#mtboschallenge Week 8: You call this organized?


Thanks to a nod from the always lively Jemma PDuck (pit pat paddle pat), I am dipping my toes into this weekly challenge again, just as I was about to add ‘write blog post’ to my to-do list.  But organization tips?  I feel pretty organized, I am perceived as organized, but when I look around my workspace(s) for systems, I’m not sure I see any share-worthy tips.  One of the nice benefits of blogging, however, is that you reflect as you write, so maybe something new and helpful will come out of this piece.


My trusty cart loaded with supplies, ready to go.

My trusty cart loaded with supplies, ready to go.

I am peripatetic at school (damn – I’ve FINALLY used that GRE word in real life!) although I have a desk and three or four drawers in ancient file cabinets in an office space we affectionately call the Bat Cave (it has also been referred to as the Clubhouse and the Hovel).  Those drawers mostly hold hard copy back-up of past term grades, miscellaneous office and classroom supplies (patty paper, index cards, extra glue, tape, staples, etc.).  Under my desk (a term I use loosely; it’s a moderately wobbly table with a cracked formica top), I store extra markers, colored pencils, game supplies – things that don’t fit in or on top of the file cabinets.  I’m not sure you would call it organized, but I do know where everything is, and am known for having a Mary Poppins-like ability for reaching into my various storage spaces and finding anything anyone asks for.  When I am on the go, my trusty cart – purchased with a DonorsChoose grant – is my rolling classroom – holding my document camera, the famous Converse sneaker box of whiteboard markers, scissors, glue, extra worksheets, paper imagestowels, tools of geometry, and anything else I may need for class.  I wouldn’t call it the height of organization, but it’s a system that works for my life as a teacher right now.  When pushing this puppy down the hall, I have been referred to as Ms. Frizzle – one of the highest compliments as a nerdy teacher I have received!

At home, I have gone through several systems of organization – for hard and digital materials, and to be honest, I wish I had a better way.  I worked in offices for many years, creating and maintaining records, so I know what a good filing system looks like, and it isn’t like these milk crates.  milk cratesTo be fair to myself, however, that is how I started out 9 years ago, having no clue of the resource deluge that would be the result of my quest for better teaching.  Four years ago, I moved from a school that struggled from term to term to a more established place, and began to teach courses with established curricula.  Thus were born my binders: I created one per term per class, but as I refine my approach in the classroom, I am moving towards one binder per course which is updated each time I teach it. bindersIn retrospect, I suppose that would have made sense from the outset, but hindsight – well, you know.  I try to keep my books organized as well – textbooks on one shelf, resources the next, and then a mix of content and enrichment – but you can see the lines blur here as well.  bookshelves

Digitally, I started out saving all my work on Dropbox, but moved to Copy when I ran out of room – my files are now divided between both of them (probably not the best situation).  Thanks to a talk by Anna Blinstein, at TMC13, I have been using Evernote to clip and organize resources as I come across them on line, and that has saved me a lot of time, storage space, and paper.    And one of the great bonuses about Twitter and the MTBoS is its collective memory – I may remember that I read something great on someone’s blog, but can’t place it; a tweet will usually find someone who does remember it, and a link.  I know I should be using my blog reader to better effect in this case, but this is a skill I haven’t yet had the time to master.

As I write this post, I wonder if I am actually justified in thinking I am organized.  Like most people, I have an organizational system that works for me – most of the time.  I always endeavor to put things away in the same place every time, and my children and husband refer to me as The Finder – I can inevitably locate objects which they desperately need and cannot find.  I am very grateful for my good memory, because I think that compensates for the lack of filing system which is flexible enough to handle new types of input, and can easily grow.   It works with my fabric stash – I just purchase another plastic bin!  As long as I have room for the bins in the closet, I know I don’t have too much fabric!! ; )


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