Teacher Bindrs and Organization Header Photo

One of the first things you’ll need to do as a new teacher is set up all of your teacher-related binders, or whatever system you choose to use for all of your important information.  Personally, I like 3-ring binders, but if you prefer to use a filing cabinet or something else, that can obviously work, too.

In this post, I’ll explain how I organize all of my lesson plans, student info and data, parent communication, meetings and professional development, and a whole bunch of other crap you’ll have to keep track of throughout the year.  I’m also including the designs I’ve come up with for my stuff, which you can feel free to use for your own purposes.  So, FREEBIES!  🙂

At my school, we are supposed to keep a “Teacher Tools” binder that includes several sections, including lesson plans, student data, meetings and trainings, and a few other things.  Now, if I were to put ALLLLL of that stuff in this one binder, that thing would have to be 4 or 5 inches thick.  So, I asked my administrators if I could have separate, smaller binders for some of this stuff, and they were totally cool with it.  If your school or team has a system in place that doesn’t work great for you, don’t be afraid to ask if you can make adjustments.  You want to use organizational tools that help YOU be a productive teacher.

Here’s a breakdown of the different Binders I keep:

– Teacher Master Notebook

– Student Data

– Student/Parent Contact Log (including Student Interventions)

– Meetings and Professional Development

– Substitute Binder

Teacher Master Notebook

Master Notebook Cover - No School Name

This is probably the most important and most-used of all of my teacher supplies/tools.  Everything that I may need on a daily or regular basis, I keep in this one notebook so that I only have to carry one thing home and back every night.  In this notebook, I have the following sections:

Calendar/Planner – I have a separate planner that I use, but if you don’t want to carry around something extra, you can just keep calendar pages at the front of your Master Notebook.  I’ve been using Blue Sky planners for years and love them.  I like the full-size one, with a monthly layout, so that I can map out my lessons and still have room to keep track of my meetings and conferences, too.  I also used to have a smaller version that I would carry in my purse for personal use, but cross-referencing the two became more of a chore than anything, so now I just use the one.


General Information – Stuff like the District School Calendar, the school Bell Schedule, school-wide policies like Dress Code and Tardies, emergency procedures, and other pertinent information.


Lessons/Plans – This is my most-used and most-referenced section, and this is what our administrators or the District will be looking for if/when they come in to my classroom for an observation.  My current day’s lesson plan is supposed to be open on my desk at all times.  This is to ensure that I’m sticking to my lesson and that I know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing that day.  I actually do reference my lesson plans fairly frequently, so this is a mandate that I don’t really mind, but I can totally see why some more experienced teachers find this to be a hassle.

Anyway.  The first page in this section is my Order of Instruction, which is basically a list of all of my units/topics divided in to the four quarters.  Next, I have the World History Blueprint, which is a detailed layout provided by the District that includes all of the standards for each unit, relevant vocabulary, sample essential questions and activities, and even some online references like videos and Web Quests.  This is extremely useful for new teachers, and I hope that your District or County has something similar in place.  It is so easy for me to lesson plan using this Blueprint as a reference, but it is also just a starting point that I can tweak to my liking.

Example Pages of my District World History Blueprint



Next, I have my Emergency Lesson Plans and Master Copies for each Emergency Day.  That way, as I use an Emergency Lesson and materials, I can immediately go in to my notebook, pull the master copies, and replace the materials for future use.  Right now, I have plans for 3 Emergency Days, though I will probably add a couple more for next year. I’ll have another post that will deal directly with Emergency Lessons and my Substitute Binder.

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Finally, I have my current unit’s Lesson Plans and Master Copies for each day.  A small/short unit can have as little as one or two days worth of lesson plans, while a larger unit (like World War One or World War Two) can have 2-3 weeks worth of lesson plans.  When I start a new unit, I simply pull all of the lessons and papers from the previous unit, paper clip them all together, and file them in my desk drawer with the rest of my lesson plans.  At the beginning of second semester, I move my first semester lesson plans to a filing cabinet in my storage closet.

Even if I don’t get to use an activity or worksheet (for lack of time, or because I found something better, or whatever), I still keep it filed with the appropriate lessons, because I may have time to use it next year.  If I need to make last-minute changes to my lessons (like if I change the Bellwork the day of, or if I end up not having time for an activity), I just write it down in pencil, so that when I’m referencing these plans next year, I’ll remember to make the necessary changes when I’m planning and can edit my electronic copies, which get uploaded to my assessing administrator.

So, only three main sections in my Master Notebook.  Because I have about 150 students, there is no way I can keep any kind of student information or data in this notebook.  For Elementary, on the other hand, it would be very possible to have that kind of basic student info in this notebook, as well.

Tales of a Teacherista and Schoolgirl Style have some FABULOUS design themes and binder covers.  I used the pink and green cover on this page for all of my notebooks this past year, and modified the design to my liking.  Here are my specific covers, which you can feel free to nab and edit, or you can buy the whole design theme at Teacherista’s Teachers Pay Teachers page, which includes matching dividers, spine label, calendar pages, and a ton more awesome stuff.

Tales of a Teacherista Binder Cover

Tales of a Teacherista Binder Cover

Master Notebook Cover - No School Name Master-Notebook---Page-Dividers-1

I don’t have a link to the original post, but I modified the pink and green Divider Tabs/Labels from an original by Ladybug’s Teacher Files.  You can also use this post by Orange Polka Dots to learn how to print on colored Post-Its, so you don’t have to waste all that color ink.


 Grading and Data - No School Name     Meetings and Notes - No School Name

And here’s a cover I made, but didn’t end up using:


Stay tuned for Part 2 to read about my Student Data and Student/Parent Contact Log Binders.


Everyone loves Before & After Pictures, right?  So, here we go!

These pictures are just what my room looked like at the very beginning of the year.  At the end of this post, I’ll post some pictures of what my room eventually evolved into throughout the year.

Before-After-1     Before-After-2


And now for some details.

My Desk Area



This table below is to the right of my desk, and where I keep my Master Notebook.


The Student Center

The Studnt Center is located right at the entrance of the classroom, to the left of my door.


The clipboard hanging on the wall is what my school uses for Hall Passes.  At the beginning of the year, I kept generic school information on here, but this later became my Data Wall, where I would post student grades anonymously, using their Student IDs.


The green flower was used as decor at a little boutique I used to work at and that went out of business.   I designed the letters myself using this template, which you can feel free to grab and edit to your liking:


Here are my inboxes for each period.  In addition to the bins, I also use decorative folders.  They help keep the papers more tidy and organized, and I can just grab a class folder and take it to my desk.  This is also where our shared classroom supplies live — tape, stapler, and 3-hole punch.  I also keep the tissues and hand sanitizer here (high schoolers actually use A LOT of hand sanitizer and tissues, so don’t be afraid to put those things on your Materials List at the bgeinning of the year, or even offer Extra Credit for kids who bring stuff like that in), as well as where I collect Bathroom Passes.



These are my two Student Notebooks, which the students have access to at all times.

The first one is the “Make-Up Work Notebook,” which students consult when they are absent.  For each week, I type up a page of everything we did on each day, including Bellwork and any notes or activities we did. I also list what materials they need to either get from me, or copy from a friend.  The actual worksheets and assignemtns are in the “Absent Bin,” which is also labeled by day.

The second one is the “Extra Creit Notebook,” which holds several Extra Credit opportunities and assignments, so that students can choose the assignment that best suits them.  I offer Extra Credit all year, but students can only get a certain amount of Extra Credit points per quarter, and they are excluded from Extra Credit opportunities if they have too many missing assignments or homework, and if they have too many behavior warnings and issues.

IMG_6818    IMG_6819

Here are my covers, which again, you can feel free to grab and edit.  The original can be found here, at Living, Laughing, and Loving.

Make-Up-Work---Cover    Extra-Credit---Cover

And the original:

Originally from Living, Laughing, Loving

Originally from Living, Laughing, Loving

Aaaaand, here is the Student Center later in the year, with a dry-erase calendar and Student Data:

2012-12-21 14.27.47

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The week before I started teaching was cah-razy — I had less than a week before pre-planning.  The first thing I did was immediately drive the three hours back home to my mom’s house to steal all of her relevant school supplies that I thought I could use.

My dear mother has been teaching elementary school for 35 years, and had just retired a mere couple months earlier.  Miss Sammie, my twin sister, and I had driven down to help her clear our her classroom, and put aside anything we thought might be useful in a middle or high school Social Studies class.  Luckily, she happened to have tons of history-related posters and even more generic school supplies, as well as some cute classroom decor.  I grabbed everything I thought I would need for the first couple of weeks, as well as some elementary-related things for my roommate, and headed straight back to Orlando.

I was hired with enough time to attend the generic orientation at the district office (finger-printing, paper work, insurance, etc), but it was too late to attend the 3-day new teacher orientation.  So, throughout the course of my first year, on top of everything else I had to worry about, I was also required to attend 3 or 4 “mini-sessions” to replace the new-teacher orientation.  I didn’t mind at all, though, because I am a total school/knowledge nerd, so I sign up for every training that I possibly can anyway.

My mother followed us back to Orlando a couple days later to help me and my roommate get our classrooms set up, and since Miss Sammie hadn’t applied for a job yet, she helped out a lot, as well.  And really, without the extra help, it would have been almost impossible to get everything done on time.  A bulk of pre-planning time is devoted to faculty meetings, new teacher meetings, department meetings, and faculty lunches or other activites.  On each day, I really only had a couple hours to do actual work in my classroom.  So, while I was at meetings, my mother and Miss Sammie started setting up my room.

Not only did I have the other new teachers to bond with and hang out with this first week, but my Social Studies and World History PLC (Professional Learning Community) were also invaluable to me those first couple weeks.  I always had someone to sit with at meetings, we went to lunch together a couple of times, and I got to pick their brains about first day and first week stuff almost immediately.

Here’s a preview of what my classroom looked like when I got it:



Stay tuned for my post about how I eventually ended up setting my room.

Okay, so here’s how I got my first job and how I dealt with the stress/anxiety/craziness.

I got my Master’s Degree in May 2012, and started applying for teaching jobs even before that.  I easily applied for probably about 50 jobs just in Orange County (Florida), and only got three call backs.  My roommate, who was getting her Elementary Education Master’s degree at the time, was also applying for jobs and having similar bad luck.  And this is with a Master’s Degree!  Ridiculous.

First Attempt:

My first interview was for a high school in a rougher part of town.  I live in a major metropolitan area, so there are definitely parts of the city that are less than savory.  The school itself had just been rebuilt, but as I was driving to the interview, I was certainly getting nervous about the surrounding area.  Like, I was not feeling safe.

I actually used to live near this area at one point, and it was the worst area I’ve ever lived in.  I would not go out to the store or to the gas station by myself if it was dark out.  There were regular reports of shootings and stabbings in the area.  Overall, it was not good.

So, when I arrive at the school itself, it is beautiful and I’m actually sort of excited to have the opportunity to teach somewhere where I’ll be “most needed.”  As a new teacher, I knew the probability of me getting hired at a “rougher” school was pretty high, and I looked at it as though it was sort of my duty, or just dues I would have to pay as a new teacher.

This principal, though.  Oh, this principal.  First of all, she looked like she was out of a 90s rock music video.  Bedazzled jeans and giant belt, high black boots, hair frizzed out to there.  Apparently, she was a new principle, and she had a very specific view of who she wanted to hire.  She went on to pretty much scare the crap out of me about working there — talking about how police and security have to regularly use tazers to break up fights, and how students are forced to the ground and arrested from campus on a daily basis.  Then, she basically admitted that she was looking for a bulky, male teacher.  That she didn’t think I looked like I could handle it.

Well, after that description, I wasn’t so sure myself.  In fact, my boyfriend forbid me from taking the job, even if they offered it to me.  He would rather work an extra job than have me working at that school.

Looking back, I’m even more annoyed by this experience, because I have since met a teacher who used to work there.  According to her, the kids were really great and she said she wouldn’t consider it any “worse” than the school we currently teach out.

Obviously, I did not get hired.

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Miss Cordy: cordyjay@gmail.com
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Since: Summer 2013
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