Sunday, September 12, 2010

Teacher Post #3 . . . Another Glimpse into the Mind of an OCD Control Freak

I've been back in the classroom for two weeks now, and I've been meaning to get this post up for the past few weeks. Time has gotten away from me somehow. . . but I'm super excited to share some things with you. I have at least a dozen post ideas swirling around in my head. Some of the pictures have been taken and some haven't. This post is just one of the many not related posts I've been meaning to do.

So, to start, I introduce my brand new hall passes. I've wanted to make these things for at least the last six months, and I finally got around to it.

I found these little wooden paddles at Porter's, and immediately I knew I wanted to turn them into hall passes. Sure, they were probably meant for spanking little behinds, but they don't let us teachers do that anymore. Hee hee. Not that I would ever to that to my little angels. I seriously have the sweetest class EVER. I love them.

Anyway, I just painted the paddles and covered them with pretty scrapbook paper using MOD Podge (I have to force myself to call it MOD since my fall from grace) as the adhesive and a few (maybe five) sealing coats. These things are going to have to withstand lots of abuse, I'm sure. And realistically, they might fall in the toilet from time to time as well. Not a pretty thought, but it could happen.

I cut the lettering out on my Cricut, and I stuck a few scrapbooking stickers on to jazz them up some more. I thought about gluing buttons and such on, but decided against it because of the toilet hazard.

Here they are hanging up in my classroom. I'm only including this picture to drive Anne crazy. You see, I know they're a little crookedy, and this sort of thing makes Anne crazy. She's going to e-mail me to let me know that they're wonky and demand that I fix it and repost the pictures to prove it. And I'll refuse, make them wonkier, and e-mail those pictures back to her. It's just how I have fun around here. I can't wait.

Here's something else that I spent at least two days of my summer vacation on. I took my Cricut to school and went CUH-razy cutting vinyl. It's so bad that it looks like a vinyl factory blew up in my classroom. Except tidily, if you can picture that. A controlled explosion.

I'm planning on doing a vinyl tutorial post real soon, so this is the only picture I'm going to show you today. These are the trays where my students turn in their assignments, and can I tell you just how giddy this vinyl labeling makes me? Ginormously, greatly, giggly, GIDDY.

And this? SKA-WHEEEEEL! I know, it should be squeal. I feel like I should tell you that I do know how to spell most of the time. Seriously though, isn't this gorgeous? I found it at Barnes & Noble at least six months ago, and I've been thinking and thinking and thinking of a way to make it a very important part of my life. I love it that much.

And now I love it even more because guess what? I came up with the perfect use for it, and I am so excited about it that I don't even know how I lived without it before. Seriously, I am alive now.

And a dork, yes, but let me explain. This is now my Teacher Book. Plan Book, call it what you want, here's what I have in it.

First of all, on the very first page is the district calendar for the school year. It has all the days off (so very important), parent-teacher conference dates, work days, graduation dates, etc. It's something I never seem to be able to find when I need it. Okay, that's a lie, but honestly, now it's right where I need it, in the book where I make my plans.

Right after the district calendar, I've glued in calendar months for the entire school year, September through May. Everything in this book has been glued in, and in order to do that, I had to trim my pages a bit. I could have saved myself a lot of time and done the whole thing in a binder, but I like being able to close the book and have it lay flat on the table while I'm writing in it. I couldn't do that with a binder.

I put the calendar together in iCal, which is on my Mac, and so far I'm not a big fan of the program. For all the things I put on the calendar that don't have a time attached to them, it automatically inserted 12:00 AM. I couldn't figure out how to change it. I liked using a calendar program though, because I was able to go and put things on my calendar that I knew were already scheduled, and I didn't have to go through the laborious task of writing everything in by hand. So I'm just going to have to live with the 12:00 AM on everything. Yeah, while I seethe inside and possibly go back and glue a much better version right over the top. That's for another day though.

There are other calendar programs out there, and I could even see myself pulling apart a wall calendar and gluing it in this book, but when I got the idea for this book, I just wanted it done now. I can be very impatient like that.

The next section in my book is for schedules. I have our P.E./Music schedule, Counseling Presentation Schedule, Library Schedule, and the Computer Lab schedule. Again, these are things I refer to when I'm making my plans each week, and it's nice to have them all in the same place.

The next section is my largest section, and that's where I keep my weekly plans. I used to use a plan book, but my teacher friend, Lisa, told me about how she does her plan book in an Excel spread sheet and how it is such a big time saver. I was intrigued, and since I heart spreadsheets, I was all over that idea. I did my plans on an Excel spread sheet all year last year, and I was hooked. I will never go back to a paper plan book. Ever. 

With the spreadsheet, I'm able to duplicate quickly, and I can cut and paste or copy and paste, which saves me a ton of time. I do not miss erasing things I don't get to, and then rewriting them in somewhere else. It's a big time suck.

Here's the basic idea. I start with my plan sheet template (which I'm happy to share if you want to e-mail me and request it), and I type in all my plans for the week. The next week, I open that same template and "save as" and give it a new name. I usually give it a name with the week number and the dates, that way it's easy to find the week I'm looking for when I want it.

I went through my book and I labeled every two pages with the week numbers and the dates, so that I was sure to leave enough room for all my plans for the year. It also helps me when I have things to plan ahead and I don't want to forget about them. For example, my class is going to help a second grade class learn how to do computer math, so I've penciled that in on the week where we are going to do it. When I do my actual plans, I'll look at those notes and then my plans for the week will be glued right over the top of them.

The next section in my book is for my "To Do" list. You know I can never be without one of those. The things I've highlighted are the things that are done. The green arrow stickers  are things that I should get right on, chop chop. They help to keep me focused and keep things prioritzed when I'm overwhelmed. My "To Do" list is always a big brain dump, and some of the things aren't super important, so that's why I need the stickers to point out the fires that need to be put out.

My last section is labeled "STUDENTS" and it is where I keep things like lunch numbers, user names and passwords for the students, and parent contact information. The picture above is the top of a spread sheet I use for keeping track of my students' ISAT scores. It helps to keep me focused on which students need extra help and in what areas we really need to focus as a class.

I also have these little half sheets glued into the STUDENT section. They've been filled out by the students' parents, and I allow one whole page for each student. I stagger the way the information cards are glued in, so that the plan book isn't bulky just at the top or just at the bottom. When I make parent phone calls, I make the notes for each student right on the page with that student's information card. 

I used removable Post-It Tabs for my labels. This is especially helpful for the CALENDAR and THIS WEEK tabs, which move as time goes by. They allow me to turn right to the page I'm working on currently.

As with any Plan Book or Grade Book, I have to be careful to keep this book out of the reach of others, since it does have personal information about my students in it.  I could see using a book like this for a Home Management or a PTO Organizer, or really anything else that you might need for your job. The beauty of it is that you design it for your needs, whatever they are.


  1. Hi Jill, I love your blog! When you use iCal and are typing in your new event, click the little box that makes it all day which is located just above the times. It will show up at the to of your calendar day and not say 12am. It's very annoying when that happens. Good luck! Thanks for your great ideas!

  2. Hi Jill!
    This is great-I love all your ideas...especially the vinyl letters on the side of the place to put homework...I WILL be doing that today.
    And, school is going GREAT. It is so fantastic to be back in a classroom!

  3. If I were still teaching, I would drop everything, go buy a book I love, and DO this. It's even a great idea for a parent to keep up with a student. So maybe I'll file this one away until I have one or two of those. Students, that is.

  4. As soon as I saw those paddles, I thought, "Jill, where's the one to smack those little behinds?" Glad you addressed that in your post....:)

  5. seriously, jill, would you please clone yourself and send me the clone to help me get organized?(better yet, send yourself. I'm sure the family won't mind too much. They won't even notice if you leave the clone there with them!)

    I drool over all your organization posts but can't seem to get organized myself!

  6. I love your hall passes!!! Such a cute idea.

    I wish you would have posted pictures of your Cricut Crazy Classroom!
    I need to get mine out more.

    Love your planning and stuff. Your class is so blessed to have you as their teacher.

    I love your crooked letters.

  7. Jill,
    Just wondering how you would use a planner like this at home? What titled sections would there be?
    I love your posts and ideas, even if I'm not a teacher!


  9. You seriously win my Teacher of the Year Award! (If I knew how to create those cutie awards, I'd make ya one!)

    Seriously, I wish my daughter would have had more teachers like you in elementary school. You're obviously one of the ones who truly care.

  10. You are the most organized teacher I have ever seen!!! :-)

  11. Please keep posting teacher-related posts! I'm student teaching this year and compiling ideas for my classroom next year and your blog is by far the best (any only) for classroom ideas that I've found. Thanks so much for sharing!

  12. Anonymous, Thanks for the iCal tip. I'm such a bonehead.

    Cindy G., If I were to use a book like this as a home binders, here's what I'd put in it:

    1) Lists for cleaning and when different things should be done (I might not follow them, but I would LOOK at them)
    2) Emergency Contact information and important numbers. Phone lists, etc.
    3) Soccer schedules and field locations
    4) Lunch menus
    5) Teacher/School information
    6) Insurance information

    You get the idea. I think I would be constantly adding to it.

  13. you are too cute. You can make me miss my days as a pera in the school district and that is saying ALLOT. :)

  14. LOVED this post...
    Now I want to see the "History of my Hair" powerpoint!

    Seriously, the book is great.

  15. You are amazingly organized.

    I'm not positive about iCal, but with most calender programs I've used, you can mark an even "All Day." When you do that, it shows up sort of at the top of your day. It doesn't suck a time spot that covers the whole day.

    I mark things like birthdays and anniversaries and random reminders as "all day" events, so they are on the calender, but they don't need a time.

    Maybe that will help! Or give me another couple of months until I get my iMac and I'll be able to tell you for sure. :-P

    Until then, google calenders are the greatest thing I've ever stumbled upon.

  16. I give up. Have your stuff crooked and all wonky, GO AHEAD. Just send me some of that awesome vinyl stuff and I will keep my mouth shut about it!

  17. I went out today and bought several of the same kind of cutting boars as you used above. I love this idea so much and can't wait to get started on making my own!

  18. Brilliant!!! I'm not a teacher but like cindy g. I am going to figure out how to implement this into my home life and business life!!!! Love your blog.

  19. I use iCal to remind me to send my students to other classrooms...ESL, RTI, Resource. You can set a little alarm...Love it

  20. Hi Jill,
    I love all of your ideas. I am in school right now studying to become a teacher so I trying to take in all the good ideas now. I was wondering if you could email me your plan sheet template! Also I am going to make a plan book like that to have when I start my student teaching.

  21. Rebekah, I need your e-mail address in order to send the plan book template to you. Your contact information is not attached to your Google account. Please e-mail me at and I'll get that to you chop chop.

  22. Love all your organization! I want to put my plans on Excel and would love to have a copy of your template. Thanks a bunch!


  23. Karla, I need your e-mail address to send the template to you. Your e-mail is not attached to your Blogger profile.

  24. Sorry about that. Here ya go: