If you are like most teachers, piles of papers and stacks of notebooks waiting to be graded are prominent features on your desk’s surface. No matter how many times you clear the space off, or what your intentions are at the beginning of the year to keep the desk clean, it just does not seem to work out. So, how can you take control of your desk and make it a space that works for you, instead of a space that creates more work for you? Try some of the quick tips and tricks below to get you started.
A Place for Everything
One of the keys to organizing any space is to give each item a place of its own. This is important, because it creates order and organization immediately. Take that organization a bit further and label each spot with the name of the item that belongs there. For example, if you are using a desktop organizer, label each section to indicate where scissors, pens, pencils, markers, staples and paper clips go. When you are tempted to put the scissors on the desk surface, instead of back in their container, you may find that you have a harder time contributing to the creation of disorganization.
If there is one single item that contributes to the disorganization of a teacher’s desk, it most certainly would be paper. From worksheets to extra papers to notes home, the piles can be never ending. Once you get the upper hand on paperwork, you will find that your desk no longer looks like it has been buried in an avalanche of white papers. Instead of having students place papers on your desk, create a separate area, whether it be a pocket chart on the front of your desk, or paper stacking trays on the shelf behind, where students can place their work. Be sure to label where everything goes and let students know exactly what is expected of them when they turn papers in. If you prefer to check papers by child, as opposed to subject, assign each child a folder in a hanging file folder bin with his or her name on it, and have them file their finished work that way. If grading by subject is easier for you, create folders with the subjects and ask students to put finished work away there. Even if your students cannot read, you can use stickers or symbols to indicate subjects. Once papers have a home away from your desk, you will find that keeping the desktop clean is much easier.
What’s the simplest way to control your desk clutter? Get rid of the desk. If the teachers’ desk in your room is large and taking up valuable floor and learning space, get rid of it. Instead, use a small group table to grade papers, hold conferences and talk individually with students. Good teachers know that their time is rarely spent sitting at their desks anyway, so why not clear out the clutter and remove it from the room. Use bookshelves to store binders, tabletop bins to organize papers and supplies, and store larger supplies in closets. You may find that not having a teacher’s desk is one of the most freeing experiences, as it opens up learning space and helps you take charge of desk clutter.
Cleaning your desk, and keeping it clean, is just as much a change of mindset as it is about behavior. Making the conscious effort to put things where they need to be takes effort. Choose to make your classroom a space that is comfortable for both you and your students. Taking the time to create a clutter-free space is a crucial step in that process.