With approximately 3 million teachers in the public school system, there is no shortage of paperwork. You have paperwork for your classes, such as lesson plans. Then, you have paperwork for the school, such as continuing education credits.

All of that paperwork can pile up into a huge mess in a big hurry if you don’t keep them organized into separate files. Of course, even files can become a disaster if you don’t have a system for organizing files.

If your files are a nightmare every time you need something you don’t use all the time, keep reading for our quick guide to organizing files.

Designate a New Paperwork Spot

Before anything else, you need a specific place where you put new paperwork. This serves a couple of important functions.

First, it ensures that new and time-sensitive paperwork doesn’t get end up mixed in with older, less time-sensitive paperwork. After all, you don’t new tests mixed up with old lesson plans.

Second, it creates a space that you mentally associate with looking at and organizing your paperwork. You know that when you sit down there, dealing with new paperwork is the point.

Organizing Files

Keep Office Essentials on Hand

You also need to keep office essentials on hand. For example, let’s say that you use hanging folders. You always want at least a few extra floating around in case you need a new folder for some new responsibility or project.

Other essentials you want to keep around include:

  • Paper clips
  • Stapler
  • Staples
  • Binders
  • Binder tabs

Plus, there are the other standard office supplies like pens, pencils, markers, and sticky notes.

Decide on a File Naming System

You’ll want a very firm file naming system or file taxonomy. You can extend the same principle to binders.

A file naming system lets you label your binders or folders. That lets you drop new paperwork directly into the proper folder or binder.

One common approach is by category, although that typically falls short for teachers. Instead, you could break your naming system into big categories, like the year of school. Then, you can break it down by class name, section number, or component of the class.

So, for example, all of your binders and folders for juniors could start out with an 11, then a class name like American Lit, and then the class component. It might look something like this:

11 – Amer. Lit – Lesson Plans

You could even use these custom binder tabs to separate paperwork in year-specific binders.

Organizing Files

Organizing files is one of the biggest favors you can do yourself as an educator. While it’s some work at the outset, you’ll end up saving yourself a lot of time over the course of the year.

Instead of digging through piles of paperwork, you just pick up the right folder with its specific name. You drop new paperwork in and move on to the next task.

Looking for more tips that make teaching life a bit easier? Check out the posts in our Classroom Ideas section.

Nicole helps parents obtain the education and skills needed to raise physically, psychologically, and emotionally healthy children. She works with public and private schools in Philadelphia, in a variety of settings to assist parents in understanding the development of their child and approaches to behavior management, and/or serve as an advocate for the child and family in stressful or transitional situations.


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