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Get Organized! Managing school the easy way: Deal with papers

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Some students make school look easy.

Over the last three weeks, we’ve revealed some of their secrets. They write things down as soon as they occur to them, and they have a specific place to write them. They break big projects down into small steps and get started on the first one. They use the bookbag to their advantage instead of it becoming a “junk drawer.”

Today, we look at a fourth characteristic. Students who make school look easy have mastered the art of dealing with papers.

Use the one-binder method

So much of the information exchanged between the home and the school happens through written communication. Report cards, weekly folders, notes from teachers, field trip permission forms and newsletters are examples of information which comes via paper. Some students seem to have no problem getting papers home and back on time. 

Other students never seem to be able to get anything home. Papers get wadded up in pockets, stuck inside textbooks or notebooks or placed inside desks. By the time the student gets home, where to find that paper is anybody’s guess (assuming she remembers she had a paper to deliver at all). Having a simple plan puts an end to a great deal of unnecessary stress.

I am a huge fan of the “one-binder method.” As a student, spiral notebooks never seemed to have the right number of pages.

I always came up half-a-dozen sheets short at the end of the year and had half of the notebook left blank in another. The wire binding invariably got tangled with other items in the locker. The ability to insert handouts into a spiral notebook was impossible.

One three-ring binder with dividers for each subject is an easy solution. A fresh supply of loose-leaf paper in the back of the binder means the student will never say, “I don’t have any paper.”

By all means, buy a decent three-ring hole punch. When punching holes in handouts is easy, it gets done and those handouts get put in the right places. Without a hole punch, loose papers become a problem in a hurry.

Purge the binder regularly. Do you really need to keep every assignment from every subject all year long? On the other hand, that U.S. map where all the states and their capitals are labeled will be a good reference any time of the year.

Throw away what is of no use. Remove older papers from the binder. Label a file folder for each subject and file those older papers there. The student still has access to the material without having to carry it around all the time. What’s left in the binder is current work and commonly-needed reference information. 

Last week, we discussed the need for a place to put papers for mom or dad. The last thing a parent needs when getting home from a busy day at work is to have a fistful of papers shoved at him. Nor does she need to go on a safari through the home looking for papers which may have been scattered in the most unlikely of places. Conducting an excavation inside a book bag is no fun either. 

Children don’t have it any easier. They don’t always know when parents are ready to focus on papers from school. Having one spot to put everything for Mom or Dad’s review makes life easier for all concerned. The child puts the papers in the appropriate spot when he or she empties the bookbag. Mom and dad review them when it’s convenient for them.

You might ask, “What about the ‘digital papers’ students need to organize?” That’s a great question, and it’s another topic for another day.

So, if you want to manage school the easy way, one of the keys is learn to deal with papers.

Frank Buck is the author of Get Organized!: Time Management for School Leaders. "Global Gurus Top 30" named him No. 1 in the Time Management category for 2019, 2020, and 2021. Dr. Buck speaks throughout the United States and internationally about organization and time management. You can reach him through his website: FrankBuck.org. Follow him on Twitter @DrFrankBuck.