(Another organizational tip for newbies and anyone else who is interested)
This quick tip can make your life unimaginably easier.
Buy one of those industrial staplers, the kind that can staple thirty-some papers into one stack. You will have to buy the special staples that go with your new stapler. Yes, these staplers are expensive. You should stash this stapler so the kids don’t damage it or, worse, staple their own thumbs. Kids can do the darnedest stuff.
(One important caveat: I picked this stapler because no one can easily stable their thumb or another student’s head with this model. Other industrial staplers offer much less protection. If you are going to keep your new stapler in the classroom, even if you intend to keep it inside your desk, you need to avoid models that might lead to trouble. Choose carefully. A stapler that looks like the traditional stapler will be your best bet.)
When you pick up the homework papers from the class inbox, staple them into one group. Among other problems solved, when a kid says, “I turned it in so you must have lost it,” you will be able to immediately address that issue. If it’s in the packet, he turned it in. If not, tell him to check his locker and show him the packet.
(Incidentally, if you are using one inbox, I recommend you go buy a few more cheap, black plastic boxes. Each class should have its own box.)
Grading will often be easier if all the papers are attached to one another, especially with preprinted worksheets. Packets save paper-handling time. Just flip the page and keep flipping.
You might want to alphabetize those papers before you staple them. Papers that won’t be entered into a database obviously don’t need alphabetizing, but if you are going to be plunking numbers into some grading program or spreadsheet, alphabetizing saves oodles of time in the long run. You should be able to blast through entering alphabetized, stapled grades.
Eduhonesty: Kudos to Michael Stewart who gave me this tip during my first year teaching. If you have small classes or that industrial stapler costs too much, you can get by with a regular, cheaper model and multiple small packets, but I love my industrial stapler. Whatever stapler you use, keeping papers together will simplify your life. I also recommend a special dedicated bag for homework papers– the homework goes in the Elmo bag, for example — and another bag for other papers. The objective is to never lose a homework paper ever and, with the right system, you should be able to make that happen.