Saturday, July 21, 2012

New School Year Tips

I've learned a few things in the half-of-my-lifetime I've been a teacher. Most of them are written in a notebook I've been keeping since 1993, on my mentor's insistence. I doubt I'll ever write a book because I'm not exactly a master teacher, but they are things that have kept me from pulling my hair out.

Sometimes. Lol

Anyway, here are a few that I try to follow all of the time:

1. If you are going to use a page every single year without needing to change it, copy what you will need in the springtime. One less thing you'll be frantically trying to copy at the last minute.

2. Don't think you'll get to a copier when you need it at a moment's notice. That's when you find the copier is broken, out of toner, out of paper, or someone else is copying massive stacks of papers. Plan ahead. Only a few of us will stop a massive copy session for your one or two pages of "I just need this one page copied". * I'll stop for you. (Ask nicely, please, and don't act like a diva, ok?) I'll also try to do my copying when nobody else is around. I DO care about being the cause of a copy machine bottleneck.

3. Don't wait till the night before to sit down and create, then copy, that masterpiece of a test. Being in the school at midnight, with the roof making all kinds of creepy sounds as it flexes from heat loss, sucks. Sometimes it is downright eerie. And no matter where your school is, it isn't really safe to do that.

4. If you are at the school late, alone, park your car right next to the building. Right up on the sidewalk if need be. So that you are two feet from your car door when you walk out of the building. And then promise yourself to not be there alone, late at night, again.

5. When you pick up your mail, toss the catalogs you know you won't use into the recycle bin before you leave.

6. If you find a form / survey / whatever in your mailbox that will only take a couple of minutes to complete, go on and do it while you are right there in the office, and turn it in. If you take it down to your classroom to do it later, there is a high probability you will lose it.

7. If there is a form you have to fill out every year in a completely OCD precise manner (we had a bookkeeper who insisted on absolute precision in completing forms for buying supplies), either make a copy of your completed *correctly done* form, or ask for a blank one and create a fake one as a model.

It'll make the crazy bookkeepers of your world happier. They'll be nicer to you. Unless they are the type who likes to change their forms without telling you, so they can jump all over you when you try to do it "the old way". (These people are sadistic control freaks and you can only make them happy when you screw up and they come down on you for it. I haven't dealt with one in several years, but tread carefully. It's their only bit of power in the world and they will wield it like a whip. LOL)

8. Keep an emergency box of copier toner and a few reams of copy paper stashed in your room, in case there is a sudden shortage and you have to run off an exam. But don't do this if it will get you in trouble. It didn't at my school. They keep us well supplied so that we can do our jobs.

A time came when the local supplier stopped bringing our toner. We ran out. We ordered more. It didn't come. Exams were approaching. We still waited. No toner. The explanation from the supplier was a whiny "We can't afford to keep much of that toner just sitting here." With a school system constantly needing and paying for it, why not? Turns out the supplier wasn't handling their own accounts properly. Be prepared.

9. Keep a master folder of the forms you'll have to copy often. Put them in a binder, tucked into page protectors.

10. Anything you can do ahead of time, DO IT! I'm a horrible procrastinator. Something always comes up even when I'm right on schedule, and then I get behind. If you work to be ahead of the game all the time, you might get lucky and end up right on time. Lol. I put student names into my software class system as soon as I get a list of names for that class, assign them login numbers, and write all of that info on the login card they pick up to use each day in my class. If I'm really rockin', I do this as much as 27 weeks ahead of time. A few move or get schedule changes, but the majority of students stay in the same class all year. I just have to make a few deletions and additions, but most of the work is already done and I don't have to be in a panic or work late.

11. Color code anything you can. Each of my classes has login cards of a different color. They put them in a matching basket on the way out of class. Cards in the wrong basket are easy to spot.

When I had to assign cafeteria seating on occasion, instead of putting all seating charts on white cards, I put them on a variety of colored card stock pages. Instead of kids on our team milling around trying to find their names on one of 10 identical white cards, they looked for the color card they knew their name was on. They told me they liked knowing all they had to do was find the red card to know where they had to sit. Nobody likes feeling lost.

12. Assign them a seat as they walk in the first day. It doesn't have to be permanent. Some kids will treat others like Forrest Gump on the school bus. It's kinder to the shy kids to give them a place the jerks can't try to take away from them. "Give them a home" and they'll be less frightened in a new place. Plus, they can blame it on the teacher when another kid tries to make them move. :)

13. Keep your own supplies. Don't be that person always asking other broke teachers to give you their supplies when you had the same amount of supply money they did and you spent yours on something pointless. Remember the fable about the grasshopper and the ant? Not everyone is willing to take care of an irresponsible adult. I help. I just don't like being used.

14. Mark your stuff. Some people conveniently "forget" that you let them borrow a box of nice new tools and "accidentally" try to return a box of broken tools instead. (For marking scissors - Close the blades of scissors before you spray paint them a flaming neon color.) Spray paint stays on a lot longer than marker writing. This is an idea I got from someone whose shop tools were always borrowed and "mixed up" with the crummy ones the borrower owned. Like someone who borrows your Lexus and tries to return a Honda in its place, because they can't tell the difference. Lol

15. If you're going to buy awesome (and expensive) colored / patterned file folders, laminate them! Use a wet- erase marker to do all of your writing on them and they are reusable. Ta da! Clean with a damp paper towel. ... You do know that you can reuse your file folders year after year, right? :) It wasn't automatic knowledge to me when I started teaching. It's okay, you can laugh.

If you can't find fancy file folders (say that three times fast!) you can make your own with pretty scrapbook papers, paint, stickers, and punched shapes. Just laminate when you're finished to make them last. (Don't laminate with a Xyron though... Nothing sticks to that laminate, and the surface makes any marker ink bead up rather greasily. I do love my Xyron though, don't get me wrong!)

16. If students write you sweet notes & cards and things, scan or photograph them carefully, upload them to Shutterfly, and make yourself a book. There will be days when you need to look through it, and though you can't practically keep all things kids will give you, you'll regret it if you don't. :)

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