Is the Organized Instructor the Effective Instructor? It Helps!

Organization is important for all college instructors, and is especially important for the Freeway Flyer. There are tricks that you can use that may simplify your professional life and make your personal life more relaxed.

Color is a wonderful thing – it keeps our world beautiful; it reminds us to watch the sunset and mark another day. It also helps us begin a semester confident that we know where to go and when to be there. For example, use a simple spread sheet which shows hours of the day from 8:00 in the morning till 10:00 at night. Block out the time on the sheet for a particular class, say from 1:00-2:30. In that block, put the college name abbreviation (MSU, GOCC), the name of the class (ENG 110), and the time (1:00-2:30pm). Fill the one and a half hour block with color, perhaps blue. If the class meets twice a week, make the other day’s block and color that one with the same blue. That way, anyone looking at it can tell it’s the same class on a different day.

Now do the same thing for your other classes. If you have five classes, you will have at least five blocks with colors that are distinct from each other. If you have classes with multiple meetings, you will have even more blocks. When you are finished, print one and put it inside your planner, somewhere you can find it easily. Then, print another one and hang it on your refrigerator or home message center so that others can tell where you are on which day. Your family will thank you. I also, for example, give a copy to my mother and sister. That stops them from worrying about when it’s okay to call me and whether they’ll interrupt me during a class. It’s embarrassing when the instructor’s phone rings during class, especially when the syllabus spells out dire punishments to be handed out when a student’s phone goes off.

Color can be your friend on a very simple scale, as well. This trick I began using the first time I was to teach at three or more colleges: make a calendar using Microsoft Word. There is a template which shows four months on one 8 ½ by 11 inch sheet. So, page one has January through April, which covers most school’s first semester, page two has May through August (spring and summer) and page three has September through December, the traditional fall semester. Just print out the page needed at the time. Then, find some highlighters: if you are teaching at three different colleges, use three colors you can easily tell apart, say blue, pink, and orange. Use these to mark the days you have classes for a college. If you have a day class at one school on January 19th, a Tuesday, color in the top half with blue, for example. Then, say there is a night class that same day at another school, for which you have assigned pink: fill the other half of the day in with pink. At the bottom of the calendar, make a key showing the name of the schools with the assigned colors.

We’re not stopping here with our use of color. Office supply stores (and instructor supply closets) have 8 ½ by 11 inch folders in vivid colors, ones which put the traditional manila folders to shame. If you teach two sections of the same class, say a day section and a night section, use green folders for the day class and blue folders for the night class. At a minimum, you will want one folder to hold class lists and extra syllabus copies, one folder to hold papers to be graded, one folder to hold papers to be returned to the students, one folder for papers that need to be copied, and one folder to hold copies of class assignments. Impress your students with how quickly you can lay your hands on a certain piece of paper.

Color coding those files also makes it possible to carry materials for more than one class in the same bag. This can sometimes be helpful in terms of reducing the number of items that need to be transported. However, it can be ideal for each class to have its own bag. That way, you can immediately tell apart the English Composition bag from the Technical Writing bag. Also, if you are trying to spare your back, one light bag carried in each hand is better for you than one heavy bag carried on one side.

One last idea where color and organization may go together: those lovely Post-it notes have multiple uses as well. If it’s not okay to talk to yourself, (and I’m not saying it’s not), it’s certainly okay to write notes to yourself. Keep small packs of Post-its in all of your school bags and use them to write quickie notes. You can also use them just for their different colors (orange means a file that needs to be copied, blue indicates the need to see if a grade was posted for an assignment, yellow means something can be checked off).

Try incorporating one or more of these techniques and see if it simplifies your days. Any time saved using these methods is time that is available for lesson planning, your own research, or another fun activity.

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