Since I have two offices instead of one classroom I can’t give you any classroom organization tips, but I do want to discuss the importance of organization and offer some ideas for how to organize information for students of concern for both teachers and school psychologists.
Sometimes I miss the stress of graduate school because if I wasn’t organized or procrastinated on something it only impacted my life, but now if I do that it impacts a child’s life! This is why being organized is so vital in our jobs as educators. If I misplace a referral packet for a child, that could delay me picking the best assessments to give that child. Or if you forget to fill out the behavior rating scale on time that can cause a child to not get a more appropriate intervention sooner.
One thing that helps me with this is to give myself, and sometimes others, due dates. When I give parents or teachers evaluation forms to complete I often give them a date I’d like them back by. Sometimes they even thank me for giving them a deadline! But to help myself a little more I write their due date in my planner so I know on that day to check to see if I have it back, and if not I can check in to see if they need any help.
The main piece of advice I have is get yourself a good planner. Some people like to use technology or old fashioned paper. I use it to keep up with every little thing! Like if I fax something or send something home to a parent I make sure I write in my planner for the next week to check on it.
For students of concern I recommend keeping an individual folder on them and make sure to keep notes with dates on anything new that happens. For a teacher this could be something like on 8/10 I started working with Caleb in a small group on short vowels using XYZ intervention. For a school psychologist it could read something like on 9/10 I spoke with Ms. Brooks about changing Caleb’s small group intervention to add a phonological awareness component.
As a school psychologist, it is important that we have documented everything that has been in place for a child before we jump into testing them for a disability. Of course every case is different, just like every child is different. Legally and ethically, we need to make sure we do everything we can within general education to meet a child’s needs. This is why being organized and documenting these efforts is so important to determine if a child may need to be evaluated for a disability. For teachers I can imagine sometimes this is frustrating because your gut might be telling you this child will need more intensive services, but we have to give them a chance. If we jump from A to Z we have no idea if D or J might have worked for them.
Most school psychologists work at 2 or more schools and serve more students than the National Association of School Psychologists recommends. So it is very helpful if you can bring data that interventions and researched strategies have been used with a student, and they are still struggling with specific skills. For example, when I hear a child is struggling with reading I don’t really know where to start. However, if I hear that your student who is in reading intervention is struggling with reading words with blends and diphthongs but can understand material that is read aloud I have a better idea of what we need to do next.
Another tip I have is don’t put off simple organizational tasks. I am required to track all of the students I test in an Excel sheet. I have to put what school they are at, grade, date of permission, etc. It’s not a hard task, and I could put it off and then go back and enter all of that data months after the fact. However, it is so much easier if I keep up with it on a daily or even weekly basis. It does take a little more effort and time, but when it’s due all I do is submit it instead of having to take a few hours to go back and add everything all at once. I’m also less likely to forget something or make a mistake when it is fresh on my mind.
I love to make a good to do list! If there is a new procedure or something you’re always forgetting to do. Make yourself a checklist for it and put it somewhere you’ll visually see to remind you. Once you use it a few times you will get in the habit of it!
Hopefully, some organizational tips from a school psychologist translate to meaningful organization in your classrooms!