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Back to School: Academics

Posted Sep 10 2012 7:17am

This is my fourth post in my Back to School series,  in order to try to organize myself for back to school life!

The biggest area in which I’ve been organizing & getting myself together in the past few weeks is in academics & teaching. As I mentioned before (sorry for the repeat!) I’m: 

  • taking 4 classes (2 of which have a practicum component of a total 65 hours in a middle school & high school classroom)
  • teaching 2 classes
  • a TA for a third
  • working 20 hours a week in my GA position – which also has me advising students in our major/program
  • and also working on a contracted position for my old (old) employer as a trainer & curriculum developer. 

I need to stop writing all of that out. It’s giving me hives. 

Here’s how I’m attempting to organize everything! Three words: Google Tasks + binders!

At School/Work: I have an office at work that I share with another graduate assistant. I’m able to keep files in my desk, but the other space is taken up by program information, professors’ materials, gigantic printers and old books. Since I teach at a university, I obviously don’t have any classroom space or ability to keep anything anywhere without it getting a) thrown out or b) stolen. I do keep things like note cards, pens, pencils, sticky pads and other “office-y” things in my desk. 

This means everything is either a) electronic or b) carried on/with me when I go to class. It also means it’s a serious pain in the a$@ most of the time! As both a student and teacher, I also have access to an online blackboard system that my university uses, so I can keep a lot of documents & information on that. 

At Home:  I keep everything school related in the office/spare bedroom. 

My Classes (as a student): I use a bookshelf to organize all school textbooks & binders. I’m a binders + legal pad kind of gal for classes. Being left handed, I can’t use loose leaf paper because it’s too cumbersome so I take notes on legal pads and use the binder to keep all my papers together. One of the best things I purchased before grad school was a 3-hole punch. When I get handouts, they get hole punched and go into my binders when I get home. I also take the syllabus or class notes and immediately transfer tasks/homework into my Google Calendar/Tasks List for that day/week. 


I like using Google Tasks because it lets me have access to what I need to do no matter where I am since I can access it via my email. I didn’t start using Tasks until this summer and I really like it. It’s also super satisfying for Miss Type-A-Erin to be able to see the check mark when it gets done!

I still use a paper planner for things like appointments, assignments, events and other random reminders. I don’t think I could ever go completely paper-free. 

My Classes (as a teacher): Since I have to carry everything with me, I try to consolidate as much as I can into binders, Google Docs/tasks and a tote bag that I use specifically for the classes that I teach. I also bought several of these small pencil holders that I fill with pens/dry erase markers, paper clips and other things that I need for class. I leave the class binder, small bags and other materials in the tote bag so that I can find it easily. 

I don’t find it that cumbersome to carry a backpack with my class materials plus a tote bag with teaching materials/binders. Separate bags also helps keep things organized physically and mentally in my mind. It does get somewhat tricky if I need to have larger materials (like poster board, props, any other crazy teacher stuff) but I can leave those in my office or my car before and after class. 

Speaking of which, my car is the next thing to get organized….ugh. 

Time Management: I really don’t have much time during the week to actually do homework. I’m so busy between commuting, working, going to class myself, teaching, and commuting home (plus walking the dog, eating, going to the gym and doing other normal human things) that it’s pretty late by the time I actually sit down at my desk. I can get one or two things done at night after class, but I leave the larger chunks of reading or work for Friday night, Saturday and Sunday when I can get more done. This term I hope to have more time in the morning to get school work accomplished. I also try not to sacrifice a lot of sleep and tend to be in bed by 11pm at the latest. If I don’t get enough sleep, I’m absolutely worthless. 

Teachers/educators/grad students/students: how do you organize your self, class, students, work, grading, etc! 

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