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Sneak Peek: Teaching Advice from the Trenches

Roxanna Elden was sick and tired of "too perfect" teaching manuals that didn't relate to her nightmarish first year in the classroom, so she decided to add her sharp wit and realistic, practical advice from fellow educators to make her own. 

Her book See Me After Class has “sarcastic humor mixed with gentle, tangible advice…. a quick and easy read by someone who doesn’t take herself too seriously. I wish I could give every teacher I supervise a copy of this book.” (Abena Osei, program director for Breakthrough Collaborative)

Roxanna and Kaplan publishing were kind enough to give us a sneak peak inside See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers By Teachers.

Advice for New TeachersI've been to one workshop on classroom organization. I signed up when I realized I would not be successful using my former system, which was cramming all paperwork into one big folder to separate into piles at home.

The main thing I learned at the workshop was that some people really enjoy organizing things, and anyone who gives training sessions on how to stay organized is way out of my league. From what I remember, the presentation sounded something like this:

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Since your class will already be divided into teams, each team should have a separate color. Whenever you ask students to do something, give five points to the first team to finish, four to the second team, and so on, until everyone is following directions. Be sure to use color-coded chalk to mark down the points. At the end of the day, all you have to do is write down how many points each team has earned in the children’s folders.

Then keep track of those points during the week. On Fridays you add up the total points for the year on a chart. . . . I like to have a hanging file folder for each student and a computerized list with each child’s basic information, plus home language, since I speak three languages, and also their birth order. In fact, I recommend you keep a book about birth orders behind your desk in your “Child Psychology Book” file . . . . When you color-code your . . . bla, bla, bla . . . you probably already have index cards with all the information about . . . . And if you don’t have extra copies of . . . . It would just be irresponsible not to be able to show parents that you have everything dated and typed when you . . . . Sometimes you will want to organize your data by student ID, but other times you will want to arrange things by last names . . . . It is best to have a different colored file for each . . . bla bla bla . . . spreadsheet . . . bla bla bla . . . laminate . . . bla bla bla . . . plastic sheet protectors . . . just to make your life easier.

I slumped farther down in my chair every time I heard the words "color-coded," or "of course you have already." By the end of the presentation, only my neck and shoulders were touching the seat. I was no more organized, but I was fully convinced I had no business being a teacher -or maybe even alive- at my current organizational level.

The only thing that made me feel better was that the presenter forgot to give out the required evaluation at the end of the session. This meant that:

1. she had to track down everyone to send us evaluation forms, and

2. maybe her organization system wasn’t so perfect after all.

I never did start using plastic sheet protectors, but over time my “Things to Do Soon” folder evolved into a decent filing system. I am proud to announce my desk no longer looks like I am building a fort. However, if someone had given me the following lists before my first year, I would have saved many trips to Office Depot. These lists are not perfect, but they’ll give you a starting point you can adjust to fit your needs. You can color-code them if you want to.

For the complete list of files and honest, practical advice from teachers around the country, check out the book See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers.  

What are your teaching file tips? Share in the comments section!

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