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Office Tour

Welcome to my office. 🙂 I’ll share some images and a little candid commentary. At the end I reveal my dark secret about organization.

Welcome! It's true -- I have a little hole-in-the-wall office, with no windows. Over the years, I've tried to make it represent me. I've somewhat succeeded.
It's a small office, so I try to use every nook & cranny. This is a place for visitors or (more likely) a place to collect stuff that I drop off when I'm picking up other resources to head to another school. However, I'm proficient about putting everything away so it is empty in case someone needs to meet.

I've found that having resources where I see them allows me to be more effective. It's a good thing, since this is the ONLY storage space I have in my office. I know this is tough to see, so click on the photo for a close up.

How I keep track of the books I've read.

Resources I've collected. Yeah, I'd love for all the binders to be black . . . but these are the ones I was able to scrounge up from my college days and left overs around school. The important thing is that each is clearly identified. (By the way, don't you love that orange rug, Stacey?)

More binder storage.

Genre Resources: In a basket under the chair, I store all my books specific to a genre.

Another Stack of Books: These are ones for book studies I've participated in the year; as well as some of my go-to adolescent resources.
File Cabinets: Does anyone else sometimes look at their filing cabinets and wonder, "Do I really need everything that is in there?" Over the past several years I've been more intentional about storing things digitally, which means many of my files are an after-thought when planning. Not only that, but I've busted many of my units of study out of the filing cabinet and into the file box (see below).
My system for organizing Units of Study resources.

Computer Area
Computer Area

I’ve used this so much the letters are worn off of my keyboard! The locker cubbies are used to store important documents like staff rosters, phone extensions, and the literacy framework.


One of the many quotes I have around my computer. Even after Stacey & collected more than 180 quotes for our book, I still love ’em.


It’s easier to write little notes of encouragement when the notecards are at my fingertips. I also keep a pack of markers in this basket for making charts.

“Holding Area”

Because I am not 100% Type A Personality, there is this area, behind my door that serves as a “holding tank” for things that need filed. See that lovely stack? Yeah, that’s all of my high school curriculum work. See my good intentions? There are binders and tabbies and everything all ready for when I have time to organize.  Considering almost all of this is filed electronically on my computer, it is not a big priority for me. The thing I need to do is scan the student work. I’m not so good at that. Oh well, it gives me a goal.

I know some of you out there are uber-organized and others are just beginning. I’m speaking to the later group now. 🙂 I want you to know this has been a journey for me. An eleven year journey. The first few years I was in a classroom, I organized things more like archeology. When wanting to locate something, I considered when I last saw it. If it was at the beginning of the year, I knew it was near the bottom of the pile. December was mid-pile; April near the top. Finding a document resembled an archeological dig. (Think of that last photo only throughout an entire classroom.)

By year three, I was a little wiser and had this epiphany: I didn’t need to keep everything that came across my desk. I could, in fact, THROW THINGS AWAY. This was also the year I resolved to never leave without first clearing my desk. A clear desk makes a big difference. I learned it’s easier to clear a desk every afternoon; as opposed to only 1-2 times a year when a substitute teacher is coming.

If you are in the midst of an archeological dig site, I understand. I’ve been there. Here’s how I unearthed the gems.

  1. I made smaller piles with labels. Then I put the smaller piles in boxes or file folders (keeping the labels on the outside!).
  2. I continued to do this in small chunks of time over a summer.
  3. Once everything had been sorted (and lots had been tossed), I began to go through the smaller piles.
  4. I sorted them again and labeled the new piles.
  5. Then I began to organize in a system that seemed best: binder + tabs; file folder; basket.
  6. Every single piece of paper found a home. (Many of them found a home in the recycling bin!)
  7. I labeled the outside of the binder, file folder, or basket.
  8. When I went to find something, I paid attention to the first place I looked. If it wasn’t there, once I found it, I moved it to that spot.

Nothing is more stressful than not being able to find the things you need. Taking the time to organize your piles is one of the very best things you can do. The system will evolve to fit your needs. This is both frustrating (because you’ll have to re-organize periodically) and liberating (because eventually you’ll be able to find what you need when you need it). Stick with it and know there is hope — I’m living proof that you can survive an archeological dig zone!

Today, I’m a believer that I am only as effective as I am organized. Being proficient is about being organized. Effective Writing Workshop teachers are organized teachers. What’s your best system for organizing the massive resources we can collect as Writing Workshop teachers?




Ruth Ayres View All

Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.

8 thoughts on “Office Tour Leave a comment

  1. “Holding Area!” I love that title better than my “to file” pile! Thanks so much for sharing your organizational method. It is inspirational and a wise use of space. Keep the photos coming!


  2. Thank you for sharing the pictures of your room. They give clear examples of different tools one can use for organizing materials. I also appreciate your encouraging advice. I hope that someday you will get to move to a room with more space and some daylight/sunshine.


  3. I love seeing someone else’s office. I think I should take pictures of mine as the year progresses. Some weeks as I fly from classroom to meeting, my office is so bad I can barely walk around the piles. I always feel so good when it is back to organization. I thought having a second office in one of the schools I work in would help this year (the thinking-I wouldn’t always have to carry everything to all schools). In reality, I think it has made it harder. It seems like something is always in the other office and that one printer is always on the fritz.
    Thanks for sharing your organization-it has me inspired!


  4. I LOVE organizing with binders and page protectors. I use plastic folders with tabs, so I can store things quickly if I don’t have time to file.

    Ruth–I would love to hear about some strategies and mentor texts to use with high school seniors. I teach an Advanced Writing class, and I’m always looking for new ideas to improve my craft.

    I love the blog!



  5. Hi! I just found your blog. I am thinking of starting a blog with book reviews and ideas for mentor/anchor texts for use with students. I haven’t had time to look around but I love this post! It reminds me of my little office! I’m so glad I found your site!


  6. I am impressed! Organization was a huge journey for me too. When anyone asks me where or how to begin… I tell them to begin with a box of big green trash bags at their side! Thanks for the inspiring post.


  7. First–big WOW on the use of pictures in the blog! Love the labeling.
    Besides seeing how you organize things, I found myself totally envying the little touches that make your space cheerful and pretty and a true reflection of you. I’m getting better at that part, but still need inspiration like you just provided to keep moving forward. I’m gearing up for a move to a new space for next year, and am itching for the organizing to begin!


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