Part Four: Basic Management Systems
They don’t prepare you for this in college: the moment you see the bare-bones, institutional box that you are expected to transform into an inviting classroom…in two or three days. It’s a daunting task for veteran and new teachers alike, and it has to be redone every year.
Through blood, sweat and tears, you have created a decent learning environment out of a previously forbidding and forlorn empty cinderblock box.
Now it’s time to set up a few classroom management systems.
A Pencil System
Decide on a good place for your pencil sharpener. Decide on a system for dealing with classroom pencils. I recommend the two-cup system: dull and sharp. New teachers, dealing with pencils is actually pretty complicated, so here are several posts to help you out!
Turn In Work System
If you can afford it, buy Literature Organizers (their proper name!) at a teaching store or office supply store. Use pieces of index card to number the boxes 1-30 or so. On or before the first day of school, assign numbers to your students. They can turn everything in to these numbered boxes.
You will really, really appreciate having this system in place for receiving all the back-to-school forms.
If you can’t afford literature organizers, there is still hope. One idea is to tape down plain old manila file folders to the countertop in a long line. The student work slides into their numbered folder.
Another idea is to use existing cubbies or whatever your school provided for backpacks. On the first day, at least, you might rather receive paperwork in these cubbies and have kids hang their backpacks on their chairs. Trust me, you will like having all the back-to-school forms alphabetized!
Or you can just have a few paper trays out, like one for each subject. Then at least student work is organized by subject. You can enter these grades in the gradebook haphazardly, arrange papers in number order before you enter grades, or if you teach older grades, ask a student to put the papers in number order for you.
Lunch Count/Attendance System
A lot of schools have 2-4 choices for lunch each day, plus sack lunch from home. Many teachers set up a magnet system with numbered magnets for each student. Each morning, the kids put their magnet under their lunch choice. Whoever’s left either forgot to move their magnet or is absent.
Set this system up in a corner of your whiteboard, or you can use the side of a metal desk or filing cabinet. Here is an example of a lunch count system with magnets.
Organize your Bookshelves
My favorite way to organize bookshelves is with clear plastic shoe box bins. I sort the books by reading level, but earlier in my career I just sorted them by genre. Kids will keep the books very nicely in these shoe box bins. If you just put the books on the shelf, you will have a mess before long. Of course, it will look okay for Open House, so you might just want to set the books out and buy some bins next week!
VERY IMPORTANT: DO NOT LABEL YOUR BINS WITH MARKER! WRITE ON A NOTE CARD AND TAPE IT INSIDE THE BIN. You will repurpose your bins so many times; don’t tie yourself down with permanent marker labels!
Organize School Supplies
I organize school supplies in plastic shoe box bins. My classroom comes with open shelving, which I covered with plastic blinds from Lowe’s, about $15-20. This keeps the classroom looking serene.
Try to avoid organizing with cardboard boxes of any type. They look tacky and smell funny after a while, particularly if your school is humid.
Extra Credit: Set up for the influx of supplies that students will bring on Meet the Teacher Night. You REALLY, REALLY want to make time for this! Read my blog post on how to do it.