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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Planner tour

**note: see my updated planner for the 2015-2016 school year here!**

As long as I'm starting a blog about organizing chaos, let's start with the mother ship, shall we?!?

Behold, my all-encompassing and yet still surprisingly slim and cute planner!

I started using the Arc system from Staples about a year ago and I love it. It has the little black discs that you see on the side that serve the same function as the rings in a 3-ring binder. Except it lies flat like a spiral-bound notebook. You obviously need to have a special hole-punch, but I found a cheap one on Levenger's website for under $20 that fits the bill for me! I also got these tabs on Amazon, which as you can see are starting to wear down because they are just paper, but I don't mind because I have plenty of replacements, they are cheap, and they are cute :) And oh yeah, this pen loop. Nothing fancy but it does the job.

*Note: I'm not fancy enough to remotely be getting any incentives from anyone for telling you about these products. I'm just sharing what I use because they work well for me and the price is right! OK moving right along...

The tabs I currently have are as follows: schedule, grades, contacts, cook&clean, information, and journal. Obviously this planner is both for my home and school life. I am one person so why should I have to have more than one planner? I have tried a lot of different planners, both physical and electronic, and I have found that I really like having a physical planner. Although I do A LOT of things electronically, I need the physical process of writing things down to help me organize my thoughts. Also I like pretty pens.

The problem: I haven't been able to find a teacher planner that fits my needs as an elementary music teacher. There are plenty of awesome Mommy planners/ home management binders out there that I love, but again, I don't want 2 planners.

Solution: make one that I like and can use without crossing out all of the headings and re-drawing boxes to match my schedule/life or spending more money than a month's groceries (can I get an amen?).

So let's take a look inside!

The bulk of my planner is under the "schedule" tab. It starts with the general and moves to the specific. So first I have my year-at-a-glace calendar, then space to copy my school district's yearly calendar, and my class schedule. Because my class schedule changes from year-to-year, and even within the school year when we have state testing (joy), I print out a copy and tape it in with washi tape.

Next I have my year-long planning pages for every grade that I teach. I have a box for each month and I just write down the main concepts I plan to focus on, or projects they will be working on (especially the older students) during that month. It helps me stay on track as I plan my lessons throughout the year. Then come my monthly calendar pages, where I write down appointments, special events, or anything else that I plan long-term. And then we get to the real nitty-gritty:

Each week is a full two-page spread. I note appointments, play dates, meetings, birthdays, and holidays in the top box labeled "events". Then I have my lesson plans. I teach on a rotational schedule so I have a little box where I write down which rotational day I am teaching. Now, if you look back at my teaching schedule, you will see that I do in fact teach more than 5 classes per day. I actually teach 8-10. But luckily with my younger students I see two classes of the same grade level in a row, so I write their lesson in the same space. Sometimes the two classes are on different lessons because of the rotation, but my brain lumps them together so I keep them in the same box. I find there is enough room for me to write down what I'm doing for each one. At the bottom I have a small space for prep- copies I need to make, people I need to contact, repertoire I need to select, and anything else that needs to get done in my "spare time" goes there :) And guess what- I still have space for a to-do list and notes section! I use the notes section to write down ideas when they pop into my head, notes from meetings, and things I want to remember (like a friend who has a big exam on Thursday that I want to check up on). I cross off things as I do them on my to-do list. Anything that doesn't get done gets copied to the next week.

Oh and see my cute little spiral paper clip? I clip the pages from the current month to the current week together so that I can easily flip to the right page.

The next tab is "grades". I honestly only keep track of the report card grades from each trimester here. The rest of my day-to-day grades are either on my computer or my seating chart (you can download that for free if you want to see what I use!). It is nice to be able to look back and remember what I gave students on previous report cards throughout the year.

The rest of my planner is my life planner/home management binder/whatever else you want to call it.

Under "contacts" I have, obviously, my contact list with names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses. Although I used to feel I didn't need this in a planner because I have all this information electronically, I have had several occasions when it has been much easier to have all the information consolidated and in hard copy. For obvious reasons I'm not going to show you that page today, so moving right along...

My next tab is "cook&clean". Notice the sheen on my cleaning page? That's because it's laminated just on that side (moment of silence for the powers of laminating). I use a wet erase marker to keep track of my cleaning each month so that I can keep re-using the page without erasing (If you are looking at what I have marked as "monthly" you may be cringing right now. Let me remind you that I am a single mother. I tried keeping up with the pinterest-Mommy cleaning schedules for a while and got depressed. Don't judge.).

My "cooking" section is still a work in progress. Basically I have a few categories of recipes with little self-sticking pockets to stick in copies of recipes. Again, I have all of this information electronically, but I don't really like having my phone in the kitchen and it gets old having to log in because the phone turned off while I was finding an ingredient. Obviously I have started with the desert recipes first, but I am slowly adding new recipes to my planner when I have time :)

The "information" tab is the bulk of my "home management binder" section- I have a list of bills, medical information, and child care information. The "journal" tab is mostly blank- just some headings for "family", "friends" and "other" to jot down things and people I want to remember to pray for, gift ideas, and thoughts about life :)

In the back I have my zippered pocket:

I keep a few blank note cards and envelopes, postage stamps, documents from school or the doctor that I need to keep handy, and (at last right now) slips of paper to write down more recipes (see, I told you I was working on it!).

And that's pretty much it!

If you're interested, I've got the files for this planner, plus several others, in my TeachersPayTeachers store. I have made lots of design options for the format I use myself, and I've also made planning pages in other formats to accommodate elementary specialists with different job descriptions and planning styles. You can see what I'm talking about by downloading the free sample of all the different lesson planning formats.


  1. Would you ever consider posting the "personal" part of the planner on TpT as well? I'm like you - going into my seventh year of teaching with a baby boy who turns one on Friday (ahh!!), but I've always just had two planners! This idea is BRILLIANT! If you already have this planner posted, would you please post that link? I'm so inspired by this! (Even inspired to clean, which is impressive!) haha :) Thank you for sharing!! I'm really enjoying your posts!!
    Lindsey :)

    1. First of all, congratulations on surviving your first year! The first year can be so hard sometimes. And secondly, thank you so much for your comment! It makes my heart happy that others enjoy and can use the things I spent so much time creating to work for me :) I will definitely work on getting the other parts of the planner on my store- if you aren't following me over there, that would be an easy way to find out when I post it! Off to work on it now! :)
      P.S. We are more similar than you may realize- I'm entering my 8th year of teaching (with a year off for maternity leave in the middle) and my kids are 2.5. So glad to connect with you!

    2. Update: It's up- hope you can use it! I would love any feedback or suggestions you might have too! Thanks for the encouragement.

  2. That is so smart to make your own planner. Similarly, I can never find one that is just right. I actually gave up and just use a google calendar now, which is great because it will sync between my phone and my husbands, but just doesn't have enough info!! You have inspired me to try making my own. I am in my 12th year teaching and have an almost 4-year old son and an 18 mo old daughter. I also love pretty pens and my weakness is post-its... :)

    1. I go through post-its like nobody's business!! I always have them scattered around my house and all over my desk at school... Thanks for the comment!