Five ways to organize for a new school years.

As educators, we start off a school year with the best of

intentions for staying organized. But by about November, we quickly find

our systems, energy and motivation starts to dwindle. By March, we

can’t even see our desk, and have about 400 e-mails in our inbox.


Implement these simple strategies to get a head start on your

organization for the new school year–before the year gets the best of


(1) PRE-PRINT LETTERS At my school I conduct a program called

“Artist of the Month,” which requires monthly paperwork. At

the beginning of the year, I pre-print and color-code a general letter

to be sent home each month for the artists and their families, along

with the certificates students receive. I file them in a folder. When

the new month comes, I simply pull the letter, fill in the blanks and

send it on home. This has helped me stay very organized throughout the


(2) CLEAR OUT E-MAIL INBOX No one talks about it, but everyone

deals with it: the dreaded e-mail inbox. We return to our desk from a

busy day of teaching, only to find 35 e-mails piled up. What’s a

teacher to do?

Make a goal for yourself to at least clear out your e-mail inbox at

the beginning of the year. Make folders in your e-mail program, and file

important messages in these categories. Delete everything else. Your

inbox should function as a ‘To Do List” so you are sure to

remember to reply to any important messages. Being a teacher is not an

excuse for neglecting to reply to e-mails!

(3) LABEL SHELVES AND DRAWERS For little ones, a picture label is a

great way for kids to assist you in putting things back where they

belong. For yourself and older kids, word labels on shelving, cubbies

and drawers will help everyone stay organized, without you having to

micromanage each and every step–they can just read the label! Make sure

your high-traffic areas and shelving are labeled before students walk in

the door this year.

(4) KEEP ONE CUPBOARD OR SHELF EMPTY This tip seems a little silly,

but I am telling you, it’s like Christmas morning when you discover

an empty space mid-year. At the beginning of the year, keep one cupboard

empty. Yep, clear it away, reorganize and put nothing on that shelf. I

guarantee it will get filled as the year goes on, and you will be glad

to have the empty space. An open area lets your room breathe, and in

turn, lets your mind breathe. What will happen if you don’t clear a

shelf?. Well, where will all the new things go?

(5) STREAMLINE RULES AND PROCEDURES Decide on the rules for your

classroom. Make them simple, stick to them, and share them with students

in a systematic way. When the expectations are clear, and everyone is on

the same page, the year is bound to go more smoothly. Classroom

management and organization go hand in hand. If the room is chaos and

the “stuff” is chaotic, it can combine to create the perfect

storm. I like to put my rules in a PowerPoint presentation, and share

the same message with all of my classes. This way, I don’t forget

anything, and the message is consistent. Organize this ahead of time,

and you will be ready for the first day of school.

Maybe you are already doing all of these things. Or maybe

you’d like to try a few of them. Incorporating a few organizational

strategies at the beginning of the year will help you get a jump on

feeling in control in your classroom. This will make for a better year

for both you and the students, who deserve the very best from you!

Welcome to a new year–and happy organizing!

Jessica Balsley is a K-5 art educator and the founder of the

website, which offers a wide range of services

designed just for art teachers.