12 Record Keeping Tips for Teachers
One of the most important, yet most neglected habits a teacher can acquire in their career, is the discipline of record keeping. In many ways it’s understandable. Knowing how busy the life of a teacher is, there just doesn’t seem to be time to do these things. However you would be amazed at how powerful this tool can be for all areas of your teaching practice. Many teachers do the very basics like marking the class roll and keeping a note on grades but there are so many other areas that can powerfully transform everyday information into ready to use data at meetings and for wider analytical work.
So here are some great ideas for teachers to consider keeping records of in schools…
- Behaviour management – One of the most powerful benefits of record keeping is found in the field of student behaviour. For instance at a teacher parent interview, to be able to show that a particular student shouted out in class on 8 occasions during the term, can be very convincing evidence to a sceptical parent. Record lateness, absences, toilet trips, tantrums, sleeping, poor language choices; the list is endless. Don’t forget to note those consistently good behaviours too: students who offer assistance, show politeness etc. .
- Student Conferencing – Recording the time, date and reasons for one-on-one student conferencing can be a valuable record of how much support a student is receiving, out with the general classroom instruction. .
- Student Concerns – It is worth making a record of student concerns. These may range from a student telling you that she is struggling to fit in with her classmates, or it may be a report of physical abuse. Whatever it is, take a note of it and if it’s serious enough report it. Your particular employer will likely have regulations on reporting certain information: who to report to and when. .
- Parent Concerns – These will likely fall under the academic category but will sometimes be about bullying or well-being issues. Take note and share with those who need to know. .
- Academic – Student grades are important but they rarely tell you the whole story. Keep records of not only summative assessment, but also formative assessment like class quizzes, homework, spelling tests, verbal responses, mock exams, field work, research work etc. Often a student grade can be explained by an examination of their formative work in the classroom. .
- Parent Contact – Whenever you contact or are contacted by a parent or guardian of a student, make a record of the date, time, reason and any follow up needed. Share with those who might need to be in the know. If the contact is complaint, ensure you treat it accordingly. I have written about this in a previous post. .
- Professional Development – For most Teachers, your ongoing Teacher Registration will require you to engage in ongoing Professional Development and Training. Keeping a record of your ongoing record is vital for licensing purposes. It is also a great record to dust off when you are looking for that career progression or promotion. Some registration authorities offer facilities that allows teachers to log their professional development online. .
- Meetings – These don’t have to be copious notes, but merely summations of who, where, what, why, how. Often there will be an agenda provided and a record of notes forwarded to you afterwards, depending on the manner of the meeting. Always skim over the official minutes of a meeting when you receive them. This not only refreshes you on what was covered but it also acts as a reminder of any actionable items. On one occasion I recall perusing minutes I had attended days before that omitted some discussions that were made in the meeting: be on the alert for this if the meeting concerned critical or sensitive issues. This is important: in many jurisdictions, minutes and records of meetings are deemed to be legal documents. .
- Resources and Expenses – Keep a record of any expenses you incur. Some of it may be offset against your income tax or some may be claimable to your teaching site. Other than that, it’s a good idea to have a picture of what you are providing from your own pocket, in fulfilling your teaching role. I could write a whole blog post just on this point: suffice to say that whilst education in some schools is woefully under-resourced, be careful not to fall into the trap of making up the shortfall. .
- Time Out of Class – This can include training, sickness, bereavement, family matters, meetings, excursions, field trips etc. These records not only tell you how much time in a year you have/don’t have in front of your students, but more importantly how much realistic time you have to deliver future units of work. Keep an eye on any patterns that are forming and reflect on them. .
- Reflective Practice – How did your lesson go? Was it great or did it bomb? Reflection is a major part of any teacher’s work. When done properly, a teacher will grow in positive leaps and bounds. These notes will more likely be more detailed and anecdotal in nature but they are worth the time and effort. .
- Incidents – It goes without saying, record all incidents – those unplanned events – that every teacher comes across. From the broken leg to the fainting student, make sure you make a note of them and record any follow up actions that you took. Often there will be designated systems for recording such information like student accident books, but a brief note in your diary can often be a most welcome back up when records go missing.
As mentioned above, make note of the dedicated systems that you educational site provides, especially when sensitive and confidential information is recorded. Also bear in mind that some records are more powerful when shared and available to all teaching staff: behaviour records for instance.
Otherwise, utilise your Teacher Diary to the fullest, by making it a portable data station. Secure online tools like Dropbox, Google-drive and Evernote are great for multi-platform and collaborative sharing. Whatever tools you use for keeping records, the golden rule is to keep your choices down to one or two platforms; for example your Teacher Diary and Google Drive. Anything more than one or two usually leads to duplication and complication: you don’t want record keeping to become a chore. For more on organising systems see this previous post.
In summary, record keeping is a vital habit to form as a teacher. The data that records provide will assist you powerfully in delivering educational objectives, whilst supporting you effectively in wider school community interactions. This list is not exhaustive and I have barely scratched the surface in mentioning the vast array of tools available for Teachers, but hopefully it will motivate you to start thinking about what records you are keeping and how effective they are.