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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 16, Number 2, November/December 2003

Teachers’ tips

by Rob Taylor

With this new column, we hope to give teachers feeling overwhelmed by their ever-increasing work, tools to deal with the new reality of teaching in British Columbia.

We welcome contributions from teachers everywhere. It is an ongoing conversation—kind of a universal staffroom—where we listen to one another and give a hand up or advice when needed.

Paperwork: Mountain or molehill

Computer technology has not lessened the amount of paper we face. In fact, it has increased it. A lot of what we receive might be called fibrous spam. It is an unnecessary and unwanted hindrance. Here are some ways to handle it.

Tip number one
Before you empty your school mailbox, bring over the recycling bin. Discard everything you know doesn’t concern you or doesn’t require a response. Don’t use the garbage can.

Tip number two
Take out the items you can address right now. Deal with them. Never carry back to your room anything that has to end up back in the office or staff room anyway. If it’s a memo from a colleague and the answers are at hand, answer them and put the memo into the sender’s box. You will feel better immediately.

Answer faxes on the same sheet, and fax right back. Don’t worry if the response is not on your school’s letterhead.

Messages that require a phone call response are next. Reply, or leave a message. If possible, answer the question in the message. Recycle that paper. If you miss the person who phoned and it’s important, that person will get back to you. If there’s no answering machine or voice mail, keep the paper and try once more. Then it’s up to the originator of the message to get back to you.

By now you should have little paper left. There may be something that will take some time, like an important BCTF survey. That does not go back into your mailbox. Put it into a file folder that you keep on your desk marked important things to do. Work through it later. Note in your appointment calendar or daytimer when it is due. Don’t mark the day it is actually due, but a couple of days beforehand, so you’re not stuck with dealing with it when you’d rather be heading home.

Use a large-format calendar with large date spaces for all appointments, interviews, and visits from outside guests. A computer calendar works great—until you have a hard drive crash.

That takes care of all immediate mailbox issues. Check your box every time you walk by it. Smile knowingly at colleagues when there is nothing in your mail box, and others are overflowing. Enjoy the fact that there are no paper piles, no messes, and no lost messages for you to worry about.

Rob Taylor teaches at Nesika Elementary School, Williams Lake.

The next "Teachers’ tips" column will tackle your heavy marking load. If you have an idea you want to contribute, or other quick ideas for eliminating paperwork, e-mail them to rtaylor@bctf.ca .

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