This post originally appeared on the blog Buzzing with Ms. B.
I’m not embarrassed to say that one of the main reasons teaching first piqued my interest was the office supplies.
I remember sitting in Ms. Tricoli’s 4th grade classroom, reading the little note she wrote to me on a post-it: “Cute story! Keep writing!” The post-it was shaped like a smiley face. A smiley face, people! At that moment, I thought, “If teaching means I can have smiley-face post-its, then a teacher I shall be.”
I know. I was so cool.
Want to be as cool as me? Get organized!
In the last three years, I have really cultivated my must-have supplies for instructional coaching. I will start with the two most important pieces. If I were to lose either of these tools, I would basically have to quit.
#1 Must-Have: A Week-at-a-Glance Calendar
You MUST be able to see a week-at-a-glance. I don’t know how people look at their little phone screens to see what they have to do that day. That doesn’t work for me. A dot on a calendar day doesn’t mean anything to me. I need to see, written out in my messy handwriting, exactly what it is that I need to do that day, and the days before and after.
In my calendar, I schedule everything. Meetings, trainings, observations, visits, time to work on resources and assessments, time to create bulletin boards and discuss ideas with collaborators.
Taped into the back of the calendar, so it opens outward, is my school’s schedule. Our teachers in each grade align their schedules, so every year, I make this handy overview that shows what each grade is doing at each time.
It’s not a big deal if I walk in to a room, thinking it’s time for writing and see that they’re still finishing up math. I do not worry about that because I was in the classroom. I know how the world works! But if I really want to see how a certain reading lesson is going, I should at least have an idea of when to visit the classroom. That’s where I use my schedule. I’ve highlighted all the parts that relate to literacy, and I reference my schedule when planning classroom visits.
Must-Have #2: All-in-one Notebook
Only have one notebook. Seriously, if you have a million little post-it notes stuck on your computer and your bag and your binder, and then you sit down to figure out what you have to accomplish that day, you will not be able to do it. If you stuff your meeting notes in one folder and your grade level meetings in another, and your training notes in another notebook, you’re going to drive yourself batty (and never, ever look at them).
I invest in one notebook per year, and everything goes in there. Lists of things to do, notes from trainings and meetings, the planning I do for workshops on my campus, titles of books I need to read. I also write thoughts, reflections, or ideas about how things are going. I date everything. Every so often, I scan through the last chunk of notes to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything.
If you write something on a post-it, stick it in there! It’s all-inclusive.
I choose my notebook carefully. It must be bendable (don’t like hard covers), have lines, and the pages must be thick enough so that I can write on both sides. It also needs to be hand- and purse-sized, because I carry it everywhere. In the hall, you will find me with my notebook, calendar, and a pen, at all times. The few times I’ve left it in my room, I’ve regretted it! Here are my new notebook and calendar for next year. Can you tell I’m excited?
Must-Have #3 Grade Level Binder System
I work with all grade levels, and each grade level has their own special stuff. I have a series of binders, one for each level, and in them I include the following documents:
*State standards for that grade level
*District planning documents, including our instructional calendar, etc.
*The released state tests for that grade level, with answer keys
*Questioning that is appropriate to that grade, based on the standards
*Last year’s lesson plans (a nice reference when we’re trying to remember what we’ve done in the past)
*This year’s lesson plans, in order from most recent to the beginning of the year (I stopped doing this when we went all-digital and shared them via Google Drive)
I keep all of these binders together, on one shelf, along with curriculum and resources we use most frequently for planning and training. The resources we plan with most frequently go into a basket with the grade level labeled.
Must-Have #4 Teacher Data Binder
At any point in the year, any teacher can ask me for a copy of something they gave me six months ago. Or my principal might ask for meeting notes from a meeting that happened a while back. I might get a district request for some information on trainings I’ve provided.
In order to stay on top of my documentation and lists, I have one binder where most of my teacher documentation goes. I organize the binder with large plastic grade level pockets, and behind each grade level pocket are dividers from each teacher in that grade level. I also have a special divider for Special Education teachers. In this binder, I keep copies of…
*Notes from guided reading conferences and binder reviews (beginning, middle, and end of year)
*Data from our district reading assessments, beginning, middle and end of year
*Guided reading levels by month – as teachers turn in the new month (it’s a cumulative table with all months on there), I throw away the old one.
*Anything else my principal gives me and asks me to hold on to for any reason!
I have a roster of teacher names (just like I did in the classroom) and I mark off who’s turned in what, so I know who to email and request from. When I’m being really organized, I write the date that the document was handed in rather than just a check mark…but I’m still working on that.
Must-Have #5 Hanging File Folder Crate
I visit classrooms a lot. Of course, I wish I visited them more often (the day is too short) because I love to see what’s going on there! But I try to visit them as often as possible, and when I go, I write teachers a little note. I have a pad that our print shop made with a carbon copy of each page. I write the notes on the top copy and tear it off to give to the teacher.
The carbon copy I put into my hanging file folder crate. The hanging file folders are organized by grade level, and inside each grade level, I have plain file folders with the teachers’ names on them. As I go visit the classrooms, I write up my notes, give the teachers a copy and then save a copy in the folder.
This is important, because my district requires that my productivity be audited. They could, at any time, as to see evidence of how I support teachers in the classroom, and I like to have as many different types of evidence as possible!
Must-Have #6 Teacher Documentation Turn-In Basket
This one is a no-brainer. You know how you wanted your students to have a consistent turn-in process? Well, I need the same thing from my teachers. I have a basket labeled, “Teacher Documentation.” Obviously, whenever teachers turn anything in to me (this includes DRA, WRAP, guided reading levels, end of year data, etc.), they put it in this basket. Then I go through it, maybe once a week, and file everything and mark it off on my roster.
These are six systems that have really helped me maintain organization while being inundated with tons of documents, all the time. I know where things are and I can find them easily.
Do you use any systems like these?
Read more about staying on top of things as an instructional coach in my ebook, The Start-Up Guide to Instructional Coaching! It’s over 80 pages of information to help you start making a real difference on your campus.
Are you getting yourself organized as an Instructional Coach, or looking for some forms to help you keep documentation? Check out my Instructional Coaching MegaPack on TpT! It’s full of 140 pages of fillable/editable forms, printable documents, planning and organizational tools, and more!
Chrissy Beltran is an elementary school instructional coach who spends her school days working with teachers to engage their students in quality reading and writing experiences, and her evenings creating resources to support teachers in planning and delivering exciting lessons! She also makes time for a handful of hobbies: reading, gardening, walking the dogs, and teasing her husband. Check out Chrissy’s TpT store, blog, Facebook, and Instagram for more teaching and coaching ideas (with an occasional side of sass).