One of my biggest successes has been in my ability to organize and develop good classroom management. I believe we all have it in us, to an extent, but some are better than others. I think it is a learned skill.  I also believe if you are organized, you can afford to be more flexible.

That seems like somewhat of a backward thought.  It would seem the more organized a person is, the more rigid he or she would be.  But the more you have everything in order, and the more you know where everything is, the more flexible you can be when something you have to deal with pops up out of the blue. I find myself less stressed and more able to be flexible, when there is a system in place.

Administrative edicts have made it imperative to improve results, and this is probably true wherever anyone teaches. Teachers are mandated to be more accountable and more efficient, as we are expected to individualize each student’s plan and to differentiate their assessments.  I have developed a plan to help accomplish that. In addition to educating students more quickly, it is important to me that we continue to provide a solid educational plan, rather than just a little learning factory or GED factory. So, I set up some criteria to determine the direction I wanted to go.

I decided my plan had to cover the academic standards needed to reach literacy or to pass the GED test. It had to be flexible and it had to be individualized. It needed to be simple to set up and simple to administer. It must give each student control of his plan. It can easily be duplicated by other teachers, if they want to borrow it or use it. And it would maximize the production of every student.

Over a period of years, I developed progress sheets for each of the five subjects: math, writing, reading, science, and social studies. These are for every level, and for every subject. I probably have 35-40 progress sheets I use regularly. For every text used in my classroom, I created an Excel program on my computer, where I made a chart with all the assignments, all the page numbers, a place to put their name, date, score, and some notes at the bottom. Whenever I need one for an individual, I can just print it out quickly and we’re good to go.

I used to keep these student records in my own files, but now I have created a folder for each student to keep. In his folder, I put any sheets that will help him track his daily progress, and to track his assessment results. I also include learning aids and charts, a goals calendar, etc.

Janice M. Chamberlin, a licensed prison educator in Indiana, is the author of Locked Up With Success. In her book, Ms. Chamberlin shares stories not only of the challenges she has faced, but also the triumphs she has seen in the prison classroom setting. She has successfully developed a system that can unlock potential even in the highest risk students.

About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

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