Kansas State University


College of Education

Category: September 2014

Keeping Up with the Paperwork

Amid all the new things you’re learning—bell schedules and assembly procedures, as well as the names of 135 or so of your very favorite students and a batch of new computer passwords and codes, one important area you will need to become comfortable with is record keeping.

As a new teacher, you’re probably realizing all the requirements for your new position, but good record keeping will save you plenty of headaches through the year. Absences, tardies, missing assignments, grades, and communication with students’ families and guardians are just a few of the details you’ll need to record. So let’s look at some suggestions that, hopefully, will make your daily teaching duties a little easier!

Communication Log: Communication—with families and guardians, colleagues, administrators, education leaders, and community members—is so important, and in the midst of lesson plans, activities, and classroom management, it can easily get lost.


  • Consider recording dates you attempted to contact (by phone or through email) parents/guardians and dates you successfully contacted parents/guardians regarding specific student concerns or successes. Make a brief note of the topic of communication and any decisions or input.
  • Record dates/copies of student behavior referrals.
  • Record ideas/suggestions gathered through your various communications.
  • File family/guardian emails in a separate folder on your computer for easy access.

Attendance: When you’re dealing with 30 or more students, keeping track of attendance can be a daunting task! While you’ll probably have a computer program that your school uses to record students who are absent or tardy, you’ll probably want to include your own personal system, as well.


  • Develop a way to organize papers and other materials that absent students will need when they return.
  • Try using a folder posted on a board or in a designated spot and placing any materials in it with specific students’ names on them. If you teach multiple classes, clearly label a folder for each class.
  • Keep a list of students and their missing assignments. Many grading programs will generate these for you. Consider printing out two copies—a master copy for you and then a copy of each student’s missing assignments. Hand out a list of missing assignments to each student; handing these out on Fridays can be especially helpful to give them the weekend to address their missing assignments.

Grades:  Keeping up with the grading and maintaining accurate grade sheets are always a concern for teachers—new and veteran teachers alike. Here are some suggestions; also check out our list of 10 Assessment Tips in this issue.


  • Keep a basket on your desk so students will know where assignments go when they’re completed.
  • Try to grade papers—and empty that basket—by the end of the day on Fridays.  What doesn’t get taken care of by then probably needs to go home over the weekend. Try to always start your week with an empty assignment basket for a fresh start to your week.
  • If you teach more than one class, have a folder for each class where you place assignments to be returned after they’ve been assessed.
  • Group assignments and enter grades by the class, if possible. As late assignments come in, mark those students’ names off the missing assignments list.
  • Just to be safe…periodically, especially if it has been a busy assignment time, print off the whole-class grade sheet and file in a secure place. If technology would fail (when you least expect it), you will have a backup.

Substitute Plans

teacher in front of classIn your first month of teaching, you’ve probably not even thought of the possibility that you might miss a day of teaching. However, the time will come—due to your being sick or an illness in the family, an emergency, or even a professional development opportunity supported by your school—that you will be absent from your classroom for a day or more.

It’s better to be prepared for it, rather than wait for that opportunity to present itself—possibly as stomach flu at 4 in the morning.

Some schools have folders that their teachers use for substitute plans, or possibly a sheet that includes the basic information of your teaching duties. But you’ll want to be a little more prepared than that, so you’ll probably want to set up your own Substitute Plans folder and keep in your desk in a specific place.

Consider adding the following to your personal “sub” folder:

  • Your daily schedule (including times, lunch and plan periods, etc.)
  • Lists (and directions) of any other rooms where your substitute would need to be.
  • General school daily schedule (hours/blocks/etc.).
  • General school lunch schedule.
  • Emergency drill plans (map, directions, etc.)
  • A list of key contacts and their telephone extension numbers.
  • Easy access to class rosters (with notes of any special needs or concerns for specific students).
  • Seating charts, if applicable.
  • A brief sentence summarizing the purpose of the class.
  • A list of information about each class—approximate number of students, any paraprofessionals or other educators who assist with the class.
  • For classes with older students, a list of responsible, go-to students they can count on for help.
  • Your phone number or email if they should need to contact you.
  • Blank notebook pages—so they can easily leave you notes about the classes and any concerns or updates that they’d like to share.
  • A list of where they can find key materials.
  • Some untimely—but educationally appropriate—assignments that the substitute can use to fill time, as needed.

By having this general information already prepared, when the time comes for you to be absent, you’ll only need to write the specific activities for that day.

For those daily activities, if you’re absence is unplanned due to an illness or emergency, email the specific directions to the office assistant and to another teacher, as a backup. Be sure to point out the location of your substitute folder. Otherwise, have a copy printed out ahead of time and left on your desk.

The easier you can make it for the substitute, the easier your return will be…and the less worrying you’ll do during your absence.

Get Set for Parent-Teacher Conferences

Preparing for a parent-teacher conference

Even the most veteran of teachers can find Parent/Teacher conferences a little uncomfortable, but being prepared will help you make the most of this important opportunity. So let’s get prepared by considering the following:


  • Have meaningful grades in your grade book so you can talk about the child’s progress.
  • Take time to get to know each student so you can demonstrate at the conference that you’ve made a personal connection with the student.
  • Learn as much as possible about the process for parent/teacher conferences.  Some schools require that the student take an active part in the discussion, so make sure your students are prepared, as well.
  • Compile (or have your students compile) folders of their work to share with their parents/guardians. Include writings, assignments, assessments, and artwork to showcase their learning so far this year. You may want to add other items, such as grades, assessment results, and other items to share, as well.
  • Find out what materials and information teachers traditionally share at the conferences, since it can vary greatly from school to school and district to district.
  • Know the details of the conferences—when, where, guides on how much time to spend with each student’s parent/guardian, when to suggest an individual meeting to have more extensive discussions, etc.
  • Prepare a flier with important upcoming dates, a list of needed classroom items if they would like to contribute, and a brief look at upcoming important dates to help them be involved in their student’s education.


  • Step No. 1: Smile and introduce yourself. Be the first to offer a handshake.
  • Realize that the parents/guardians are taking time from their busy schedule to visit with the child’s teachers. Since we encourage family involvement in their child’s education, we need to appreciate their efforts. Be sure to thank them for attending.
  • Make comments about concerns and accomplishments specific to that student.
  • Provide specific ideas on areas where you’d like to see the student improve; provide specific suggestions on how the parent/guardian can help make that happen.
  • Be prepared to answer if a parent or guardian asks when he or she can do to help. That’s a golden opportunity you don’t want to overlook. Many times parents want to help, but they’re unsure just how to do that.
  • Make sure they know you value their input; provide additional contact information, and encourage them to contact you with any concerns or ideas.
  • Keep track of which students have individuals attending the conference on their behalf. Many schools provide a sign-in sheet; if not, consider creating a roster so you’re aware of who attended and who didn’t.
  • Review the list and consider making a personal effort to get parents/guardians of students you’re especially concerned about to set up an individual appointment with you.
  • Following the conferences, briefly thank your students for having their parents/guardians attend the conferences. However, don’t overdo this; in many cases, the students can’t help it if the adults in their lives decline the opportunity to attend the conferences.

Show a Little Team Spirit!

pennant with Go Team! written on itRemember going to your first K-State basketball game? Or tailgating before a Wildcat home football game? You probably spent the night before figuring out just how much purple you could wear to show your team spirit!

Well, don’t forget the fun of it all as you begin your teaching career! Be sure to recognize all those extracurricular opportunities your students are involved in as you kick off the year—carnivals, sports events, band performances, etc.

As a K-Stater, you know how important those events are—how they provide incentives for your students, a sense of belonging to a school family, and self-esteem. As time allows, try to attend some of these events to cheer on your students—and to show that you recognize their interests and efforts outside the classroom.

And, in case you need a bit more purple in your life, don’t forget the upcoming KSU football games:

  • HOME GAME! Sept. 18 (Thursday) vs. Auburn, 6:30 p.m.; Harley Day
  • HOME GAME! Sept. 27 vs. UTEP, Band Day/University Family Day
  • HOME GAME! Oct. 4 vs. Texas Tech, Fort Riley Day
  • HOME GAME! Oct. 25 vs. Texas, Homecoming

Ten Assessment Tips

A teacher takes questions from students taking a test

  1. Enter a grade into the grade book during the first week to 10 days of school. That first grade is often the most difficult to post, when you realize it’s such a responsibility. Getting it posted early gives students…and their parents/guardians some feedback early on.
  2. Keep up with the grading. Enter grades by the next day, if possible. Larger projects and essays can take more time, but need to be done within the week. Otherwise, your feedback loses its impact.
  3. Speaking of feedback…provide thoughtful feedback on assignments. Always try to offer a personal note.
  4. For struggling students, try focusing on one or two areas for improvements; otherwise, it can seem overwhelming and the student might give up.
  5. Appreciate the small steps students make toward improving; amazing progress won’t happen overnight.
  6. If numerous students have low grades on an assessment, reflect on how you taught the information. Consider re-teaching some of the key concepts with a different approach.
  7. Give students multiple ways to show that they’re learning—use a variety of assessments. It’ll hold their interest more, and you’ll get a more accurate view of what they really are learning.
  8. Grades can be corrected; at some point, you’ll type in a wrong score or under the wrong name or for the wrong assignment—or maybe all three at one time. Be confident, but know that mistakes happen, and graciously correct them. Be sure to inform the student and his or her parents/guardians if necessary.
  9. Have multiple grades in the grade book for each grading term to give your students an opportunity to recover from a poor assessment score.
  10. Contact parents/guardians if there’s a major grading concern regarding one of your students. They’ll appreciate your sincere concern.


Working with Your Administrator

principal and teacher working together

You’ve probably met with your administrators in formal as well as informal settings—the job interview, checking out the keys to your new classroom, etc.

But don’t forget that relationship even after you close your classroom door and begin teaching. The connection you have with him or her can be extremely helpful, especially during your first year of teaching.

Here are some key points to remember:

  • Your administrators want you to succeed, just as much as you do. They have invested time, energy, and finances to have you teach in their building, and they want it to be worthwhile for all involved. Your success also means fewer headaches for them, so believe them when they say they’re available.
  • That being said, don’t take advantage of the relationship; don’t waste his or her valuable time on trivial issues. Be selective when you turn to them for advice or to share information. Have others in the building who can provide support for the minor issues; go to the administrator when you believe it is an administrative level of support that is needed. Your administrator will undoubtedly be glad to assist, but keep in mind that he or she may have 40 or so other teachers to attend to, as well.
  • Student matters need the same type of selectivity on your part. If it’s a minor issue, try to handle it yourself in your classroom. If it’s something that can’t be handled that way—due to the severity of the situation or the repeated issues—then follow your building procedures, which may include contacting your administrator. As he or she understands you’re only contacting administration in selective situations, he or she will know to be attentive to your requests because they’re probably significant.
  • Appreciate the times your administrator visits your classroom—to observe you and your students, sometimes officially and sometimes not. He or she is using valuable time to check in with you to ensure you and your students are “flourishing,” as a favorite administrator once told me.

Do You Know the Drill?

A teacher lines up students for a drillWhile you’re settling into your new teaching job, it can be overwhelming to think that you’re in charge of the safety of the students in your classroom. To make sure you’re ready, read through the safety procedures—especially those regarding fire and tornado emergencies.

You’ll have drills to make sure you’re prepared, but before the drills happen, know where to go! Check with your administrator and/or the teachers down the hall to make sure you understand procedures. It’s always good to have a neighboring teacher help guide you through the first drill or two to make sure you’re following the emergency plan, so talk it over with him or her and ask for backup support.

The calmer you are during those events, the calmer your students will be!

Although we’ve never experienced anything but a drill, it’s always good to be prepared.

Looking Ahead….

Next month we’ll discuss tips for a variety of issues as you move into another month of teaching. These include:

  • Planning Your Professional Development
  • Other Duties Outside the Classroom
  • The Power of Reflection/Journaling
  • When Your Administrator Visits: Teacher Evaluations
  • Faculty Meetings
  • Communicating with Parents/Guardians
  • Fall Fun: Get Ready for Homecoming!

We’d Like to Hear From You!

e-mail iconDo you have a question about classroom procedures? Or a suggestion for a topic we should address in Before the Bell? Want to add your name to our mailing list? We’d love to hear from you, so please email us at lagoodson@k-state.edu.

Go, COE Cats!

Picture Perfect

Many KSU College of Education graduates have their own classrooms for the first time this fall. Here are a few who have just started their teaching careers.

Luke Snyder, Anthony Middle School, Manhattan
Anthony Middle School, Manhattan
Social Studies
Andrew Farmer, Manhattan High School
Manhattan High School
Haylee Smith, West Elementary, Wamego
West Elementary, Wamego
Third Grade

We want to celebrate your first year as a teacher! Send us a photo of you in your new classroom, and we’ll post as many as we can! Be sure to include your name, school, content area, and age level you teach. Email us at lagoodson@k-state.edu