I am the worst for keeping records!! I always have been. There are so many templates online for keeping documentation of student work, parent contact, meetings, etc. – there are so many things to keep records of!! When you first start out, it will take some time to figure things out, but eventually, you will find things that you like, and you will personalize them as you go, and your “system” will evolve over the years until you have your own method.
Some things to consider when developing your own system:
1. Try to be consistent. At the very least, if you are consistent, you will be able to compare notes, you will be able to file things in a regular manner, and you will be able to rely on your notes from months ago as being accurate if you are using a consistent format.
2. Put things where they belong immediately. There is nothing worse than finding student assessment notes on a post-it stuck to something months after you are done a unit and realizing that you had to re-assess that student because you thought you didn’t know what was on that post-it! File things immediately. If you are using post-its to keep track of student work, keep a file folder for each student on your desk and quickly put their post-its in the file at the end of each day to make sure you have them all. Then pick one planning time period a week to be your post-it planning and make sure you go through them and log them somehow.
3. Back up. If you are going digital, which many people are, back it up! Use a cloud storage system and just don’t use full names. I number my class so I just need to have numbered files. Evernote is great for storing student work and is user-friendly as a computer app and on an iPad or other device. You can snap pictures and videos of student work and tag other students if it was group work so it can be shared in multiple folders. This also saves your work in the cloud so it is accessible from anywhere! No lugging bins of student work home to work on report cards!!
4. Date everything!!! Make sure you put a date on things. I finally picked up a date stamp and it was the best $7 I ever charged to my school account! You don’t want to pull out a note that says you spoke with Julie’s mom about her math and refer to it if it was 5 months ago. Make sure know when things took place.
5. Make it as easy as possible on yourself. If you are going to go paper-pencil, make up some forms that have some of your key information already there, so you can easily fill things in when you need to. Colour-coding those pages might help too (i.e., blue for student records, pink for parent contact, etc.).
Whatever you decide to do, make sure you are as organized as possible. My records are getting better, but I still don’t have one perfect system. Your system will evolve. You will probably never find a blog post with someone’s record keeping system laid out and adopt it 100% without any modifications. It is a great idea to read up on other systems though to get ideas, even print off some forms, etc. to have on hand in case you need them. Record keeping is an overwhelming, but essential part of teaching, so it is so important that you take your time and do it properly. It could save you in the event of an allegation, or other situation.