My filing cabinet is a mess! I don't even know where to get started! I have TONS of things I have saved from magazines, printed out, etc. It is such a mess that I don't know where to put things. So. . . I've just been kinda piling them in! It is really bad! I am going to do a purge and file after school this week and maybe into the weekend.
But my question: Where do I start? Last year I tried to organize things into where it went in the curriculum- for example, worksheets that went with unit 3, lesson 2 in math. We have new curriculum this year though!
How do you organize papers?
And what do you do about papers that you will need/ might need in a week or two and then probably never again?
and I have four file cabinets!!! This summer, I decided to do something about it. In one file cabinet, I have one drawer for each of the core subjects. In another file cabinet, I have one drawer for schoolwide things such as the discipline plan, school improvement, preassessment, fund raising, NCLB, etc. Another drawer is for grade level matters. The third and fourth drawer contains file folder games and center activities put in order of use, separated by quarters. I use the other two file cabinets for guided reading materials.
My filing system isn't perfect, but I can find what I need quickly. Unfortunately, like you, I sometimes pile stuff, so I try to devote one lunch or planning break per week to catching up my filing.
Instead of one file per core subject, since you have so many articles and print offs saved, you might prefer several files per subject. For example, not just a file for "math" but a file labelled math; addition, math; subtraction, math;geometry, math;fractions, math;telling time....you see what I mean? Because they all have "math" listed first, they'll be together in the drawer but now you'll have a file for each item you've saved.
Since we use a basal reader, so I have a color coded file for each story in the series, so I know where to put things that go with each story. The files are the same color as the cover of the reader, and they are numbered which makes them easy to put back. (ie, this week I'm on the fourth story in the red reader, so my stuff is in the red file #4. I have a separate file for stuff we study in phonics, say, long vowels, and vocab practice.
I also have a large file for each month of the year, so if I find things that go with Thanksgiving or New Years I know where to put them. Hanging files don't slide down and disappear, but the stuff in them tends to curl up, so I still use the old fashioned paper ones. Each summer I go thru all the files and trim them down to keep only the best stuff.
I also have one file per child, in a separate portable file box, to store their tests, work samples etc. Tucked in the back of that box is one file labelled "articles to reread" and one labelled "ideas for next time". I find its easiest to keep items I'll need soon, like notes from staff meetings, schedules, surveys, etc in a binder so I can grab it on my way out the door.
I keep a huge collection of manila file folders. When I get something new, I label the folder, drop the item in, and put it in the back of my filing cabinet. I find purging to be a very cleansing and lightening experience. It feels so good to throw mass quantities of files in the trash! I tend to do this when I change rooms, subjects, or get new curriculum, so it isn't often. It feels so good though! I advise the hefty bag approach. What you toss you honestly won't miss. New stuff is always coming in doncha know!
With stuff like memos, I keep a place to put them if I can't toss them immediately. I throw these memos away during post planning.
I read some great advice that helps some. Keep a pen in your mailbox at school. When you receive something that needs your signature and then returned to the recipient, initial it immediately after taking it from your box, and put it in his/her box right then. This way, the item doesn't get lost on your desk.
I'm a color-code freak. i color code EVERYTHING! I have 2 file cabinets. One is divided by subject in each drawer-math, reading, lang. arts, social studies/science in one drawer, art and seasonal in one. Within each drawer, I have color coded file pockets for every skill. For example, in math I have one for place value, one for even/odd, greater/less than, add. facts, sub. facts, telling time, etc. Same for lang. arts and so on. In the reading drawer I also have a file for each read-aloud book I use. I like the file pockets, because I can drop anything in there without fear of it falling out and getting lost. The other file cabinet houses my folder games and activities for each subject. Those drawers are coded exactly like the other file cabinet, divided by skill--all the place value games, even/odd games, etc. I took it one step further and divided them into one person games and games for 2 or more.
Then in a moment of insanity last spring I began a new system that I continue to work on now. I purchased 1-inch binders and 5-tab dividers for each week of the school year. I labeled the dividers for the subject areas I teach. Then I am putting a copy of each activity, parent letter, idea, etc. in the notebook in the appropriate section so that in the future, rather than fumbling through all my master files for what I need for next week, it will already be there, ready for the copier. I can change out the papers in the notebooks as need be, but I won't always have to fish through the entire file every single time.
Files about school matters are kept in my bottom desk drawer. I also have two management notebooks. In them I have many dividers. I include sections for schedules, class list, seating chart, sub info, parent contact sheets, etc. It's handy all in one place at my desk.
I have learned (in my classroom at least) to be RUTHLESS. If something looks interesting, I put it in a file for a couple weeks. If, after a couple weeks, I haven't done anything about it, I TOSS it. I don't care how fabulous it sounds, there are always fabulous ideas out there and I won't miss one that wasn't fabulous enough to capture my attention to actually do something about it right away.
I don't print out anything from the Internet. I save it in a word doc and file it on my computer. SOO much easier, and easier to search - I can just type "file contains 'dinosaur'" into the search function and find everything related to dinosaurs.
The stuff I create gets filed on my computer (and backed up) and I DO NOT keep a paper copy. I'm willing to re-print it to keep from having masses of paper files.
What I will need in a week or two goes in a binder labeled "Stuff I will Need Next Week or the One After That" (seriously, that's its name )
What I will need that week gets photocopied and put in a binder labeled with the day of the week.
Everything else I keep one copy of and organized by subject. I haven't been a teacher long enough to have accumulated masses of stuff, but the teacher I replaced had TONS of papers that I'm sure she never used. It just got in the way. I threw away *several* big garbage bags of useless papers.
Personally I'd rather throw away something I might need than keep everything and not be able to easily access the stuff I do need. Almost everything is easily found via google if I ever do discover that I do need that stuff I tossed. (but like I said I need to practice what I preach at home. )