So, how can teachers win the daily battles in this never-ending paper war?There's only way to win and that's through down and dirty organization. One of the most important ways to get organized is through a properly categorized and maintained file cabinet. Usually, a file cabinet will come with your classroom. If not, ask the custodian if he or she can find one for you through the district office. The bigger, the better, in my opinion, because you will need it.
Depending on how many files you have, you can decide the best way to label the file drawers. However, there are two major categories to consider and almost everything fits into them: Curriculum and Management. Curriculum means handouts and information that you use to teach Math, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, Holidays and any other subjects you cover with your students. Management can broadly be defined as things you use to manage your classroom and teaching career. For example, your management files might include Discipline, Professional Development, School-wide programs, Classroom Jobs, etc.
Now comes the ugly part. Hopefully, you've already been using some type of file folder system, even if they are just stacked in a corner some place. But, if not, you're going to have to sit down with all of the papers you use during teaching and go through them one by one. First of all, look for things that you can throw away. The more you can pare down to the papers you really use, the further you go towards the ultimate goal of true organization. For those papers you need to keep, start organizing them into piles or, better yet, make file folders on the spot, label them, and just put the papers right into their new homes.
Try to be really specific with the categories you use. For example, if you are organizing your Science materials, don't just make one big Science folder. Take it one step further and make one file for Oceans, Space, Plants, etc. That way, when it comes time to teach your Ocean unit, for example, you can just grab that file and have everything you need to photocopy.
Next, use hanging files to place your file folders in a logical sequence. Then, take a deep breath - you're essentially organized!
The trick, though, is to maintain this level of organization over the long term. Don't forget to file new materials, handouts, and papers as as soon as they come across your desk. Try not to let them linger in a bottomless pile out of sight.
I know that this is easy to say and harder to do. But, dig right in and get to work. Being organized feels so good!