Math = Love: Designing My Own Teacher Planner Part 1

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Designing My Own Teacher Planner Part 1

I'm in the middle of designing my own teacher planner for next year, and I'm too excited to wait until the final product is done to start blogging about it.  I love browsing the internet for pretty teacher planners.  There's just something about a new planner that makes me happy inside.  However, the problem with most planners that I see on the Internet is that they seem to be focused on the elementary grades.  I don't need field trip planners or a zillion pre-made seating chart pages.

I started thinking about what I would want in a planner, and this is what I came up with.

* Weekly Calendars (With Lines!  I cannot write in a straight line to save my life...)
* Flexibility to add more pages and move things around as I figure out what I really want/need

Really, when it comes down to it, all I want flexibility.  I want to be able to change things when they aren't working.  I'm tired of buying a planner and spending a year dreaming about when I get to buy a new planner because it just isn't working for me.  My husband introduced me to the Arc Notebook System by Staples a couple of months ago.  It's a discbound system that lets you rearrange your pages to your heart's content.  You can add pages whenever you want and wherever you want.  It gives me the flexibility of a three-ring binder without the annoying bulk of a binder.  Plus, it lies completely flat!  

I designed my own weekly spread back in May, and I've been using it to see what I *really* want in a planner.  After using my own pages for a few days, I figured out what was working and wasn't working.  I've redesigned my weekly spread pages, and I'll be blogging about those soon.  Promise.

What I really want to blog about today is the "extras" I have made to go in my planner to keep me organized.

All of the pages in this post can be downloaded here.  If you download the editable Publisher files, you'll need to also download these free fonts: HVD Comic Serif Pro and Ostrich Sans Heavy.  The PDF files will preserve all of the fonts and formatting.

Address Book Pages - One thing that planning a wedding (and writing post-wedding thank you notes) taught me was that I need a better organizing system for my addresses.

Calculator Sign-Out Sheets - My school provides students with graphing calculators instead of making them purchase their own.  This is largely because we are in a low socio-economic area where many families could not afford to purchase a graphing calculator for their students.  I have a classroom set of calculators that serves us well.  The problem arises when our students need a graphing calculator to take the ACT.  In four years of teaching, I still haven't come up with a good system for tracking who has borrowed which calculator.  Usually, I resort to writing calculator numbers down on post-it notes, but they can get buried in my messy desk and lost.  If students seem me write down their calculator check-out in my book, they'll know that they must return it in a timely manner or I will track them down.

Birthdays - One thing I want to do a better job of this year is keeping track of birthdays.  When someone takes the time to send you a birthday card, it just makes you feel special.  I want to do that more this year.  I overheard a student say a couple of weeks ago that only one person had wished her a happy birthday on her birthday.  Her own parents hadn't even remembered her birthday.  How sad is that!  This was convicting to me because I only do an okay job of recognizing birthdays in my classroom.  Usually the way I deal with birthdays is this: If you tell me it's your birthday, I'll give you a birthday badge sticker to wear.  Sometimes, I'll even throw in a "Happy Birthday" certificate that I picked up at Dollar Tree.  What about the students that are too shy to tell me it's there birthday?  I need to make a plan to recognize all of my students on their birthday.  I still remember my 7th grade math teacher: Mrs. Sellars.  She gave each of us a pencil on our birthday.  If students had a birthday that fell in the summer months, she gave them a pencil on their half-birthday.  This year, I want to recognize all of my students (and coworkers) on their birthdays.  To help me keep track of this, I made some birthday tracking sheets to keep in my planner.  

I haven't tested these out yet (mainly because I've yet to print all of my planner pages and assemble them.)  I'm thinking that the student birthdays sheet might be too small to fit all of my students.  So, I might need to redesign it so it takes up 2 pages...  If so, I'll share it as well! 

Future Dates - I'm always running into the problem of having a date I want to put in my planner when my planner doesn't go that far.  I decided that making a sheet to record dates for the next four years should help with this.  Now, I have a place to record random dates I want to keep an eye on such as driver's license expirations, teacher registration expirations, and other random stuff.  

Items Borrowed and Items Loaned - I perpetually have students coming to me to borrow stuff.  After four years, students have learned that if you need scissors, glue, colored pencils, markers, rulers, or any crafty stuff that I'll probably have it.  The problem is that these things have a tendency to not come back.  I'd track down the student who borrowed it, but I often don't remember who that was.  And, I often don't realize it never came back until a week or so later.  This year, I'm going to keep a log of items that are borrowed so I can ensure that they are returned.  Students won't be able to leave the the room with the borrowed item until it's logged in my book.  

I also created a sheet for items that other people have loaned me.  It's rare that I borrow something from someone, but it does happen.  

Meeting Notes - I have a new principal next year who promises that he rarely calls a faculty meeting.  My previous principal insisted on having a faculty meeting every Friday.  Even though there will be less meetings to attend, I still want to keep organized at these meetings.  My usual approach to a faculty meeting has been to take notes on a calendar page in my planner.  This is usually less than ideal.  So, I designed this sheet to help me organize my meeting notes.

Student Council Meeting Notes - As Student Council sponsor, I host a usually weekly meeting for my student council kids to discuss upcoming events that they are planning.  I've never been organized with student council stuff, and it makes it incredibly hard to find things later.  I adapted my Meeting Notes page to a Student Council Meeting Notes page.  I'm hoping this leads to more organized student council meetings this year!

Parent Contact Log - One area I know I need to improve in is parent contact.  I hate talking on the phone.  It scares me.  But, I know that contacting parents means I will be better able to meet my students' diverse needs.  This year, I am going to try to contact five parents each week (at a minimum).  I wanted a place to keep track of the parents I contact and take notes on what was discussed.  This is what I came up with:

Passwords - As a teacher, I have so many passwords to keep track of it's not funny.  I've always relied on trying to use the same password if at all possible.  This works for the most part.  But, there's always that website that wants 14 letter passwords with 5 special characters or something crazy.  Keeping track of my various passwords will help me keep my sanity and save time by not having to go through the "Forgot My Password" page at least once a week.

Project Planner - Okay, I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to use this for.  I might use it in the student council section of my notebook to help various events such as the Veterans Day Assembly or the Annual Blood Drive.  I also play a large role in preparing for the Awards Assembly at the end of the year which involves lots of small to-do list items.  

Reading Log - Now that grad school is done, I think I might finally have time to start reading for pleasure again.  I recently got a library card from a nearby town that allows me to access free audio books and e-books.  The type column is to differentiate between e-books, audio books, and well actual physical books.

Tutoring Log - My school pays teachers to do after school tutoring, but there's one catch.  We have to keep a log of our hours and the students we help in order to get paid.  I often help students after school, but I'm terrible at keeping records.  This means I rarely get any compensation for my time.  This year, I am going to have a tutoring sign-in sheet for students to sign when they enter and exit my room.  Then, I'll transfer the information (neatly) to my tutoring log.  

To-Do Lists - I have designed half-sheet to-do lists for this next year.  My thinking is that since they only take up half a sheet they can be inserted in the middle of my weekly spread.  I've tried keeping my to-do items on my weekly spread, but that just ends up too messy.  Plus, I usually have way more to-do items than space.  This will allow me to change out the to-do list in the middle of the week if I need to.  Of course, you can just print these, chop them in half, and use them as a normal to do list, too!  


  1. chekc out the Uncalendar.

    I am in no way affiliated with them, just love the way they are flexible and changeable to fit all my midyear re-organizations of how I do things. I linked you to one that would fit in your nifty arc binder system, but I buy the spiral bound one. Loose leaf also means all your extra helpful sheets can just go right in. Since it is not dated, during the summer I just use the monthly calendar and then during the school year go back to weekly pages.
    When you go to the link, click see larger and then look through each page.
    it's been an amazing find for me.

  2. I love my paper planner, but I have found a couple things work better digitally for me. One is my parent contact logs - that way I can sort by student and get a clear record for an individual OR I can sort everything by date to keep track chronologically.

    Another is sign in/ out logs (like you're mentioning for tutoring). I have a desktop computer in my room that just happens to live near the door. I put a desktop shortcut to a Google form that students fill out when they leave and enter the room to give me a record that is time and date stamped. Could work for tutoring as well. For mine, they enter their name and destination.

  3. Did you buy the hole puncher that matches the binder? It's pretty pricey on their website! Any Suggestions on how to get around that?

    1. I did. My husband and I both used it to make our own planners, so it's worth it for us.

  4. I also did a sign in/sign out log. I used a 2 pocket folder with tabs. Students signed in/out, and passes were placed int eh pocket. It lived by the door.

    I found that If I kept my parent contact log in a separate binder, I could have more pages for notes. I had a page I would use for conferences, as well as a page for telephone contact/email contact. Essentially, I used a 3 ring binder. I had the student information sheet (filled out in the beginning of the year) for each student, and placed behind it the different sheets. Using the ABC tabbed dividers helped to keep it organized.

    Now that I am teaching in Vietnam, parent contact is essentially limited to email, or parent conference day (with a translator present). I do not have as many parent contacts as I would like, because so many parents do not speak/understand English, and my Vietnamese is extremely limited.

    Every year I try to be more organized, and find a system that works for me. I use different binders or folders for different things, and a traditional lesson plan book.

  5. I started a regular planner the year I started teaching as the Birthday Book. I pass it around the classroom on one of the first days of each class and have each student sign their name on their birth date. So I have one book with every student I have ever taught in it. Students from previous semesters are the most surprised when I say happy birthday when I see them in the hallway. Because it was a real planner it does usually have the wrong day of the week, which causes some confusion when kids are signing it, but if you were making something you could just have the dates without days. I really enjoy looking back over the kids names each day and remembering all my previous students.

  6. I've made my own planner the last two years and used the arc system with it. I LOVE it. All the meeting notes are in one place and on pretty paper, all my observations, random committee info, and parent things/student passwords. Every meeting people ask me where I got it. Whenever I can't find something on my desk the kids remind me to check in my "notebook with the weird holes".

  7. What do the actual planning pages look like?

    1. Check out this post!

  8. Funny that you should mention the arc system. I made my own planner last year but used the school planner cover which is so ugly. I wanted something nicer and was toying with trying this system. After reading your post, I went and bought it today! I decided to buy the clear notebook cover so I can change up my cover page and it will show through.

    1. I'm kinda wishing I'd bought the clear cover now so I could change it up with pretty scrapbook paper!

  9. I love my discbound planner......We found and they are great for covers and discs. Not sure on pricing internationally though. I also tend to print on heavier weight paper as I find if I use normal copy paper it wont last through the year.