13 Surprising Statistics About Teaching

Hi Kirsten! I am a freshman in college and am an elementary education major. I am trying to decide which grade I want to teach, and I want to learn more about the whole process! 

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What a great question and super exciting time of life!

I knew from the beginning that I wanted to teach Kindergarten. I had the advantage of working at a tutoring center during high school and getting to interact with elementary students of all grade levels. The Kindergarteners were always my favorite! They were sweet, funny, and happy to be there. I just always knew that, if I became a teacher, that would be my grade.

But it’s not always that easy for teachers. Many teachers take a job teaching a grade they don’t necessarily want to teach, just to get their foot in the door with a school. Lots of teachers soon find out that they love that grade more than the one they thought they wanted to teach! And many other teachers shuffle around to different grades throughout their careers. You just never know how it will work out 🙂

If you’re someone who is interested in becoming a teacher, here are some “real talk” statistics that your professors may not mention.

1 | Teachers spend an average of $500 of their own money on classroom supplies

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

This is so true. When I worked in public school, we were given a stipend of $100 for our classrooms. ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS. Some of the teachers at our school literally spent thousands of dollars over the course of the year. Why? You love your kids. You want them to have an inviting classroom to learn in, adequate supplies, and engaging learning activities. For most teachers, this money is spent with an attitude of love, not resentment. The good news? Almost anything you buy for school is tax deductible, so create a system to help you SAVE THOSE RECEIPTS!

2 | Teachers work an average of 50 hours per week

Source: National Education Association

Teacher hours are usually coveted by people in the “regular” workforce. The breaks, holidays, and early dismissal. I’ve got to admit, especially now that I’m a mom, those breaks are invaluable! The lines between working and not working are usually pretty blurred for teachers. Even when you’re not in the building, you’re emailing parents, looking up ideas, prepping materials, lesson planning, etc. The great thing about this job is that it is SO personal and SO creative. Because no two teachers are the same, it is easy to feel passionate about what you’re doing! For that reason, work doesn’t always feel like work. It’s always new and exciting and different!

3 | About 30% of teachers have a second job

Source: Brookings

It’s no secret that the pay for teachers is not great. Public school systems typically pay more than independent schools, so if money is a priority for you, you probably want to go public. Not all teachers who have second jobs do it just for the money, though. You have to take into account that selling on Teachers Pay Teachers or Etsy would be considered a “second job,” too. Also, keep in mind that teachers sometimes get bored over summer or on breaks. It’s nice to have a side hustle or something productive to do with your time! Personally, I tutor outside of school hours and host a couple of summer camps. The flexibility teaching provides is great!

4 | More than 91% of teachers report purchasing basic necessities for students

Source: Huffington Post

Depending on where you teach, your students may need financial assistance from time to time. This is 100% NOT expected or obligatory. As you get to know your kids and their families, you may want to step in and cover a field trip admission or buy food for a student to take home over the weekend. Your students become YOUR kids and you never want to see them left out or in need. It’s always a case-by-case basis when you decide to help out a student in need. This sounds so cheesy, but your heart will guide you if you run into this kind of situation.

5 | 88% of people say a teacher had a positive impact on their lives

Source: ING Foundation Survey

Most people you know could easily tell you the name of their favorite teacher growing up. I can’t even tell you how many “I love yous” and “You’re the bests” I hear from my students throughout the day. Your kids will LOVE you and look up to you. They will draw you pictures and value your opinion and pretend to be you on the playground ( well, maybe not the teenagers 😉 ). You’ll talk about your students to anyone who will listen. Your spouse/roommate/mom will know your students by name, even if they’ve never met them! When you send your kids off to the next grade, you’ll tell the new teacher “You better take care of ___, he/she’s my baby!”

6 | Teachers work an average of 400+ hours of overtime each year

Source: EdTech

Every teacher has their own individual work style when it comes to this. Personally, I like to show up 45 minutes early each morning. That gives me time to set up my room, think about the flow of the day, prep, lesson plan, email, and just do anything that needs to be done. At the end of the day, I usually try not to stay any longer than 30 minutes. There’s always more to do, but I set a timer and leave when it goes off. In addition to the school day, there are sometimes nighttime events, like open houses, parent-teacher conferences, and other special events. Weeks with these events can be exhausting, but they can also be fun because they bring you and your team a lot closer!

7 | 75% of first-year teachers say they were well-prepared for their instructional duties

Source: National Institute of Educational Statistics

The Professional Developments can be SO overwhelming your first year! Your district will have you attending so many different seminars, workshops, lectures, orientations, in-services, and classes that you won’t know what to do with yourself. And EVERYTHING has an acronym. I once attended an entire seminar on some new initiative called CLIP, and when I left, I still didn’t even know what CLIP stood for! The good news is, the things that you learned will start to make sense once you have an opportunity to apply them. The bad news is, you will feel like you are drowning in PDs your first year. Just stick with it… it will get better!

The average student-teacher ratio in America is 16:1

8 | The average student-teacher ratio is 16:1

Public School Review

This is actually a great ratio! Where I live, in Tennessee, the maximum class size for Kindergarten is supposed to be 25. However, my roster hovered around 28-30. Be prepared, if you teach in a lower-income area, that several of your students may drop from your roster without warning. This is caused by unstable living environments, where families may move from one relative’s house to another throughout the school year. The size of my class varied from week-to-week. Now that I’m teaching in an independent school, my school’s student-teacher ratio is 9:1. This is one reason many parents choose independent schools when they can.

56% of teachers have a Master's Degree or higher

9 | 56% of teachers have a Master’s Degree or higher

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

I am represented by this statistic, as well as most of the teachers I know. In my job search process, it seemed like the #1 thing administrators cared about you having was a certification. Even with a Master’s Degree, it was virtually impossible for me to get hired until they knew I had taken all of my certification exams. BUT if it comes down to two certified teachers, having a higher education degree will likely put you ahead. A lot of teachers choose to attend grad school WHILE they are teaching. It’s important to remember that teachers are lifelong learners who are always looking to improve and grow!

43% of teachers sleep less than six hours a night

10 | 43% of teachers sleep 6 or fewer hours per night

Source: Ball State University

If you follow a lot of teacher accounts on Instagram, you’ll see that there is a LOT of talk about being tired and a lot of love for coffee! Why don’t teachers get enough sleep? According to a recent Gallup poll, the average American gets 6.8 hours of sleep… so none of us are doing a great job of sleeping. For teachers, there is work that comes home with you. Factor in commutes to work, and the responsibilities of home and kids, and it’s easy to see how it can be hard to get enough sleep. In fact, only 48% of moms sleep 7+ hours per night (regardless of their career). We’ve just all got to learn to prioritize our health, regardless of our circumstances.

the average public school teacher salary is $58,000

11 | The average public school teacher salary is $58,353

Source: National Education Association

In Tennessee, it’s about $10,000 less than that. But you can make more depending on your test scores, seniority, and observation scores. According to Chron.com, the average for private school teachers is $36,250. The decision between public and private is one of time vs. money. Private schools aren’t held to the intense state-testing standards that public schools are. As a private school teacher, you can usually leave work earlier, have more control over your content, and there is far less paperwork. Personally, the work-life balance and positive relationships with admin that private school provides are worth the pay difference for me.

83% of teachers teach for 10 years or longer

12 | 83% of teachers stay in the profession for 10 years or longer

Source: Washington Post

It’s very rare that you run across an educator who hates his/her job. If this job is not for you, will find out in the first five years. Teaching is too demanding for someone who is not passionate about it. Most teachers are happy to spend their own money, work the long hours, sit through the PDs, and all the other things that come along with teaching. It’s hard to explain because it sounds crazy! But when you love your job, you love all the hard things that come along with it. You embrace it, make light of it, and find teammates to encourage and be encouraged by. It’s kind of like how college life is exhausting but fun at the same time. There is so much joy in teaching. Just make sure to keep a positive attitude!

98% of Americans believe a good teacher can change a student's life

13 | 98% of Americans believe that a good teacher can change a student’s life

Source: ING Survey

This is something that keeps a lot of teachers running. There is so much appreciation felt by Americans toward teachers. When I tell people what I do, the first thing most of them say is, “It takes a special person to be a teacher. I could never do that!” Guess what? They are right! It is a difficult job that requires a lot of patience, perseverance, and passion. If you are called to be a teacher, YOU ARE A SPECIAL PERSON. You are willing to care for other people’s children like they are your own. You think about them on the weekends, over breaks, and even years later. You will maintain relationships with some students and their families for a lifetime.

75% of job success depends on your optimism levels and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of a threat

As you think about your future career as a teacher, know that it is one that requires a lot of heart. BUT most teachers couldn’t imagine doing anything else. It is not a career driven by money or status, but it is a career driven by passion. Most educators feel that teaching is truly a calling, and that is why it’s so hard to “turn it off” at home. Teaching is personal. Your kids are YOURS for a whole year, and you do whatever it takes to help them succeed 🙂

No matter what grade you end up teaching, you find the perfect grade, school, teaching team that works for you. And once you do, you will know why people say that teaching is the greatest job on the planet!

What advice do you have for education majors/first-year teachers? Or, if you are an education major/first-year teacher, what questions/concerns/worries do you have?!

Follow Organized Charm on Facebook and Instagram for classroom inspiration! 

Student Cubby Organization in My Classroom

Student cubbies can be a scary place.
I always feel like my students’ stuff is slowly creeping out of the cubbies to clutter up the rest of the room. 


A couple of years ago, I was cleaning out my kids’ cubbies and found a moldy orange that had clearly been hidden under papers for months

“If there’s one thing I get together next year,” I told myself “it will be the cubbies!”. 
And I have tried. I have really tried. I’ve come up with some systems that are making a difference. And luckily, I didn’t find any mold in last year’s cubbies, so I say that’s progress! Something that I think is so funny is that my former students will come by the room and say, “Who has my old cubby?” The cubbies are their own little personal spaces. I want them to feel as much ownership and responsibility over their cubbies as possible!  

Here’s how the student cubbies are organized in my current classroom:

Of course, each child’s name is in the cubby. I found this cute little panda face clipart through the magic of Google. Then I copy and pasted it to a Word document and typed each child’s name. The font is Hello Firstie Big Gulp, and I LOVE it! 
I cut out the panda faces with the name and then glued them to black construction paper. Then I cut that into a circle and laminated. Voila! Cute little pandas looking at us all day 🙂 
Item Labels
Inside the cubbies, each one is labeled to remind the children where each item should go. I copied clipart and typed the labels in a Word document. Then printed them and laminated them, and used hot glue to glue them into the cubbies. This shows where each item goes. We keep lunch boxes, backpacks, raincoats, and a towel in each cubby.
Work Baskets
In the bottom of each cubby, the children have these colorful baskets. I originally purchased them from Really Good Stuff to use in the cubbies of my teacher shelf, but they were 1/4” too big. 1/4″! I was SO SAD, but I refused to return them. I knew I could use them for something! Finally, it hit me… they fit in the student cubbies and they could replace our current filing system. Now the kids put their work straight into their cubby basket.
Filing System
Speaking of our Filing System, here’s how it works: Each child puts his or her work into the basket in their cubbies all week. On Thursdays, we send home a “Thursday Folder” with all of the work. I call “Pink Baskets” and the kids with pink baskets put their work into their folders, and their folders into their backpacks and sit back down. Then I call another color. The parents empty the folder and return it on Friday. Then we start the process over again.
Baskets vs. Hanging Files
Last year, we used one of those metal hanging file cubes, and each child had a hanging file. It was a good system with two flaws: 
1. The amount of time wasted as the children stood in line and waited for their turn to file their work.

2. The amount of time it took for a teacher to transfer the work from the files to the folder.
If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s wasting time! This system also freed up prime real estate on a classroom shelf!
Where to Find Baskets:
  • These baskets are super durable (and pretty!), but they can be pricy.
  • Dollar Tree has some more affordable options (24 for $24, if you order in bulk from the website).
  • ELFA also has a container that would work well for this system on The Container Store’s website.
The colors aren’t as pretty as the ones from Really Good Stuff (all neutrals), but you could easily liven them up with cute tags or labels! I also wrote a post on the best places to find containers for your classroom… because I LOVE containers!
Cubby Inspector
Even with all of these labels/systems, the cubbies still manage to get messy. So I came up with the Most Organized Cubby award. The Cubby Inspector changes each week (I just rotate through the class list, so everyone has a fair turn). They inspect each cubby for 
  1. Lunch items to be inside a lunchbox
  2. Backpack to be zipped up
  3. All items to be in their designated locations with nothing hanging out of the cubby
Then they announce the Most Organized Cubby and give a Dojo point to the winner! Having them evaluate each other’s cubbies is also a sneaky way of helping them learn how to keep their own cubbies clean 🙂

And that’s how we keep our classroom cubbies somewhat organized!

This is what they look like at the end of a real school day. They still aren’t perfect (after all, it is Kindergarten), but everything is in its place, and that’s what matters most!

My parents visited my classroom for Grandparents’ Day last year. When they walked in they asked, “What have y’all been doing today?”. One of my little boys replied (in an exhausted-sounding voice) “Organizing!” He gets it 🙂

How do you keep your students’ cubbies organized (and prevent things from growing in them)? Any secret tips you would like to share? Post below so we can all benefit! 

Follow Organized Charm on Instagram

Classroom Tour

Some of you have expressed interest in seeing a tour of the classroom as a whole and how all of the systems and routines work together. Here we go…

Welcome to the Peppy Panda classroom! Let me show you around!

When each child arrives in the morning, they switch their attendance magnet in the hallway. 

Then they enter the room, greet the teacher, and begin their Sight Word Path. This is a sneaky way to monitor them as they review their Sight Words each day! After the Sight Word Path, they put their items in their cubbies (labeled to help them remember where to put everything!). 

Then they grab a journal page and sit down. (The writing checklists above are from One Sharp Bunch) After they finish their journal page, they clip it into their journals and sit down with a Library Book. 

When it’s time for Morning Meeting, we put the library books away and get started! If we do Morning Message (usually second semester), I simply tear off the giant sheet and post it to the bottom of the board using magnets. This still gives the children a chance to write on it, but it can be easily removed so we can use the board for other things, too!

During the first last Morning Meeting of the month, they “apply” for their new classroom job. They used to switch jobs each week, but it was difficult for them to remember who was the new Door Holder, or who needed to be turning out the lights? So they voted to keep the same job for a whole month. Now they fill out a monthly “job application” and get “paychecks” (Class Dojo Points) every Friday. 

On Friday mornings, they bring their Class Dojo hundreds charts to the carpet. I pull down the projector screen and display their Class Dojo points, and they fill them in. Then we talk about who earned what special privileges for the upcoming week!

Every day is a little different, but we usually do Morning Meeting, Calendar Math, and Everyday Math during this time. Then it’s time for snack and recess!

After recess, we start with a quick Open Court reading lesson and then jump into workshops. We post all of our current sight words and other skills on the whiteboard. At the end of the week, we move the sight word to our word wall on the cabinet doors. At the end of the month, we move our writing skill to our Writing Checklist near the student tables (where they write their journals every morning). 

When it’s time to explain workshops, the teacher helper and supply monitor take turns bringing the workshop buckets to the middle of the carpet. 

On the white board, we also have a turquoise pocket chart from Target where children can “sign up” to spend extra time working with the teacher. Believe it or not, they actually watch this board like hawks so they can add their names when a spot opens up!

The children then split up into their different workshop rotations, one of which is individualized instruction at my teacher table. You can read about that here. 

As each child finished his or her work, they either place it on the drying rack in the hallway, or in their “take home” basket in their cubbies. If they don’t finish, they put in the Ketchup Basket. When a child adds something to the basket, he/she puts a name clip on the edge so it’s easy to see who has catch up work!

On Thursdays, I hand out our weekly Parent Communication Folders to the children, and they go file their own work into the folders. Then they put it in their backpacks so it’s ready to go at dismissal! After workshops, we clean up our classroom and prepare for lunch, specials, rest, and second recess. 

Afternoon is usually the time we get last minute emails from parents about changes in transportation. We make sure that each child’s clothes pin is clipped onto the correct method of transportation. We also keep a schedule of our after school “enrichments” by the door, so we can keep up with who stays after school for what. 

That’s basically a tour of the Peppy Panda classroom and how everything is used! 

Let me know if you have any questions! 

How I Organize My Teacher Lesson Planner

This is our in-service week, which means planning for all the things!! In my post about My Lesson Planning Process, I explained how I plan each week. Today, I wanted to show you how I keep it all together! 

My lesson planners from last year and the year before

Every school is different. When I taught in public school, my daily schedule was extremely consistent (same thing at the same time everyday). All that changed was the “special” of the day). The Erin Condren lesson planner worked perfectly for me in this setting! 

When I switched over to private school, I bought another ECLP, only to abandon it halfway through September. 

I tried and tried to make it work. I really did. But our schedule was so different, it just wasn’t happening. 

I kind of floundered around for a few months when it came to planning, trying several different methods. Until finally (in January), it hit me! Just create your own! 

So that’s what I did. 

First I asked myself, what do I like so much about my EC Lesson Planner? Then I made a list of the sections that I absolutely cannot do without. They are:
  • Yearly Curriculum Map/Pacing Guide
  • Usernames/Passwords
  • Monthly Planning
  • Weekly Planning
  • PD Hours
  • Grading

Then I set out to make a sheet for each section that accomplishes the same purpose, but fits my needs: 

Yearly Curriculum Map + Yearly Checklist
There are a lot of great ones online, or you can create your own using Word or Pages (or Excel or Numbers, if you’re really talented). I just wanted a place where I could quickly look at a certain month and know what we’ll be doing.

You think you have a lot of usernames and passwords. And then you become a teacher. I can’t even tell you how many websites I have to log into (or log my students into) every day! It’s really helpful to be able to have all of that information in one place! Nothing really fancy about this 🙂 

Monthly Planning
Pretty straightforward. I downloaded these editable monthly calendars from Learning in Wonderland (one of my favorite teaching blogs!) so that I could type out and color code my monthly schedule. There are also tons of free monthly calendars available on Pinterest! And of course, you could always make your own! 

Weekly Planning Sheets + Weekly Checklist
This is the main part of my lesson planner! The weekly planning! I have talked before about how every day looks different at my school. We get to do a lot of exciting stuff (on top of whatever lessons are planned), and this helps me keep up with it all! Since teaching is a pretty cyclical profession, I print out this weekly checklist to help me stay on track!

PD Hours
Something that’s really unique about my school is that we’re responsible for keeping up with our own PD hours (versus public school, where they take attendance and report it). It’s great that they trust us enough to register our own hours, but I learned the hard way that if you don’t report all of your hours correctly, you’ll have to do them twice :/ I’m determined to never let it happen again! 
This is definitely my favorite part of my planner! Instead of giving weekly assessments to the whole class, I just test them on certain skills as they’re ready. At the top, I included every skill from their report cards (we have three a year). I leave the boxes under each skill blank until they’ve mastered it! Once a child masters a skill, I fill box with green. This is an easy visual that helps me see what skills we still need to work on as a class, and which skills individual students need extra support! 

*Lots of White = Reteaching skill to class/small group

*Lots of Green w/ a Couple of White Boxes = Working one-on-one with that specific child on that specific skill

These editable binder covers are a free download from Maria Gavin

And that’s my lesson planner! It may not be the world’s fanciest or most beautiful planner, but it helps me get my job done! 🙂 

What kind of lesson planner do you use? What do you like about it? What would you change about it?

To see my classroom in action, follow @organizedcharm on Instagram! 🙂

Flexible Long-Term Lesson Planning Solutions

I like to see things long term. 

I’m always asking pesky questions, like How does this fit into the big picture? What’s the end goal? and What color-coding scheme should I use? 

Lesson planning and I have a love/hate relationship. One one hand, I love planning August-May in a day! On the other hand, I hate having to mark things out and scribble the new plan next to them in my planner. 

Why can’t every day just go as I perfectly planned it in August? said every teacher ever. 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over my years of teaching, it’s that a flexible planning process is key to keeping your sanity during the school year. Even if (especially if) it doesn’t come naturally. 

So today, I’m sharing my flexible planning process! 

Curriculum Map
One of the first things I did was create an overview for the year. I typed out a table with every month and what we covered in art, discovery, handwriting, math, reading, and writing. This is super helpful and easy to reference when planning longterm!

Workshop Ideas
Planning Workshops was probably the thing that took the longest time last year… so I wanted to get a head start on it over the summer! I created a table with our workshop dates going vertically (we do them every Monday-Wednesday), and the different workshops going horizontally (Daily 5). 

I cannot even tell you how helpful this was! I just typed out some ideas/activities in each box, and it was good to go! Of course, if I run across a better idea between now and then, I can just update it with the new activity! But I’m no longer building workshops from scratch anymore. There is something documented as a backup!

Lesson Plan Book
For the past two years, I have spent $60 on a new Erin Condren Lesson Planner, only to ditch it around fall break. I don’t know why, but I just struggle with using them for school! School planning is messy. Things get scribbled in, crossed out, moved, changed… I think it’s just stressful for me to see such a beautiful planner get destroyed by the fluidity of planning for an actual school year! 

SO, this year, I just bought a cheap one from Target ($3). I think I’m more comfortable using it because it’s not as pretty. (I know. I don’t even know who I am.) And get this… I do the planning with a mechanical pencil! It’s not even color coded! But it can be erased… and teaching Kindergarten (or any grade, for that matter) is all about being FLEXIBLE

For the actual planning, here’s the process: 

-I look at the Curriculum Map and plug in the concepts/topics we’re covering for each topic. 
-I look at the Workshop Ideas sheet and plug in the workshop activities

By using pencil, I can plan WAY ahead (like I like to do), but I can also erase and edit things if something comes up (which it always does). Each week, my Kindergarten team meets to plan for the next week. This meeting is where we discuss any upcoming school events, parties, crafts, etc. 

We try to stay aligned in our pacing, so we talk about which reading, math, and handwriting lessons we’ll teach and make sure we’re all on the same page. We also share ideas that we found on Pinterest came up with. Once this meeting of the minds is finished, I “lock in” my plans. Next, it’s time to type them up and make them look pretty! 

Typing Plans
After our meeting, our kids come back from P.E. for quiet reading/resting time. I use this to type the plans that are scribbled all over my cheap Target planner into a neat 1 page format. I print it out, hand a copy to my assistant, and we’re good to go for the next week!

And that’s how this non-spontaneous girl has forced herself encouraged herself to plan flexibly 🙂 

What strategies/tricks have you come up with to be a flexible planner? Have you found a way to keep your ECLP looking pretty until spring (or is it just a lost cause)? Share your planning process below! 

Follow @organizedcharm on Instagram for a ridiculous amount of planning updates 🙂

How I Differentiate ELA Small Groups

A couple of years ago, I was working in a low income school with low literacy scores. My kids needed support in ELA and, with 29 students, it was ridiculously time-consuming to analyze their iStation data and try to create individual small group interventions for them. 

Enter: Miss DeCarbo on a white horse waving her ELA Intervention Binder in the air. 

Y’all. She is amazing and this binder helped my kids improve SO much during our second semester! In December, I think eight of my 29 students had consistently been Tier 3. By May, six of them had moved up to Tier 1 or 2! 

Here’s how I use the binder to provide individual instruction at my teacher table: 
I split up the ELA binder into several smaller binders. This makes it easy for multiple children to work at once. 

Split it Up
First of all, instead of putting all of the contents in one binder, I split up the eight sections into colorful 3-ring binders:

Red: Letter Identification & Letter Naming
Orange: Letter Sounds & Phoneme Segmentation
Green: CVC Words & Blends/Digraphs
Blue: Nonsense Words & Fluency

Pink: This is actually Edition 2 (it covers things like diphthongs and vowel teams) Kindergarten is NOT expected to get to these skills, but many of them do, so I tell them they’re getting a “head start” on 1st grade 🙂 

I put each and every sheet into a sheet protector. Did this take a long time? Yes. BUT I did it two years ago, when I first bought this packet and those same sheets are still going strong! My kids use dry erase markers to work in the books. Then we just wipe each page off with a tissue before flipping to the next one! It saves a ton of time and paper in the long run! 

(Related: Best Organization Containers for Your Classroom)

Each child has an envelope and a card that shows them which book to get out. Yellow means they are practicing fluency in our classroom decodable readers. 
Individualize It
Having the packet split up into different books makes it easier to have each child at the table working on their own individual level. I give each child a Post-It with their name on it to stick on the top of the page they’re on. When they sit down, they know exactly where to pick up! 

(Read: Best TPT Products for Classroom Organization)

Once a week (on Thursdays), I transfer the most important notes from their index cards into my Student Data binder. 

Track Their Progress
Next to my teacher table, I have a bulletin board of pocket envelopes with each child’s name. Inside each one is an index card that they bring when they sit down at my table. I write notes about what I observe while working with them, such as “mixes up lowercase t and j” or “confuses /a/ and /e/”. The colored index card on top just shows which color book I need to get out for each child. 

This is super helpful while writing report cards and during conferences because it allows me to remember all of the little things I might have otherwise forgotten! Once they fill up one card, I simply get another index card and staple it on top. I have a date stamper so I can keep track of the dates. I also like to record monthly videos of each child’s progress to post to their individual stories on Class Dojo! This helps the parents see just how much progress they’re making from month-to-month and lets them see how they can help at home!

(Related: How I Organize My Lesson Planner)

They LOVE getting to use these little items during their reading! I also have Miss Decarbo’s Text Evidence passages, (equally amazing as her ELA binder) which is what those highlighters are used for!

Make it Interactive
I love Miss DeCarbo’s ideas about using pointers and googly eyes to make this a more kinesthetic learning activity! I have little containers of magnetic letters, dry erase boards, Unifix cubes, mirrors, and other things to make intervention more hands-on. Whenever a child gets stuck on a certain skill/level, we stop and I reteach the material in a hands-on way until the he or she achieves 80% mastery or higher on the current page. 

(Read: How to Organize Google Drive for Your Classroom)

Signing up to work at rest time/free choice it 100% voluntary, and they watch this board like hawks for a spot to open up! 
Motivate Them
Originally, I let them choose a sticker each time they get to a new “level” (skill). However, as the year goes on, they get pretty driven by thinking about each section as a level, and they frequently ask if they can come work during free choice! My list of kids wanting to work during their free choice started getting so long that I created this little pocket chart as a “waiting list”. 

When they want to work during free choice, they just get out their laminated name card and put it on the list. Once I work with a child, I take his/her name off, and another spot opens up on the list. I have used this small group system for three years now, in a turnaround school and in a private school, and the student motivation to work on reading has been exactly the same! 

(Related: Encouragement for First Year Teachers)

If you want to see more posts like this, check out the Organized Teaching tab at the top of the page!
This intervention binder has worked in my Kindergarten room for intervention as well as a normal workshop rotation. By Spring, my Kindergarteners can get out the book, dry erase marker, and index card and work independently! I either check their work, or have a child who’s already passed that level check it. 

This binder is $21 on TpT, but I probably use it 160 days of the school year… which is worth it to me! 🙂

How do you run your small groups? Do you have any tips for differentiating or keeping your system efficient? Share them below! 

Favorite TpT Products for Classroom Organization

Classroom organization is one of my favorite parts of teaching! 

You never would have guessed, right?

Over the summer, I spend my time in “Print, Laminate, Cut, Repeat” mode. (suuuper relaxing, yes?) Because I am a stickler for efficiency, I am always on the lookout for products that can keep our classroom running smoothly! 

Here are some of my favorite TpT finds that I use daily!

Daily Chevron Schedule Cards | $4.00 | Mrs. Ricca’s Kindergarten

These cards are amazing and we use them every day! Mrs. Ricca has come up with cards for every subject that you could possibly think of! However, there are still editable cards in case you need them (which we did). 

Just print, laminate, and cut! Last year, I hot glued magnets to the back and kept them on a whiteboard. This year, they’re in a pocket chart. Super versatile and they help Kindergarteners learn the schedule so well!

Positive Parent Communication Binder | $4.50 | Teacher Trap

Parent communication was my professional goal last year, and I downloaded this binder to help. Oh. My. Gosh. It is wonderful! It is full of forms to use for conferences, phone call tips, etc. My favorite thing was the Positive Notes Home section! 

These are editable notes that you can grab to send home with your kids when they do something spectacular! I edited them to align with my Class Dojo skills, printed out a bunch on AstroBright paper and keep them behind my table. 

Whenever I notice a student going above and beyond, I grab one, write a quick summary of what they did, and have them put it in their lunchbox so their parents will see! 🙂 

Editable Computer Login Cards | $2.25 | TCHR Two Point 0

When you have young students, logging in can be the worst. Every time we learn a new computer program, I spend the first day(s) just teaching my kids how to log in independently. Simply type in their info. Print. Laminate. Cut. 

Then I hole punched the top corner and used a binder clip to hang them on a command hook near the iPads. These are so small that you can have several hanging on the wall, depending on how many computer programs your school uses! 

Class Slides with Timers | $13.00 | Teach Create Motivate

Ok, I have to say, I didn’t not remember these bing this pricey. BUT I will also say that we do use them every day! You can delete the slides you don’t need and put the ones you do need in order of your daily routine. Then I project them on our screen. I LOVE the timer feature! 

You can edit it in 5 minute increments and everyone can see it, no matter where they are in the classroom! It is most helpful during workshops/centers because the kids can see their time running out… by the time the timer stops, several of them have already started cleaning up! This helps rotations go so much more smoothly! 

Book Bin Labels | $4.75 | Learning in Wonderland

I have seen these around on Pinterest and TPT for quite a while, but finally made the commitment and tried them this year! I’m so glad I did! Originally, I just meant to use them for one place in the classroom. However, we have ended up using them in several places! 

They are good for birthday walls, cubbies, chairs, class jobs, reading levels, data boards, attendance, graphing activities, etc. etc. etc. Basically anything your kids do in the classroom, these cards can be used for! 

They LOVE them and parents think they are super cute, too! 

If you’re looking for more classroom ideas, I have a whole separate Pinterest account for teaching (Peppy Pandas), and it is full of even more TpT products that I love! 

I’ll never know how teachers did this job before Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers! 🙂 

What are some of your favorite TpT finds? How do you incorporate them in your everyday classroom? Share your ideas (and links) below! 

How I Keep My Email Inbox at 0

Today, I thought I would share my email system with you!

Let me start by saying… I am not the biggest fan of emails in general. If my inbox is not always at zero, I feel a tiny bit of stress. 

(I guess that’s better than letting it get to 2,000 and not caring, right?)

When I tell people this, they a) look at me like I’m nuts and b) ask me how I do it. 

So this is how I do it:

1. I Use Gmail

Or “Google Mail”, for those who may be technologically un-savvy (*ahem* my husband). This is one of my favorite apps out there! I keep it front and center on my phone where I can make sure there are no little red bubbles waiting for me! 

2. I Use the Gmail App

I love the app because I get notifications of new emails in real time. I used to use the 5S rule for answering emails (5 sentences or less) and it worked really well! However, at this new job, the emails that we all write are a little longer (and more polite), which is totally fine, too! I just block out a little time to sit down at a real computer if I need to write multiple paragraphs! 

3. I Keep Gmail Accounts Separate

I have been using gmail for my personal account for years. This past year, my school switched over all of our school emails to gmail (haaal-le-lu-jah) and it has made life SO much easier! All I have to do to flip between the two accounts is click on them in the top right corner- no signing in or out! 🙂 

4. I Keep Email Alerts On

I like my emails to be as “in my face” as possible when I look at my phone. I have them set to do the whole “pop up” thing with a snippet of the content. This way, I am forced to deal with it right away. 

(Related: Is Your Planner System Working Best for YOU?)

5. I Star Emails That Require Action

When I get an email that I can’t deal with right away, I star it. If it’s to me personally, I might write the person back and let them know I’ll work on it and when it will be ready. Then it drives me crazy until I can finally complete whatever task was needed. I use these as a working to-do list throughout the day/week and I can’t wait to get rid of them!

(Related: How to Prep Your Planner for Finals NOW!)

6. I Unsubscribe ALL the Time

It seems like overtime you order anything online these days, they somehow use that to wrangle you onto their email list. Every month, I make a point to unsubscribe from a certain number of email subscriptions. Save your favorites, of course! 

(Related: Monthly Decluttering Checklist)

7. I Archive Everything

I learned this when I used to work for attorneys. NEVER DELETE AN EMAIL. After you’ve dealt with it, archive it. Then you can always go back and search for it again in the archive search feature. Exception to this rule: advertisements (unsubscribe then delete)!

8. Inbox 0 is Always My Goal

Goals are everything. I am always working toward reaching Inbox 0 throughout the day. I’ve found that, if I have this expectation for myself, it’s much easier to achieve it! If that’s too stressful, start out with Inbox 10 or Inbox 5 and try to slowly make your goal lower and lower!

(Related: 5 Anti-Procrastination Tips to Improve Your Week!)

Also, if you don’t use gmail at your work or school, you can always use the POP feature (under gmail settings) to forward emails from your other email address to your gmail account. I’ve done that before, too, and it’s way easier than checking three different accounts every day! 

I’m sure there are some real rules out there for keeping up with emails, but these are just the things that have worked best for me! 🙂 

What tips/tricks do you have for staying on top of your emails? Share them below!! 

How I Organize My Google Drive

Google Drive is probably one of my favorite modern-day inventions (aside from air-conditioning and hair straighteners). 

I first started using it when I worked in public school and my team shared a lot of files with one another. Since then, I have become one of those people who uses it for e v e r y t h I n g. And I love it! 

One of the challenging things about using a system like Google Docs or Photos is that they can be difficult to keep cleaned out and decluttered. Especially if you like to use them to backup/store everything. 

Since the point of using these systems is to find things easily, I like to keep them super organized and purge them regularly. They both were also really helpful when my poor hard drive bit the dust a few weeks ago. 

*moment of silence*

If you’ve been reading Organized Charm for a while, you’ll recognize that how I organize my Google Drive is similar to how I organize the files in my computer

That’s because it’s exactly the same system 🙂 

Color Coding

Either this is a new feature, or I’m just not very observant. Because I only recently discovered that I could color code my folders (YAY!). I LOVE this feature because it allows me to extend the way my computer files are organized

Folders & Subfolders

Since I clean them out regularly, some folders only have a couple of items in them, while others have multiple subfolders. Then I really just keep breaking things down by subcategories.

Active vs. Inactive

When they’re active (I’m using them), they’re a color. When they’re inactive (I finished the project but want to keep it for some reason), I remove the color and keep it gray. This makes it really easy for me to find what I’m looking for even faster! 

Rule of 10

I use the “Rule of 10” for my folders (don’t google that, I just made it up). I try not to ever have more than 10 loose documents in a folder. Why 10? Because that’s how many you can see before you have to scroll down. I just keep sorting them into subfolders to keep things neat. 

Purge Regularly

I only make a conscious effort to clean out my folders and sub folders maybe twice a year (like summer and winter breaks when I have extra time on my hands). I move unused/unneeded/duplicate documents to the trash and merge all the existing files I can. 

That’s how I keep my Google Drive organized!

I know that some of you probably have super efficient systems! If you do, I’d love to hear about them! Share them in the comments below 🙂

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Encouragement for First Year Teachers

Even though I hate clutter, I am a big fan of saving old journals, notebooks, and planners. 

Why? Because reading through them reminds you of the ups and downs in life that you would otherwise forget. The other day, I flipped through an old journal in my office. 

I ran across a journal entry from my first month in my first year teaching in a public school. This job was at one of the most challenging schools in the city. Before I got there, it had faced closure and had to adopt a special educational model in order to stay open. 

A month in, I had been hit hard with things like new Common Core standards, PLC meetings, data meetings, iStation, iReady, faculty meetings, committee meetings, division meetings, almost daily team meetings, and more paperwork than I could have ever imagined. 

To add to the fun, the educational model included an extended school day (8:15-4:30) and no recess for my Kindergarteners (apparently, this is supposed to help them learn better?). A normal day for me meant leaving for school at 6:30 AM and getting home around 9:00 PM. And that was with a 10-minute commute. How long is that even? Like, 14 hours?! 

Did people know that this is the life some public school teachers are living? 

Because I certainly had no idea. 

I was excited to work there but once I jumped in, I felt like I was just getting through it day-by-day. And some days, hour-by-hour. The time absolutely FLEW by everyday! Even with the crazy long hours, I never, ever felt like I could catch up. 

There was always another meeting to attend. Always another form to fill out. Always another new student to add to the classroom. 

It was like Finals Week every week. Are you in the same boat? Read on.

(Speaking of Finals Week: 7 Tips for a Productive Finals Week)

Here is the journal entry:

September 29, 2015

I am feeling so overwhelmed by my job. The amount of time that I spend at work is ridiculous. I don’t sleep- I lie in bed and obsessively think about work until I force myself awake at 4:00, 3:00, 2:00 AM and can’t go back to sleep. We meet all the time, which turns into me sitting in a room, counting the seconds until we can leave… but there’s never really an “ending” time, so it really just turns into me waiting for the janitor to kick us out. I am definitely on data overload: books, meetings, handouts, announcements, articles, advice… it’s all really great, except that I never have time to implement any of it because, from the second I walk in the door to the second I leave, other people have my time planned for me. I knew that public school would be hard, time-consuming, and different but I had no idea I would look forward to leaving “early” if I only worked a 10-11 hour day. I am burnt out, exhausted, tired, resentful. I worked so hard to get this job but now that I have it, I just miss my life. I miss working out with my husband after work. I miss my husband. I miss my family. I miss sleeping through the night. I miss being hydrated and clean. I miss the happy demeanor and positive rapport that I used to have with my old students. It will get better. 

I love that last sentence: It will get better. Simple and encouraging. 

Even though I was struggling to make it through each day, I refused to let my job defeat me. I knew that it would get better. And it DID! 

On the next page of my journal, I listed specific problems I was having in my classroom with possible solutions. Over fall break, I completely reworked my classroom management from the ground up. 

Yes, I spent my entire Fall Break working at home and in my classroom, but it was necessary. And it paid off! From Fall Break until Christmas Break, I taught new routines and procedures and consistently and strictly enforced my classroom management plan. When I came back from Christmas break, I had a wonderful second semester! 

(15 Quick Ways to Improve Your Morning Routine)

Here are the biggest resources that helped me:

1. Eric Thomas

Have you heard of Eric Thomas? He is the best, most motivational person on the planet! I would get to my classroom an hour early, turn on his YouTube channel and just let it play as I worked. “You Owe You” is my favorite video, but they are all really motivating!

This is an excellent blog written by a teacher, if you’re having a challenging year, READ EVERY POST and subscribe to it! I could not read enough of this blog. It completely changed my experience. They are very relevant to everything you will face in the classroom. 

Skip straight to the Classroom Management section (for some reason, it’s in the back?) and begin implementing a strategy a day! I would wake up, read a strategy, think about how I could implement it in my classroom, and focus on implementing it all day long. It worked!!

Even if you aren’t a “new teacher”, this is a good book! Each strategy is only one page long! Start from the beginning and implement a new strategy each day! I really like that so much of it focuses on the viewpoint of the child/student. It helps keep things in perspective. 

5. Teaching Journal

Every morning, I got up a little earlier and read a strategy from both of these books. Then I wrote 3-5 sentences in a journal about how I would implement each one that day. When I got home, I wrote a few sentences about how it went and how I could do it better next time. 

Holding myself accountable for the implementing the strategies had a huge impact on my year. My rapport with my students improved, I gained more confidence as a teacher, plus it even counted for Professionalism points in my Teaching Portfolio at the end of the year! 

(Study Strategy: Just Get Started)

Please don’t think I’m trying to scare you out of teaching! It is literally the greatest job on earth! But it is a difficult job and it definitely can be overwhelming. If you’re a new teacher or an even an experienced teacher adapting to a new setting, just know that you are not alone! 

And remember that last sentence: It will get better. 

#teacherlife is the best life, I promise! 🙂

Are you in a challenging teaching situation right now? Or have you ever overcome one? What were the biggest resources that helped you? Share your experience below! 

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