Organisation is a funny thing. We all know what it is and we all know the benefits of it, but as term-time madness takes hold, it can be hard to stay on top of things. Here are some of my top tips for being more organised.
1. YOUR PLANNER
Now in this post, I said a lesson plan isn’t a religious book. That’s because your planner is. People have different variants of planners: A4 ones, A5 ones, Outlook ones, mobile calendars, apps… all sorts. I’m not here to tell you which one to use but I am here to say USE ONE. If you haven’t yet seen your year calendar, have a look on your school website for the parent calendar. This will include all kinds of helpful things like parent evenings, INSET days, holidays, school production, reports going home etc. Likewise, get all of your uni/ITT deadlines in there too. It might be daunting to look at right now but always knowing what’s happening will stop you flailing around come November when you’re tired and can’t remember what day time is anymore.
I like to use mine to write a subtitle of my lessons for each day too, something like: P4: Y10 Macbeth context. It’s also helpful to have open on the desk and jot down what page number or slide number I got to in a lesson.
Finally, my last key tip is bulldog clip some Post-It notes to your folder (I know I always mention Post Its. I’m not being sponsored by them but I should be),For some ITTs and Teach First programmes, you’ll be teaching a lot straight away, meaning you won’t have time to agonise over your lesson reflections. On a busy day I like to write a quick WWW/EBI for each lesson then write my reflections later. I then like to have a ceremonial Post It binning if it was a bad day. Although I’m not required to do them as an NQT, I think reflection is so important and I will keep Post It-ing things that were amazing and things that er… weren’t.
2: PLAN YOUR FREES
This leads nicely to my second point. Just as you might subtitle your lesson, subtitle your frees. Frees are wonderful, magical hours where you can listen to jazz and drink green tea and generally just be at one with the world. However, you need to do all those things and be productive. I have had a lot of frees wasted by people just coming to chat and I’ve seen a lot of frees wasted, immediately followed by ‘I’m not planned for tomorrow!’. I like to book in when I’m going to mark, when I’m going to tidy my classroom, when I’m going to make resources, when I’m going to do some CPD etc. You need to use this time for essay research and writing, evidence making etc. Don’t be afraid to go and work somewhere else, away from your team, if you know you’re going to get distracted. Headphones are also a great passive ‘don’t talk to me’ tool.
On a free on a Thursday or Friday I do all of my planning and photocopying for the next week and I’d recommend it. This has been beneficial for the following reasons:
I barely bring work home because I’m working smart, not hard.
My work life balance is great, meaning my relationship didn’t suffer too much during ITT.
I avoid manic photocopying queues on Monday
It’s like a treat, coming in on Monday to see my whole week done.
My mental well-being is good because I’m calm/I can handle other unexpected school pressures better because I’m organised for my lessons.
As I just mentioned, there are unexpected bits that pop up at school; maybe a colleague will be sick and you’re covering a lesson, maybe you need to run an impromptu revision class etc and any one of these things can derail your planning for a day. It’s a great idea to keep a list on a -you guessed it- Post It, so you can move the list around from day to day if, for whatever reason, something didn’t get done. This is a low pressure way to remind yourself what to do. If you work in a phone-friendly school, I’d also consider Wunderlist, which is an app that pops up and tells you what to do (like wise, I’d recommend Waterly if you often forget to drink). I’m someone who likes to plan ahead and I enjoy making a list on Monday, moving it around my diary and then binning it on Friday when I’m all done. Do make sure your list is HELPFUL though. Don’t make it so massive you can’t bear to look at it. Similarly, don’t put ‘write list’ just so you can tick it off.
Buy a good notebook. Get one with a hard back/proper spine (rings just fall off) that can take a battering. I just use one notebook for my whole year because then I’m not scrabbling around trying to remember which I used. I used mine for notes at lectures (easy to find and refer back to), for observation notes (both my own and others) and I always take it to staff/departmental meetings and write down anything I need to know or do.
You should keep your book organised too. You can colour code the pages with washi tape or sticky tabs to indicate sections, you can use a book mark, use particular coloured pens – whatever works for you, but I’d recommend having just one good, organised notebook.
5: MY ORGANISATIONAL MUST HAVES
Post it notes (just in case you didn’t get the hint). I do prefer the actual branded ones as they’ve got better stick when you move them around. They’re usually cheap in pound stores.
Whiteboard Pens People get strange about borrowing them so buy your own. I love these and these – remember dark colours are better to see at the back of the room.
Ring binder and wallets for observation notes, resources, handouts, etc. I live and die by these wallets, Although they’re not the cheapest they’re made of thick plastic so are everything-proof and fit perfectly into an A4 ring binder (Pound World and Wilko have gorgeous offerings if you’re a stationery fiend)
Notebook something like this looks professional and is sturdy enough to survive your bag for a year.
Magazine Holder: You can pick these up anywhere but I love these Ikea ones (they’re actually 75p for 4 if you can get to a store, but shipping is about £7). I use them for my resources for the upcoming week, for handbooks/textbooks and collecting homework.