Sunday, September 30, 2012

Paper Load Overload (Organization Tips)

One of the most agonizing aspects of teaching is the insurmountable load of paperwork. As most of you know, I teach high school English, everyone's favorite subject, of course. With this subject comes a lot of paperwork. Though I'm still navigating and mastering the size of my paper stacks, I have some tips that might help some of you out there.

Please feel free to comment with some of your paperwork-managing tips.

1. If When you are grading on the weekend and have chores to complete, play a game with yourself.
          Here's what I do:

  • I throw a load of clothes into the washer
  • Set a timer on my phone
  • Grade papers until the timer buzzes
  • Throw that load of clothes into the dryer
  • Throw another load of clothes into the washer
  • Repeat. 
     I graded six stacks of papers with this method. Why did I even bother, you ask? Well, if you're anything like I am, then you will find everything to do other than grade papers. (I've cleaned out several shelves of the pantry and fridge as a result of this problem.) The hardest part of grading (for me) is getting started. If I know I need to work for only 45 minutes at a time, then I can trick myself into doing the work. Sad but true.

     2. Put all similar assignments into separate file folders (ex: group vocabulary tests into one folder,
      timed writings into another folder, and Macbeth tests into another folder).

     3. On the front of the folders, write some/all of the following on a post-it note: what the assignment
      is, how will you grade it (completion, diagnostic to inform the following week's lessons, accuracy),
      and how many points it's worth.

4. As you grade papers, keep a stack of post-it notes handy. When you notice a trend emerge (misplaced modifiers, same incorrect question, etc.), write it on your post-it note. If you have any tips for teaching this skill, write those down, too. If a certain student concerns you, make note of that, too. You think you'll remember, but you know you won't. When you finish grading all of the papers in a particular folder, put all of your post-it notes on the front of the folder.  

     5. When you plan your lessons (whatever your method is), make notes to yourself about which 
     assignments you'll collect throughout the week. Do not just make plans for what the kids will do, 
     remember to make plans for what you will grade and how you will grade it all. 
  • Do NOT grade everything for accuracy; that amount of paperwork is simply too massive. 
  • Grade some things while students complete their warm-ups (big part of the reason I have warm-up assignments) so that you do not take home anything.
  • Grade other things while students take a test. 
  • Some days, at the same time, I check that students completed the previous night's homework and that they're currently working on the warm-up activity. Two birds, one stone.  

         I think that we teachers get so caught up in the day-to-day planning that we do not realize how
        much paperwork we create for ourselves. Our students will survive if we do not grade everything 
        for accuracy, if we do not collect everything (at least in high school). Sometimes, all a student
        really needs to improve is doing the assignment; the grade oftentimes is not the important part of
        the learning process. Sometimes it's about the journey, not the destination, right?

     6. So, do yourself a favor: make a list of the types of assignments that should definitely be graded for
      accuracy so as to inform your teaching practices. Make a list of these assignments, and be sure to
      remind yourself how many times a week you can physically and logistically manage grading those
      types of assignments. This part will differ from teacher to teacher because we all take varying
      amounts of time to grade certain assignments. I know I often have to time myself when I grade so
      that I'm not spending so much time grading an assignment that my commentary is no longer

     7. Finally, and most importantly, do your best to stop guilting yourself. When you are laid up in that
     death bed, are you going to feel guilty about all of those papers you neglected to grade, or are you
     going to feel guilty about all of those people you neglected because you were grading papers that
     just had to be graded by the next day? I know what people who do not teach say about teachers, and
     you know what? I stopped listening to them. I bust my ass If my best is not good
     enough for someone else, then so be it. I'd like to see them do what I do. Everyone who isn't
     in education presumes they know what's best for education. Just because you were once a student
     does not mean you are an expert at teaching students. Just because you once had a cold does not
     mean you are an expert at curing people of colds.

     I hope some of these tips help you. I'll be sure to provide some more.

     If you have any negative or snarky comments to post, please exercise some self control, put a filter
    on your fingers, and keep that negativity in the bubble above your head. Not everything you think is
    worthy of being shared with the general populace. I have zero tolerance for bullies in my classroom,  
    and I have zero tolerance for bullies on my blog.  If you have more helpful  tips to add, please feel
    free to share those. Thanks :)


  1. KICK @$$ ADVICE! Even as an event planner, these tips are helpful. And I think I just fell in LOVE with the post-it idea! A lot of the time it isn't "grading papers" for us; it's educating our clients on the process and why certain decisions are better than others. Clients get so caught up in the budgeting or timeline that they forget to enjoy the process! Keeping tabs on what areas to expand on is very very clever! Great post!!!

  2. I'm glad that the advice works somewhere other than the teaching profession! Post-it notes are our friends :)


Feel free to throw some witticisms my way.