How to Organize Your Teaching Space to Optimize Productivity

by Howard Gerber on May 21, 2019

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School-based Speech Therapists, occupational therapists, and other healthcare professionals may take classes, accept private clients, or simply rest and recharge during summer break. Before the bell rings this fall, set aside a few of those summer hours to reorganize your teaching space.

Speech language pathologists, school psychologists and others in school-based healthcare have to take on more students and responsibilities than ever. To make the most of the time you have, organization is key. When you can find what you need quickly, you’ll have more time for what matters—your students. Even better, studies have shown that an organized, clutter-free environment reduces stress and lowers your risk of depression.

Ready to “Marie Kondo” your teaching space? Here are 6 teaching organization hacks to set the stage for a more productive school year.

  1. Declutter.

Marie Kondo, the queen of organization, advises her clients, readers, and Netflix viewers to let go of objects—whether it’s clothes or paper—that don’t “spark joy.” Once you clear your space of the things you no longer need, you can start organizing what’s left.

Apply this tip to your teaching space by going through all your papers, books, and supplies. If it has served its purpose and you don’t need it anymore, recycle, donate, or discard. However, f you still use the material, set it aside for later organizing.

Do you share an office with other teachers? Your coworkers will appreciate the refreshing change. They may even follow your lead!

  1. Organize digital files. 

You may have dozens of YouTube videos, pdfs, links, and other digital resources you use in school therapy. Make sure they’re easy to access so you’re not frantically searching your InBox during a session. A few ideas include:

  • Create YouTube playlists for different types of videos.
  • Organize links into folders in your browser’s bookmarks menu.
  • Save pdfs and Word docs in separate, clearly named folders on your hard drive or in the cloud, depending on your school requirements. Google Drive is a convenient way to access all your documents no matter where you work.
  1. Keep paper forms in one place. 

Don’t waste time finding and printing forms and other documents for new families. Print at least 10 copies of your most-used forms and organize them in file folders. Store those folders in a binder, holder, or portable file box.

Create separate folders for homework assignments, exercises, therapy resources, and other papers you regularly give your students. Keep these in a separate binder or box. Depending on your profession, you may organize documents by physical condition—ankle-strengthening exercises for physical therapy for example—by sound, or by skill.

Follow the same process for books, manuals, and magazines. You can find cardboard magazine files at most office supply stores. Label and decorate them to make your resources stand out!

  1. Get a handle on supplies. 

Small supplies, such as game pieces, pens, colored pencils, and cards have a way of disappearing. Speech language pathologist Natalie Snyder converted a simple plastic toolbox drawer unit into a stimulus card holder to organize her cards. Label each drawer according to therapy target.

Clear plastic bags and pencil cases work well for keeping loose game pieces, markers, and other small things together and easily visible. Other storage ideas include mason jars, French fry containers, and shoe organizers…all decorated in fun colors of course!

  1. Prep your materials. 

Follow this time management best practice: set aside time each week to prepare your materials for the days to come. By making lesson plans, writing out your to-do list, and setting side materials in advance, you’ll be ready to go during the school week.

Whether it’s an hour or less on Sunday evening, Monday morning, or end-of-day Friday, mark this planning time in your calendar so it gets done. Otherwise, the crisis of the day can easily take over.

  1. Manage your calendar. 

Your school days might be filled with student and parent meetings, and sessions, leaving you very little time for organization and administrative tasks. To manage appointments and tasks without double-booking yourself, log everything into a calendar.

Whether you use Google Calendar, iCal, Outlook, or a desk planner, record it all in that one place. If you have a consistent available spot each week, block time for answering emails and returning phone calls. Block additional time for planning (see #5 above) and administrative tasks.

Online calendars will give you desktop reminders of upcoming appointments so you won’t get distracted and miss an important meeting. They’ll also let you add tasks, so you can remember to follow up with a parent, check with school administration about an issue, or wish a coworker Happy Birthday.

School-based healthcare professionals have growing lists of responsibilities without any more time in the day. By keeping supplies and documents in easy-to-find places, and with a little advance preparation, you can turbo-charge your productivity and enjoy a more stress-free school environment.

Do you plan to start the school year in a new position? Check out our exciting opportunities.

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