Organizing Paperwork at the Beginning of the Year

Back to school is coming quickly and with it comes the annual paperwork round-up.   While we would like to move to electronic forms and money submission it’s simply not feasible on a campus where 82% of our students live below the poverty line and there is no booster association.  So how do we solve this problem?

The first thing I did was talk with a parent in my neighborhood who has four kids.  I asked her what the beginning of the school year was like for her and what I could do to make her life easier, as well as mine.  She gave me some great feedback!

After talking with her and several band director friends here’s what we came up with.  First, most of our paperwork is distributed on our back to school night.  Parents are handed paperwork in 7 different classrooms and end up with an unwieldy pile, so we provide them with the solution!   We order paper two-pocket folders through our school discount program with an office supply store; however, you can also pick them up around the beginning of the school year for as little as a penny each!

What do we do with these?  The front of the folder has a mailing label on it that has the student’s name and instrument. We put them in alphabetical order and recruit some help to hand them out at open house.

In each folder, we place:

  • the band handbook
  • on-line student record system information
  • the specific instrument and mouthpiece contract for the instrument assigned to that student,
  • envelopes that are pre-marked with each payment due date and the amount due as well as a space for the student’s name and ID number
  • a check list for our parents.

It seems like a lot of work, doesn’t it?  Not really!  As long as you copy everything ahead of time and set up an assembly line these go together very quickly.  Our program provides 98% of our students with an instrument so doing these with names on them stream lines getting the right contracts in the right hands.

We also don’t accept checks on our campus, hence the pre-labeled envelopes.  I learned the hard way my first year on this campus that middle school kids don’t always remember to put their name on the money envelopes that they turn into the money box.  If we took checks I could figure out who it came from.  Cash?  It’s not happening!

The best of this?  It pays off! Virtually every parent who attended our open house sent the paperwork back the first day.  Most of them sent it back in the folder we sent it home in.  It was awesome!  It also greatly reduced the amount of time that we spent handing out paperwork on the first day of school.  It was easy to see who still had a folder in the bin and hand them out.

One last hint.  If your campus is a transient campus such as ours, (we had seven students move in after Christmas over the space of two weeks) make extra packets and keep them somewhere handy for move in’s.  This way you simply hand your incoming parents/student a packet of paperwork with everything they need to get started with your program.

Danika White is currently the band director at Rayburn MS in Northside ISD in San Antonio. She spent the first seventeen years of her teaching career in Missouri where her bands received numerous I ratings at State Contest, her solo and ensemble students were very successful at both the district and state level, and she had All-State Band members on flute, clarinet, and French Horn.  Her marching bands were honored to represent Missouri at the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington D.C. twice in five years. Ms. White holds degrees from Central Methodist University and the University of Arkansas.

Related Reading:

Band Registration Day
Proactive Classroom Management: The Beginning of the Year
Teaching with Poverty in Mind

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