In this post, I am sharing some back-to-school paper organization tips to help you get things organized so you can focus on teaching everything you know!
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I have this T-shirt I got and it says “teach everything you know.” It’s my go-to shirt most days when I am working from home.
I believe in teaching so much. I want you to be able to teach everything you know.
But you can’t do that with a disorganized mess.
I hear from teachers, almost daily, about all the papers they have and how disorganized it all is. Then, add on all the back-to-school paper and you’ve got yourself a lot of papers to keep up with.
That’s why it’s so important to start the year organized.
Inside The Organized Teacher Framework™, I teach how to set up your classroom in an organized way so you can handle things like papers coming in on a day-to-day basis.
If you don’t have organization systems in place, it is going to be hard to stay organized throughout the busyness of the school year.
So let’s chat about some systems you can put in place for back-to-school papers.
Key Beginning of School Paperwork
Here is what I learned in my six years in the classroom. Parents HATE filling out “All About my Kid” paperwork.
They’ve just had their kid home with them for the better part of the last three months (or, in 2020, for the last 6 months) and all they want is to get this kid out of their hair. And now you are asking them to talk about how great their kid is?!?
Okay, not really. Well, maybe. But think… if they have two or three kids, imagine filling out that paperwork for THAT many kids!
Instead, I’d challenge you to think about these two things:
- Is this paperwork absolutely necessary? Is it worth the actual paper or is it worth the time of the parents?
- Can you hold off on getting this information till a later time?
Emergency Contact Info
Of course, you still need to get emergency contact info. Although, your school should already have this all on record.
So, instead, consider getting the information a more creative way like a google form.
I’m still salty about the fact that it took me four years to try that strategy. But let me tell you, IT WORKED!
Parents were more willing to fill it out. It was different.
And it all compiled into one nice neat spreadsheet for me.
I asked for things like phone number, email, names, but also things like t-shirt size (HELLO, GENIUS FOR THE KIDS THAT DON’T EVER RETURN THOSE PESKY TSHIRT FORMS!) and photo permissions.
The only issue I encountered is that many of my parents spoke Spanish and did not feel comfortable using the technology. This was an easy fix by ensuring the form was in both English and Spanish. Also, most of the kids had a sibling with them that filled out the information for the parent.
Like I mentioned above, I asked for t-shirt sizes because this saved on extra paper I had to send home later in the year.
If you are able, I’d also recommend asking for t-shirt money at Back to School Night or Meet the Teacher Night. Not all parents will give it to you then, but it’s nice to get started on collecting it.
I think it is SO important to send home information explaining your expectations for your classroom. I always used this foldable with info about our classroom (behavior management plan, homework expectation, attendance importance, etc.).
But I have also seen a ton of these on Pinterest and TPT and I think they are so cute!
First Day and Week Transporation
On Meet the Teacher Night, I always stood at my doorway. I greeted each student first, then their parents. I also always introduced myself by my first and last name (to the parents).
Then I would immediately direct them to the Parent Sign In and First Day/Week Transportation list.
You can do this on a piece of paper so you have a quick reference list to use on the first day.
If I were doing it today, I’d probably just capture this information on the Google form (mentioned above) and print off that list for myself.
Either way, make sure you get this information because it is SO crucial to surviving the first day of school.
Back to School Paper Organization Tips
There are SO many papers you have to deal with as a teacher so it’s best to spend time getting your papers organized at the beginning of the year.
You can enroll in the Classroom Paper Organization Course and complete it in less than thirty minutes!
Learn practical ways to organize and systemize the papers in your classroom so you can keep them organized all year long.
Now that you know all the papers you need for back-to-school night, let’s talk about back-to-school paper organization tips.
Back to School Folders
Everything mentioned above (that could) would go into my Back to School Folders.
A sticker on each side of the pockets was in the folder with a “leave at school” and “take-home” label. I then sorted all the paperwork I had for parents + the paperwork from the school into the appropriate pocket.
This was helpful because parents could easily see what they needed to take care of on Meet the Teacher Night as well as what they could take home.
Plus it was helpful for me because it kept all the back-to-school paperwork organized. I could just pick up the folders at the end of the night, put them in number order (kids last name, alpha order), and put them in my filing cabinet.
For any kids who didn’t come, I had their folders ready for them on the first day.
New Student Baggie
After a week or two passed from the first day, I took all the paperwork out of the folder and put them in gallon size bags. I usually made three to four of these.
When I got a new student, I had all of the paperwork for the parent ready no matter what time of year. I literally just opened up my filing cabinet and pulled out a bag and handed it to the parent before they left.
Organizing Google and Online Documents
I originally wrote this post in 2017. In 2017 I used a lot of paper and not as much online stuff.
(Also, in 2017, I had no idea in just three short years our world would be facing a global pandemic causing teachers all of the world to be teaching from behind a computer screen.)
Maybe you don’t have a ton of papers to organize but I am positive you will have a ton of online paperwork to organize. (Thanks 2020!)
Save yourself a lot of heartache by taking time now to get your Google Drive organized.
Beginning of Year Organization Prep
Before we wrap up, I wanted to add in a couple of really important things I create at the beginning of the year to help me stay organized all year long.
Curriculum Mapping Guide
A Curriculum Map (or Year at a Glance) tailored to your specific needs is a great way to stay on top of your lessons all year long.
Here I show you how you can outline every single week of the year, what units you will be in what lessons you will be teaching, even what specific resources you want to be intentional about using.
Student Data Tracking
I also recommend creating a google sheet for student data tracking throughout the year. This is super simple to do inside Google Sheets.
Be sure to include all the important things you want to track like DRA or Reading Assessment scores, what modifications each student has, etc.
The biggest piece of advice I can give you when it comes to getting organized for the new school year and all your papers is to constantly ask yourself
- “do I really need this information?” and
- “do I really need it in paper form?”
Some important information you do want to collect at the start of the school year is:
- Emergency contact info (although your school should have this info already)
- T-shirt size (and money, if possible!)
- Provide parents with class infromation (behavior management, lunch time, homework expectation, etc.)
- First day and week transportation
Some of the tips shared above for back-to-school paper organization tips:
- Use folders labeled with “stay at school” and “take home”
- Transfer back-to-school papers into a baggie for kids that join your classroom later on in the school year
- Utilize Google Drive (and organize it!)
- Join the Classroom Paper Organization Course to leanr more strategies for organizing your papers
Here is a quick recap of all the links I shared inside this post:
- 7 Meet the Teacher Night Activities
- The Organized Teacher Framework™
- Working from Home: Teacher’s Edition– a free mini-course for getting organized while teaching from home
- Using Google Forms for Back to School Night
- How to Organize Your Google Drive
- Directions on Creating Your Own Curriculum Map
- Classroom Paper Organization Course
Until next time,