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September 23, 2019
Organization is so important as a teacher, especially a special education (sped) teacher. We have lots of deadlines and due dates to be mindful of. In addition to our sped duties, we're creating assignments, trying to stay up on grading, going to meetings, and contacting parents. In this blog post, I’ll explain how I stay organized in general. How I stay organized with sped paperwork will be in a future blog post.
One of the first things I do right away is buy a calendar and new pens for the year. During workshop week and over the course of the first weeks of school, I will go into our due process system and noting all the due dates for my IEP's and evals for the year. I put those due on the calendar I bought “cushioning-in” enough time to make calls and set up meetings.
Another thing I do to keep organized is to use post-it notes. For those weekly or daily tasks, it's better for me if I write them down in a list and cross them off as they're accomplished. Crossing off completed tasks feels really good, too! People would be surprised at how many tasks have accumulated before school has officially started.
We don't have a sped secretary. So, periodically, I'll file my paperwork. I usually do it on non-student contact days. My first time filing is probably three weeks or four weeks into the school year. If you don’t have a special education secretary or paraprofessional support, consider how you will organize and file your paperwork. There will be a lot of it. I also have a "to be filed" folder hidden at my desk.
During that first week or two of school, try your best to contact the parents on your caseload. We call these "positive calls home". This can be hard to get in but so important. It's better to get it done as soon as possible because, if your student(s) need a call for discipline, you've already broken the ice in a positive way. No parent wants their first conversation with a teacher to focus on how their kid was misbehaving!
Along with the positive call, ask older students for their cell phone numbers. I love asking them for their number, waiting for their reaction, and then telling them that I can get the number from the records. I like for them to feel in control of the exchange while jokingly letting them know that they have no control over the exchange! In my experience, they love that you care about them. Students have always been receptive to calls when they’ve been absent. I tell my students that if they miss one day, I won’t call. If they miss two or more days, they’ll more than likely get a call from me.
Regarding unfinished work, decide how you will handle boundaries. During my first year, I stayed late at work quite a bit. I remember needing time off & my principal told me that I could just leave because she saw me working most nights. I also took work home with me. There was no balance. I was new and trying to juggle all the paperwork that came along with my new position. Nowadays, I'd much rather stay as late possible instead of taking work home with me. My home is my place to relax and explore my personal interests. I don't want my work encroaching on that space. Additionally, I've found that if I do bring work home, I never work on it. So there's no point.
Lastly, get an accountability partner. When sped paperwork gets overwhelming, my coworker and I will give ourselves due dates to have things finished. We'll check-in by asking if we've had a chance to work "X". We also offer to help one another so that important items aren't missed.
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