This topic makes me laugh because I consider myself to be the least organized person–it’s all in my head! But my colleagues see me as incredibly organized. My style? Pack rat (because “hoarder” has a negative connotation). I rarely throw anything out because even if I didn’t use it this year, I may decide to use it another time or a colleague may be able to use it. In fact, I inherited a classroom twelve years ago with all the materials in file folders in file cabinets that the previous teacher had used; I just finally threw out (I actually recycled all the paper) the last drawer full of materials that I had not used in the previous years. And I had to do that to provide the drawer to my student teacher because my organizational techniques didn’t work for her.
I have a two-part system for unit organization and daily organization. For units, I use binders and the plastic sleeves; I don’t punch holes in papers because they could tear out, and I could punch through important words. Plus the plastic sleeves can also hold magazines, newspaper articles, notecards, bulletin board materials, etc. I keep both current materials and unused materials in the binder. (I just struggle with refiling materials each year, but I’m working on it.) I have amassed a binder collection by watching for clearance sales after the school year begins (when stores have too many back-to-school items left over to store until next school year), as well as weekly deals during back-to-school sales. The plastic sleeves are always a weekly deal during back-to-school sales.
The second part of my system is a rolling cart for hanging files. I bought it at Walmart a few years ago (probably during a back-to-school sale). It could be for office it classroom use; it fits nicely under a tall table that I have in my classroom. I have multiple hanging folders for each course that I teach. When I photocopy handouts a few weeks in advance, all of them go in a folder. After I have handed out papers, the leftovers go into a different folder for those students who were absent. I also have folders for reference handouts that I expect students to keep and use all year long. One folder has all the signed expectation sheets so that I can find them easily when a student or parent disputes consequences.
I think that these are obvious organizational tools, but as I found out a few months ago, organization is very personal–what works for one person may not work for another.