I was sitting outside the principal's office. Again. Except this time I was 30, not 17. I had been summoned during my planning period to discuss the fact that one of my students was not accounted for during a fire drill. It was my second week in a new school, and we were doing our monthly bake/freeze on the front lawn. My obedient sophomores were lined up--sort of--more like loosely grouped near me--but one was missing, the one my administrator had pulled aside during the drill. I had gone out with nothing but my keys, and she had noticed. I never again left my room without a paper roster.
My teaching career, which began in 1990, missed mimeograph machines by just a hair. Paper is my comfort zone. I bubbled in my grades on a Scantron sheet, for heaven's sake. However, my other foot is in this century; my students write together on Googledocs, and parents can see grades online. Journals are digital. Essay drafts never see a printer.
But we still need paper for SO many reasons.
1. Lightning Strikes
Statistics would have it that bad things have to happen. Murphy's Law would have it that they would happen to me. I have CRAZY bad luck. I have lost every file I had THREE TIMES. A power surge took out a desktop computer. A lightning strike took out my backup external hard drive. Just recently, I dropped another external hard drive . . . after a virus wiped out my laptop. I have fried as many flash drives as I have hard drives. You can't make this stuff up. Oh yeah, a floppy drive ate my grades at least once every year.
We don't grade everything in front of a computer screen. Maybe I don't want to drag my laptop to Starbucks for the annual plowing through research papers. Then there's that fire drill thing. Parent conferences are live and often happen in the hallway between classes. There has to be a binder I can grab! What about making notes on lesson plans? Having seating charts for quick-glance attendance? Being able to see my curriculum without having to toggle between screens?
If your desk looks anything like mine, it's piled to the sky with papers to grade, unit plans, and notes to call parents. LET'S GET IT TOGETHER, PEOPLE. Keep all the organizational mess in ONE place--a one stop three-ring binder. Here's what I created last year just for English teachers. Sub plans, emergency procedures, meeting notes, grades, attendance, Common Core Standards, learning style charts, and lesson plan templates are all there.
Some teachers put my binders to shame. Amy Alvis organizes her curriculum resources in such a way that even I could teach her courses. My friend Jill made a binder with everything needed to run the show in a science class. What about a binder that any secondary teacher would love to use? You could drop in your own curricula and be good to go.
I've seen products on Teachers Pay Teachers in the range of $5 to $25, but you could also make your own this summer. Create a new PowerPoint show, make the pages letter size under Design, go to Insert, and drop in a table. Give a little splash of color, and you're off. Here are some examples of simple pages to create using just tables, shapes, and color fills: