Organizing files as a teacher is incredibly important for classroom management, student organization, and sanity.
My fifth year of teaching, I logged into my work computer, first thing in the morning, as I had done for five years.
(I promise the ‘five years’ thing is significant.)
Except that I couldn’t log on. Nothing was happening. I called the IT guy. When he entered my room, I went out to talk to another coworker while he worked his magic.
A few minutes later: “It’s fried.” I didn’t even notice him standing beside me.
“You can’t turn it on? Get the files?”
He laughed. “I’ll get you a new one.” He walked out with my old tower, and five years worth of my work trapped in metal.
Sure I had some files saved elsewhere, and I had paper copies of most of it.
Still. Five years worth of creating activities, tests, lesson plans… gone.
I was stupid. My lackadaisical attitude toward a worthwhile teacher filing system cost me hours of work. I had to recreate activities and products because the paper copies were not sufficient. I had to make tiny alterations in student assignments for them to be compliant with certain IEPs. What should have taken me a few minutes of opening a file turned into my retyping entire units of work. I’d never considered how to organize teacher files for preservation.
Overall, I needed a teacher filing system that fit my room, my personality, and my courses.
Organizing files is a must for teachers—especially as you gather material throughout the years. Here are some tips for how to organize teaching materials as you start to accumulate papers and digital files.
I’ll say up front, I’m pro-binder. I need that visual of a unit for planning. Plus, some papers always need printed, and they’re already printed and in my binder. Additionally, I sit down with my laptop, browser open to the standards. I read the standards, write on sticky notes, and mark what activities will help me reach standards.
Binders also allow easy organization throughout the year. For instance with American Literature, once I’m done teaching the colonial time period, I put that binder away and retrieve the revolutionary time period binder. I feel as if I have fewer binders cluttering my desk.
Storage can be a problem though. Binders are larger than folders or a stick drive (obviously), so if you have a smaller room, this could be a problem. In one classroom, I did put binders in a filing cabinet. Part of a successful teacher filing system is finding what works for your unique situation.
Folder Filing System
Some teachers are loyal to manilla folders and a filing cabinet. Folders are less bulky than binders. They also allow for you to specifically label. For example, if I had a binder for adjective activities, I could have a file folder for predicate adjectives, proper adjectives, and on.
Files allow you to work in chronological order. You can put a file you use in August in the back, chronologically moving folders forward.
I struggle to see the big picture of a unit with file folders, and I tend to lose papers from folders (normally they’re in the bottom of the filing cabinet).
However, organizing files as a teacher requires knowing what works for you!
I still save files on my hard drive. I now save files to my Cloud as well.
Every file is in at least two places: once on the hard drive, another on the Cloud. When I feel satisfied that a large chunk of material (say, a unit on Animal Farm) is done, I check that it is on the Cloud, and then delete it from the computer’s hard drive. (My hard drive gets full.)
My labeling has changed for the better too. When I go through old files, I see nonsensical names like, “AF19-27.” Years later, I have no clue what that means. Author’s last name? Animal Farm? Page numbers? A date? Now my file names make more sense.
This is for a novel unit, and each chapter has its own folder. Answer keys are labeled as such, pages are ‘a’ and ‘b.’ This makes sense to me, even if I don’t open the file for years.
When you are figuring how to organize teacher files on your computer, be sure to label them sensibly.
Finally, I complete most of my activities on Google Drive. Typed activities, worksheets, tests… they are always in one spot. At the end of the year, I rearrange files and put them in folders.
I also keep students organized using Google. I have pre-made slides, Classroom headings, and daily agendas that I share with them. Finally, I have images made for Google Forms and Google Slides. I use Google Slides to make daily check-in pages and to create digital activities.
Digital is wonderful, especially now that I’ve got a labeling and folder system that works. Still, I would never do without my paper copies. Call me old-fashioned, but I need to arrange paper. Plus, the computer crash of 2007 completely sold me on having a backup of my work.
Now when I’m organizing files as a teacher, I put them in several places. I use a combination of binders and digital. My biggest tip for new teachers? Develop a system that works for you—and that will protect your materials. Organizing files as a teacher will be part of your daily life.
Organizing files as a teacher can be stressful! How to organize teacher files? How to organize teaching materials? If you’re interested in seeing how others develop a teacher filing system, check out my Pinterest board for all ideas concerning teacher organization.