Let’s face it, the teacher’s desk can sometimes become a catchall place for everything under the sun. From homework papers and tests to school supplies and lost student belongings, the clutter can grow and spread until you begin to wonder what the surface of your desk even looks like. Despite valiant attempts at keeping it clean, the clutter often wins out since there’s always something new to add to the pile. Unfortunately, this can make your job much more difficult. If you’re always struggling to find what you need, it may cut into important instruction time in front of the class or one-on-one interactions with students.
If you are determined to take control and keep a clutter-free desk this school year, check out the seven tips and tricks below for maintaining an organized space. Whether you have a large or small teacher’s desk, you’ll find that a few adjustments to your daily routine can help you stay on track for having a neat and tidy desk all year long.
How to Keep an Organized Teacher’s Desk
Keep only the absolutely essential items on your desktop. A stapler, tape, pen and pencil organizer, file holder and other important desk and office supplies are good starting points.
Relocate the Cute
You know all of those cute teacher-themed gifts that adorn your teacher desk? It is time to relocate them to a small shelf or the top of your tall filing cabinet behind your desk. When organizing the desktop, those “cutesy” items must find a new space to live. It’s great to keep them around to help inspire you and show students that you appreciate their gifts, but restricting your desk to only work-related items is critical to avoiding clutter.
One of the keys to keeping a space organized, whether it is the entire classroom or the teacher’s desk, is to have the right containers and organizers for what you need to store. For the teacher’s desk, an organizer that has room for pencils and pens, file folders and essentials makes it a lot easier to keep things tidy throughout the day. Determine what you need to have on your desk and then find an appropriate organizer for the desktop.
Everything In Its Place
You have pared down the items on the desk and, hopefully, found an organizer that has the necessary spaces for your needs. It is now time to put everything in its place and label it. Why is it so important to label? Well, it not only makes it easier for substitutes to find things and put them back where they belong, but it makes you more accountable for putting things back where they need to be.
Decide on a dedicated spot for each of these items and stick to it. For items that students might borrow, like the stapler, place a label on the desk so it always gets put back in the correct spot. If the organizer cup is labeled for scissors, you are much less likely to drop a pen or pencil in the cup compared to if it is not labeled. Try it. You will be surprised at the way a simple label can change the way you keep things organized. Check out these organizers for ideas.
Say No to Paper Clutter
One of the biggest clutter culprits in the classroom is, by far, papers. Papers to grade, papers to be returned, papers to be filed and so on. The most logical place for them is usually the teacher’s desk. This year, change that system around and have clearly labeled paper baskets located on a separate desk or on the shelf behind the teacher’s desk. “To Be Graded”, “To Be Returned”, “To Be Filed”, and “Mail” are four good starting points. The baskets allow you to organize the paper clutter in a way that is not overwhelming. Once a day, dedicate 10 minutes to filing, sorting your mail and either packing up the papers that need to be graded at home or grading them on the spot. Have a classroom helper assigned to the task of passing back papers that need to be returned. By getting the paper clutter off of the desk, it will make it that much easier to keep it clean.
Clean It Before You Leave It
Make a commitment to yourself that you will clean your desktop off every day before you leave the classroom. If you need to leave soon after the students leave, be vigilant during the day about keeping the surface clean. You will be amazed at how much anxiety and stress will be alleviated by simply walking into your classroom and seeing a clean, clear desk every morning.
Keep in mind that you are asking yourself to make a change in your habits during the day by committing to maintaining a clean desk. Some days will be easier than others, but the feeling of taking control of your classroom space and making it be a place that works for you will be worth the effort. Plus, you’ll model good behavior that inspires your students to keep an organized school desk in the same way. Be kind to yourself on those hectic days when your desk looks a fright at the end of the day, but be firm enough to get yourself back on track. You can do it!
What are your biggest challenges to keeping the teacher’s desk clean? What are some of the things that help you maintain a clean workspace? Share your teacher desk ideas with us!
By Brandi Jordan
This piece was originally published in 2012.