Category: For Teachers

How to Organize Your Computer Files for School

How to Organize Your Computer Files for School

Do you have too many files on your computer? I do.

With movies, pictures, and music becoming totally digital these days, there isn’t enough space to go around.

When I started teaching, my needs for computer storage increased exponentially. Before I even started selling on TeachersPayTeachers, I was totally out of space. It got so bad that I had I had to upgrade to an annual Dropbox subscription so I could store “archived” files on the cloud, rather than my hard drive. (Dropbox provides you with 1 terabyte of cloud storage with guaranteed backup, access, and security for a fee.)

Having all of that space has been awesome, but it would be really easy to lose files without an intentional organization system. As my storage needs grew, I knew that I needed to keep on top of maintaining all of those files.

These are the main categories that I sort everything into, and some of their sub-categories:

  1. Personal
    • Home
    • Sunday School
    • Jobs/Resumes
  2. School (will discuss more later)
  3. Tpt
    • Blog
    • Business
    • Products
  4. Music (I just rely on iTunes to organize my music)
  5. Movies
    • Personal
    • School
  6. Pictures
    • Always sort by year, then “Number of Month (ex. “09” for September) & Event”
  7. Graphics
    • Clipart (that I have purchased)
    • Creations (that I have made)

Whenever I create a file, no matter what it is, it goes into one of these categories.

Now as teachers, we would all agree that probably the most beastly of them all is “School.” Throughout the year, school can take on a life of its own – when it comes to the  classroom, the desk, and the computer. (I am not the only one, right?)

So I divide all my files into folders, sub-folders and more sub-folders. This might be overkill, but it makes everything SO much easier to locate quickly. In a pinch, it helps me to know exactly where to put or find things.

To start, I divide all of my files into the subjects or courses that I teach. The folders are always labelled with the grade level, name of the subject, and edition of the book I am using. For example – “7 History of the World 5th ed.” I taught 7 History of the World 4th ed., but we don’t use that book anymore so I archived the files to the cloud. Right now I am keeping the files in case, I want to reference a test, quiz, or whatever. You will see in the image below that for my 8th grade history class, I have not yet archived the old edition files. This is because I regularly reference the old files. This summer I will archive the old edition.

After I have my courses folders set up, I sub-divide into quarters. Each course gets four sub-folders. “1st Quarter,” “2nd Quarter,” “3rd Quarter,” “4th Quarter.” Does that make sense? Before I organized my files this way, I only sorted by chapter and that was a mess.

Ok, that’s the hard part. My final sub-division is by testing unit. The curriculum that my school uses tests approximately every three chapters. I label the folders as “Unit x Chapters y-z.” Then whatever file I make related to Unit x or Chapter y-z goes into that folder. There is never a question of where something is or where it should be. All school-related files are in their appropriate  folders.

It all sounds complicated, but honestly the hardest part was deciding to organize this way. Set up was easy and keeping organized has been easy ever since.

Now every classroom has certain files that are used over and over and over again. Think – Absence Forms, Memos to Parents, Reward Cards, etc. So I also have two additional folders that sit at the same level as the Courses – “Master Documents” and the school year (Ex. 2016-2017).

That is a lot of info, so here is an outline view within my folder “School” so you can see what I am referring to. Also there is a screenshot below that.

  • 7 History of the World 5th ed.
    • 1st Marking Period
      • 1st Day of School (where I store ice-breaker games, my rules & procedures, syllabus, Back-to-School info)
      • Unit 1 Chap 1-3
        • All the files related to Chap. 1-3
      • Unit 2 Chap 2-6
    • 2nd Marking Period, etc.


Organizing Your Computer Files for School

If you are looking for help organizing, give this system a try. I always recommend trying a new system for a full month or longer. This would actually be most effective if tried for an entire marking period. Let me know how it goes!

How do you organize your computer files?


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Why Training a Puppy Is A Lot Like Teaching Junior High

2017-03-13 16.48.23When my husband and I adopted a dog (who is under a year old) over a month ago, I quickly realized that training a puppy is a whole lot like teaching junior high. I literally would go into school and get frustrated with my students because they did the exact same thing that my dog did!

Here is what I have noticed:

  1. Puppies and students need constant attention! My dog Coby needs constant monitoring. He has gotten better about stealing my shoes, eating my rugs, and chewing on the furniture, but we can’t leave him alone in a room yet. If I try to log into Facebook or eat dinner or grade papers, Coby will do something to require my attention. Sometimes good, like putting a toy in my hand, and sometimes bad, like scratching the walls. Students are the same way. Each student needs my complete attention at all times, which requires serious multi-tasking. If they don’t get the attention they want or think they deserve, they will immediately begin acting out. Sometimes in good ways, and sometimes in bad ways.
  2. Puppies and students never learn their lesson the first time. They need reminded, corrected, and encouraged over and over… and over… again. Coby still hasn’t totally figured out that he can’t steal my decorative pillows from the couch or to stay out of the sink. My students still haven’t learned that homework is always due on the assigned day or that they will do poorly on a test if they don’t take notes in class or study.
  1. Positive reinforcement works best. Coby picked up on his new name immediately. They was no training needed to teach him his name. However, he is horrible at responding to his name. He is very interested in following the scent or chewing that rug or barking at the passing truck. Even though it has been a month, every time Coby comes to me when I call his name, I give him a tiny training treat and praise. When he finally does what I ask him, he gets heavily rewarded. On the times that he chooses to obey, he comes bouncing to me with joy for that treat and hug and loving words. When it comes to my students, I expect that they are obedient all the time. (They speak my language after all!) But I try to offer positive reinforcement for them as well! They get praise when they act a certain way, stickers when they get certain grades, and bonus passes when they have been diligent. All of the kids respond well to positive reinforcement and for many, it encourages them to continue doing the right thing again.
  2. But sometimes discipline is necessary. During the first three weeks that we had Coby he would be really sweet and wonderful then out of nowhere start biting. It wasn’t aggressive, but it was painful. For our safety and sanity, we decided to crate Coby for a period of time if he bit us or got worked up to the point where he was going to. We started at three minutes (recommended on the internet), then actually upped the time to 30 minutes at the suggestion of a trainer. He pretty much hasn’t had any issues with biting since those first few thirty minute sessions in the crate. A student or two of mine may have a horrible habit of showing up late to class. I gave them demerits for each minute late (my school is very generous in their discipline system), and they figured out within two weeks that they needed to get to class on time. Slow learners, but they got it eventually. 😉
  3. When they are behaving, don’t move! Whenever Coby falls asleep, it is seriously a few precious moments of peace and quiet. This time cannot be used to get anything done, because the minute I try to do something the puppy wakes up and wants to go with me. So whenever he falls asleep, don’t move. Don’t do anything. Just sit and relax and enjoy the precious moments. Same thing with my students. Whenever they are behaving, don’t comment on it. Don’t make any sudden movements. Don’t check email. Just keep doing whatever you were doing and hope they don’t notice that they are behaving.
  4. And probably the most significant…. Puppies and students cost money. I decorate my classroom out of my own pocket. I buy snacks, supplies, decorations, prizes, and exciting games and activities for my students out of my own pocket. This isn’t new to me. All teachers who want their students to be successful and happy do this willingly, but it is a common denominator between students and puppies. A new super-harness because he chewed through the really nice one in an afternoon. Another box of treats and several new toys (because the other ones were no match for the velociraptor jaw).

While, of course, there are obvious differences, too many times during the school day, I have thought training these students reminded me a whole lot of training my new puppy. The good news with both is that they will learn. They will figure out what I am trying to tell them and the bad days will become good days.

Bulletin Board Idea: Americans Close to Our Hearts

When I started teaching history full-time, I discovered a sad truth. There are very few high school level, content-rich social studies/history bulletin boards. It is horrible. There is very little inspiration out there.

To make matters worse, my school requires that teachers change up their bulletin boards every 6-8 weeks. Because of seasons, that ends up being five or six bulletin boards per year!

Recently I was inspired by Pinterest’s abundance of “African Americans We Love” or “African Americans Close to our Hearts” bulletin boards. While I do put considerable effort into Black History Month in February (and this might be a story for another day), I just really wanted a bulletin board that didn’t have racial preference. So I modified the board to simply “Americans Close to Our Hearts.”


My board features a variety of Americans in a variety of fields from multiple eras. Including:

  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Henry Ford
  • Walt Disney
  • Rosa Parks
  • Frederick Douglass
  • Neil Armstrong
  • Meriwether Lewis
  • Madam C.J. Walker
  • Thomas Edison
  • Paul Robeson
  • Booker T. Washington

I definitely felt like I could have added many more people to the list, and likely will in the future, but I was out of room and knew that I needed to keep the list curated.

Hope this board inspires you with your own Valentine’s Day creation!

Wanted: Refreshment


While I absolutely love teaching, it can be hard. I don’t mean the extra three hours of work at home (on top of staying late at school). Or the grading. Or the hours of adapting lessons for the students who are struggling, while keeping the same lesson interesting and challenging for the advanced learners. Or incorporating technology. Or differentiating learning styles. Or communicating with the parents. Or everything.

I mean the drain. Every job has it’s areas of difficulties, but education seems to be one of those fields that drains you on every level – physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually.

Because of the challenges of my particular school, I face a lot of struggles with discouragement and weariness. On top of it, while we are instructed to be fun, new, exciting, and fresh, we aren’t really guided in those areas. After several years, I have learned that I need that inlet of fresh ideas, words of inspiration and encouragement.

Blogs are great! I love reading helpful, inspiring, insightful, and refreshing blogs, but I don’t always have the time to filter through everything that is out there. Pinterest is awesome! But it can be complete information overload and quickly becomes overwhelming.

So I have turned to podcasts. I know they have been around for ages and this is probably one of those moments where you are reading this and thinking “Duh, Kristen… everyone already does this…” But I didn’t… so maybe there is someone out there like me who needs the same encouragement.

The whole podcast library can be a little much, plus you have to actually listen to the podcast to find one that works for you. To save you that pain, I am going to share one that has been amazing so far.

For starters… Download a Podcast app on your phone and subscribe. The podcasts will auto-download whenever new ones are added to the library. You will get a notification to let you know it is available. It is that easy! No digging through a library or searching for something to listen to. It comes to you.

As far as time (because that honestly was my biggest concern)… I plug in my head phones and listen while I am grading or straightening up my room at the end of the day. I am going about my regular responsibilities at school, but also getting encouragement when I could otherwise be frustrated. I could just as easily listen to a podcast while cooking dinner, doing the dishes, or folding laundry.

I stumbled across Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers a few days ago then was directed to it by some teacher friends the next day. You know it is a winner when that happens.

Watson has this sweet caring voice that is joyful and honest. She can be firm and understanding all at the same time and all of the podcasts that I have listened to so far were off-the-charts practical, applicable, refreshing, encouraging, and inspiring.

Here is the link to Watson’s website: You can read more about what she does and quickly access her podcast.

Enjoy listening, growing, and being encouraged!


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Back-to-School Teacher Essentials

2016-09-16-bts-teacher-essentialsSo it is definitely that time of year. My school has been in session for a few weeks now, and we are all still getting into the swing of things. The teacher in the room next to me is shared by two brand new teachers. They have come by my room a number of times looking for suggestions on what they need for their classroom.

The reality is that all teachers new or experienced know the basics. We all know that you need bulletin board borders, punch out letters, sticky tack, post-it notes, a pencil sharpener, red pens, file folders, and on and on the list goes.

As my new neighbors were asking a few questions, it reminded me of those first few days of school when you realize you are still missing a few items.

Here are sixteen totally random items that you absolutely need for back-to-school. This is for new and experienced teachers.

  1. Scotch Titanium Scissors – Every teacher is going to spend a substantial amount of time cutting things. Don’t ask me why, but we all do it. I teach high school history and I still manage to spend a substantial amount of time cutting things. Do yourself a favor and buy yourself some great scissors! These babies can slice through hundreds of pages without going dull. They also work really well for thicker types of paper, like laminated posters, labels, cardstock, and more.
  2. Adhesive Dot Magnets – This was one of those items that I totally splurged on because I was trying to reach a spending goal for a decent discount. (That makes it a savings, right?) I don’t use the magnets all the time, but they are so handy. I love putting these on the back of posters to stick on my chalkboard. I have put magnets on bulletin board borders to outline a door frame or my desk or the chalkboard. There are a million unexpected applications for the magnet dots.
  3. Good Pens – Teachers write a lot. Whether notes to our students or parents (or administration), or grading and rubrics, a pen is likely going to spend a lot of time in your hand. I am personally a fan of the cheap medium Bic Round Stick pens, but I know teachers who prefer to use only G2 Gel Pens. Whatever you like to write with, stock up on those pens and have them handy.
  4. X-acto Knife – This is one of those items that I didn’t expect to need, but once I started using it, I was so glad I had it. These knives are necessary for the ultimate teacher art-project: our ever-changing classroom decor. I build my own bulletin boards because of financial restrictions and I like them to look sharp. As a result, I put a lot of time and effort into them. An x-acto knife has been a lifesaver on multiple occasions.
  5. Water Bottles – No, I do not mean the refillable kind. I mean the cheap plastic water bottles that you buy in a 32 pack at the grocery store. I know they aren’t very environmentally friendly, but when your refillable water bottle is empty and class isn’t over for another twenty minutes and you have a meeting immediately after, you NEED water and you NEED that water now. I always have a stash of two or three bottles in my desk. Not only I am prepared for my own emergency, but if something outrageous happens with a student, I have water in my desk. It makes me feel more prepared.
  6. Spare Cell Phone Charger – It’s gotten to the point where I had to label mine because my fellow teachers kept borrowing my iPhone charger. This is a lifesaver. I do attendance on my phone, check emails, take notes on student behavior, manage my to-do list, and scan multiple documents daily. There have been days when I thought my phone was fully charged and it very much was not. That could be a disaster! An additional benefit – my cell phone charger also charges my iPad. 🙂
  7. A Spare Tote Bag – Every once in a while, I need to take an unusually massive load of books and papers home. I have my regular day-to-day bag for my laptop, grade book, and a few other items, but this bag won’t hold multiple textbooks, dozens of papers, or a desk-full of Christmas presents from my students. A spare tote bag has helped with those rare occasions and made it a little easier to carry all the extra stuff.
  8. Snacks – Along the same vein as the water bottles, sometimes lunch time cannot come soon enough. A few nutritious snacks are just an encouragement. But the reality is I just need something to get me through until lunch or dinner so I don’t get all hangry on my students. I have a problem… I know. 🙂
  9. Hand Sanitizer – No need to expound on this one. We all have that one student.
  10. Clorox Wipes – Just like the hand sanitizer, we all have that one student.
  11. Sharpies – Things need labeled. Pens don’t cut it.
  12. Cords to Hardwire Technology – every school is a little different with their technology requirements or expectations. My school provides TVs, Apple TVs, and iPads and expects the teachers to use these items regularly. The only small problem is that they want us to connect the iPad to the Apple TV using the school’s wifi. But with multiple teachers using the same router to access the internet, results in terribly slow internet. Not to mention all of the student’s devices that are pinging the same router, even if they aren’t connecting. I can’t rely on the wifi to stream a video in class or even play through a presentation. So no matter your situation, I strongly recommend you have any necessary cords and adapters to hardwire your devices. Trust me, you do not want to plan on using the device for an entire class period only to find out it isn’t working.
  13. Blank Cards for Birthdays, Thank yous, etc. – Sometimes I just forget that it was a co-workers birthday or that I still haven’t written that thank you card. Sometimes my fellow teachers are having a really bad day and need a note of encouragement. Having a little stack of cards stashed in my desk is just useful.

Well, that’s all I can think of for now. Hope you are enjoying your school year and now you feel a little more prepared.


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