of these pages you guys would be interested in having? Leave a comment below or on the Facebook page

Happy 2nd Semester!