I like to avoid traffic jams in and out of the classroom. (Random Fact #1) From what I observe, the traffic jam tends to be around the teacher's desk. Yes, just what I want. Your grubby, snotty hands coming into contact with everything that I touch and inhale within a 3 foot radius. Or not. So here is my award-winning advice to avoid the breaking of the personal space bubble.
Stop: Create a New Traffic Jam
1. Designate a specific table, counter, or cart that belongs to the students (complete with cute colored tubs, trays, holders, and more). This is the table where you put the Kleenex, lotion, antibacterial hand sanitizer (a must!), the wet ones, stapler, hole punch, scissors, etc. If space allows, this could be a good place to put calculators, extra pencils and paper, and extras the students can work on when they're done with class work.
2. Stackable bins. Not bins as in Benz (this isn't a parking lot!) but the ever-important "bins". Say it with reverence. Stackable bins. Labeled for each period. Colorful. Convenient. Pure ecstasy. Students know where to turn in papers and your desk stays clutter free.
3. File folders. Pick one for each period. Label it clearly. Staple at least two staples along the sides. Now attach these to the walls. (For the anal organizer, in two rows of three within arms length of the #1.) Each day as you pass out notes, worksheets, etc the leftovers go immediately to the folder for that period. Students who were absent can go straight to the folder and see what they missed. Now you don't have to lose extra copies for the missing student who you then go make new copies for only to return and find the original leftover copies. You can even color coordinate- the file folder for that period can match the corresponding bin.
All traffic is now diverted to a new neighborhood. Even the germs live there. And now back to our previously scheduled color coordinated journey.
Caution: Look Ahead
4. Post Assignments Whether it is by chalkboard, SMART board, or white board, there should be a consistent place where assignments are posted for each period. Some teachers post each day for a week and start over the next. Some update daily. Some post just the homework assignments. Some post mini lesson plans. You know your students well enough to know what will work best. If you don't know, try something. If it doesn't work, change it.
5.Photo Chart This is the new and improved seating chart. (Some online grading systems come with this option.) Using your handy dandy digital camera, take a picture of each class sitting in their assigned seats. This makes it a lot harder for students to get feisty with a substitute. You still need names but besides that, your hardest task is taking the picture when every student is actually there.
6.The Plastics Especially for math, you can store manipulatives or anything (pentaminoes, protractors, rulers, compasses, puzzle pieces, etc) that has a lot of pieces in ziplock bags. Clearly label. You can then hang a string or wire anywhere in your classroom and clothespin these up. This is a space and time saver. Students or substitutes can find things quickly, your supplies are handy, and hey, it's kind of a decoration for your classroom.
Green Light: Teacher's Sanity
7. Binders Label one binder per class. Each binder has all the papers needed for that particular chapter or unit. Personally, I use transparencies on a daily basis. I keep the transparency and a paper copy for each day's lesson in the front of the binder. In the back of the binder, I keep copies of quizzes and tests. Everything can be reused for multiple classes or for the next year. I can flip open to any section to copy for the class and my transparencies can be wiped off and used over and over. I store the materials for each chapter in a manila folder in a filing cabinet or desk drawer. When we get to the next chapter, the new material goes in the binder. I have a ton of resources at my fingertips and I can look at different quizzes or tests I've used in the past.
8. Bins. They're awesome my friend, I promise you. Keep a set of bins for each period. These are nifty for copies you make ahead of time or papers you need to hand back. Keep behind your desk or where students don't have easy access. Label clearly. Insert papers. Instant organization. (P.S. Everything you need to copy is already in the binder! Sigh. Satisfaction.)
9. Flash/External Hard Drive This is your digital paper trail. It's so easy to organize, it's almost magic. I like to create my own notes, homework assignments, quizzes, and tests. So before I ever print, copy, and file, the documents is created and saved to my flash drive. First, I make a folder for each class. Then within that folder I make three other folders: Guided Notes, Quizzes, and Tests. If necessary make another folder for homework, projects, etc. I do this for each class and so everything has its place and I can find it easily with a click of a button. It's also a great place to save e-mails from parents. Each student can have their own folder. Flash drives are now so inexpensive that you can even buy one flash drive per class! That could get a little messy trying to remember which one is which, but don't forget, there's always color coordinating! =)