Friday, August 22, 2008

You Can Always Choose to Ignore This

As we get ready for the school year to begin I've been up to my eyes in paperwork for Harper and all the information coming home from school. I've also been thinking a lot about what this time of year used to be like for me, when I was on the other side getting ready to meet students and parents and preparing multitudes of critical information. As a teacher you meet all kinds of parents. There are they type who are really on top of everything and never miss a beat and then there are the type whose children tell you they recycle the classroom newsletter without even skimming it; and, of course, everything in between. Let's just say that I used to spend a fair amount of time reflecting on things I hoped to do, as well as those I hoped NOT to do, when I became a parent and was interacting with school professionals. I have actual notes about some of them!

Despite my best efforts, I know I'll eventually do something to annoy a teacher or make her day more difficult. Sometimes personalities just don't mesh, despite everyone's attempts to get along. For my part, I'm just going to try to be thoughtful about my interactions and hope for the best.

Here are some random things I am doing to make things easier on myself, easier on Harper's teacher (maybe), and simply try to stay organized:

1) I make photo copies of all the completed forms I send to school, especially anything that requires my signature. This is helpful for several reasons. If the forms happen to get lost filling them in again is no big deal, all the information is already right there. Many items will remain the same for when I have to fill them in again next year and I won't have to scramble around to find the information. I can remind myself, at a glance, about things I may have signed/given permission for if I question something that happens at school. This can save an embarrassing phone call or two.

2) Harper's teachers this year had a great classroom wish list prepared for us. (I would have asked for some ideas if they hadn't.) These list the kinds of things teachers don't/can't put on school supply lists, but might end up buying out of their own money if they run short. Our list is wonderfully inclusive and contains items such a stickers, dried pasta, BINGO markers, books on tape, sponges, and cupcake papers. I transfered the list onto the computer and formatted it so it would fit on a 4 X 6 card that I can carry in my purse. Then I can pull it out when I'm in the grocery store/drug store/Target and refer to it when running errands. Not that I'm going to buy supplemental classroom items every time I'm out, but you never know when you might find a really great price on something and then it's easy to check and see if that is an item on the list. You might think you'll just remember, but I had to refer to the list of nearly thirty items just now to come up with a few examples!

3) There is also a "Trash-to-Treasure" list for the preschool, full of items you might throw away or recycle that they can use in the classroom and can't necessarily just run out and buy. Things on our list include toilet paper rolls, old cell phones, empty pudding boxes, baby food jars, the fronts of greeting cards, etc. I taped this list on the inside of one of our kitchen cabinets and I'll try to refer to it before throwing out/recycling anything until I become more familiar with what's on there.

4) Have some kind of in/out system for all the paperwork that comes home from school. This is easy to do! All you really need is a 20 cent folder that you can stash somewhere in the kitchen (or wherever the "hub" is in your house). Open the folder, mark one side "keep" and the other side "return". When all those papers come home from school you can make piles for recycling (After you've read them and recorded any important information of course!), keeping, and returning. Weekly newsletters and school notices about events or schedule changes are things I would stick in the "keep" side. Permission slip forms, book orders, and picture day forms are things I would stick in the "return" side. Try to get in the habit of checking the return side in the morning (or evening, depending on when you get ready for the day ahead) and getting things back into your children's backpacks. Older children can check the folder for themselves to see if anything needs to go back. Or maybe it would work for you to clip "return" items to the front of your refrigerator? The point is, make sure there is a place where those things always go, then you won't lose them and you're less likely to forget about them. (When the "keep" side gets too full, I look through it to see if I still need to keep those items and if I think I might want to have them to revisit, I move them to a file folder.)

Maybe many of you are now banging your head against your keyboards because this is a pretty boring post and you are thinking this stuff isn't rocket science. Sorry! I'll try to lay off the advice giving for at least the next few posts.

Swimming Pool Harper says, "Good job getting organized!"


Swistle said...

"Boring" post?? "BORING" post?? I would pay CASH MONEY for posts that give a teacher/parent's experience and expertise. I am totally taking notes!

Rob and William have both had school-provided back-and-forth folders with one side marked something like "Keep at home" and the other side marked something like "Send back," and I find those very helpful.

I have two clothespins with magnets glued to them. I keep one clothespin for each boy's "keep for awhile" paperwork---things like the information on an upcoming field trip, or the list of names for valentines, or that week's newsletter (so I can re-read it during a pause in the meal-making process---I'm a little paranoid that I'll miss something important about sending in something).

I'm going to start photocopying forms this year: I sure do dislike filling out the 2-sided contact forms for each boy twice a year, and the worst part is digging around for all the information that HASN'T EVEN CHANGED.

edbteach said...

Can you come to Texas and be a parent of one of my children???? (I am a third grade teacher and would LOVE to have a parent like you!!!)

I too hate all of the duplicate form filling out (especially now that I do it for two kids and collect the forms from 22 kids in my class) but one form goes here, one goes there, etc., etc., etc.

Astarte said...

No, no, I like posts like this! I will definitely email the kids' teachers and ask them about the keeping recyclables or things they might need for the classroom!

I have a fridge pocket holder that has two large slots for regular size papers, and a smaller pocket for notepad sized papers, plus a slot for hanging a list pad. Those are for things I'll need soon. Then I also have several wire baskets with magnets on them of various sizes for everything from spare pens near the calendar to gift cards that live in the smallest one. All those things I got at Target. It helps that we have a huge area for hanging things like this in our back entryway - the previous owner bolted up a sheet of thin metal to the wall that's about 48inx36, and I LOVE IT. I can magnet all sorts of stuff on there, and not have to worry about tacks, offending one person because someone else's work takes up the whole thing, or end up having something too large to display. I highly recommend it!

Cherish said...

Great advice! My son has had a large plastic baggy that stays in his back pack for all correspondance. Whenever I have something that needs to be returned to the school, I fill it out during homework time and put it right back in so I dont have to remember it. IF there is anything that needs to wait for another day, it gets put on the side of the fridge. There is usually a monthly calendar where everything is recorded that stays on our frige aswell that keeps me organized!