Even though teachers can now use online tools and apps to plan for a new school year, many still prefer using a paper planner to stay organized, schedule lessons, and track student progress. In fact, with the increased screen time of remote learning, nondigital teacher planners offer a soothing oasis teachers can escape to after hours spent reminding kids to mute themselves on Zoom. But should you get a horizontal or vertical layout? What if you want to combine digital and paper? To find the best teacher planners still in stock (unfortunately, some of the ones recommended to us from Berteau & Co. and 4 the Love of Pi have already sold out), we asked eight teachers and homeschooling parents about the planners they love. Here are their favorites.
Two of the teachers we spoke with raved about Happy Planners: Janet Nasir, who currently teaches fourth grade in California, and Lisa Jaspers, a college math, chemistry, and physics teacher working remotely this year in Snohomish, Washington. According to Nasir, the perfect teacher planner has large boxes to write in, so you can fit all the important details for each activity and subject. Having the dates already labeled is a must for her, she says, because she doesn’t have time to spend writing them in. She looks for a horizontal layout, with the days of the week going down the left side of the page, and a spiral binding, so she can open the planner without taking up a ton of desk space. Jaspers describes her ideal planner as “functional but also beautiful. I want to be excited to use it when I open it up every day for work.” She likes that the Happy Planner is bright and bold, while it also works really well for scheduling, keeping track of tutoring appointments, and lesson planning. Plus, it’s customizable. You can add extension packs to cover your personal life as well as coordinating accessories like snap-in pencil pouches, page markers, and colorful stickers. “I’ve been using Happy Planner for about five years, and it’s hard to imagine using any other planner,” she says.
This Rocketbook planner is good for people who prefer writing by hand in a paper planner but would also like to use those notes in their digital work. Former first-grade teacher Bill Vacca, who now works as the director of instructional technology for the Mohonasen County School District in Rotterdam, New York, says it’s the perfect teacher planner. You write on it using a special type of pen (called FriXion) that can be found in most office-supply stores and uses ink that is erasable with water but doesn’t smear if you put your hand on it. On the bottom of every Rocketbook page is a QR code that you scan with your smart device. It picks up everything you wrote, takes a picture of that page, and stores it to your Google Drive (or any cloud service you choose) or sends it to your email. For teachers working remotely, Rocketbook makes sharing weekly class schedules or activities as simple as sharing a screen.
“I live and die by my Outlook calendar for scheduling but always have and always will be a paper to-do-list person,” says Emily Atkinson, who teaches special education at KIPP Collegiate High School in Nashville. She loves this Poketo planner because of its flexibility. Unlike Jaspers, Atkinson likes the act of writing the date herself, explaining that she puts in all five weekdays and then chooses one weekend day for one or two projects that require an hour or more of consistent focus. This allows her to plan each week by plugging in to-dos on their respective days, then adding as she goes. “I get endless satisfaction from checking everything off with a Flair pen at the end of the day,” she says.
“Clever Fox are my absolute favorite paper planners,” says Jenna Prada, director of executive functioning at Private Prep, a tutoring service with locations nationwide. With pages dedicated to goal setting, list-making, and schedule planning, they help teachers “remember to take care of themselves as a whole human and encourage breaking down tasks so that they are less overwhelming,” she says. These planners come in a bunch of bright colors and include sticker packs and pockets for receipts and other papers.
April, a fourth-grade teacher in Georgia, bought this Recollections planner at Michaels. The 18-month book comes in a bunch of cute designs and features weekly and monthly layouts, divider pages, a pocket folder, a zip pocket, and 426 stickers. The weekly pages are laid out vertically and divide each day into three large boxes big enough for lots of notes. She loves that it makes classroom planning easy but is also open-ended enough to be used as a home or personal planner.
Heather D. Nelson, a longtime homeschooler and mother of three, uses this planner to manage her children’s ten-plus-subject curricula as well as her homeschool co-op activities, freelance writing, and busy household calendar. “I have used many planner brands over the years, but for me, the Erin Condren teacher planner is simply the best,” she says. She calls these “immensely sturdy,” saying they easily survive a full year of wear and tear without so much as a bent coil, torn piece of paper, or split cover. The weekly layouts help her plan and see everything going on for her and her kids at once, and the customizable subject stickers and snap-in bookmarks (which you can buy separately) help her quickly flip to whatever section she needs to see. You can buy one on Amazon, or if you want to get yours customized, go to the brand’s site.
Susan McCaslin, who teaches introductory drawing classes at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, says she does most of her scheduling digitally. But when it comes to brainstorming ideas for class projects and making sure she stays on task, she uses this blank dotted notebook. Each two-page spread is devoted to a day of the week. She draws vertical blocks of time on the left-hand side for the hours of 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and uses the right-hand side for her daily to-do list and any ongoing projects.
Though it isn’t horizontal, like her Happy Planner, this is Nasir’s other favorite option. (The paper version is sold out, but you can still order one in PDF format and print it out at school.) More than just an organizational tool, this planner is full of important dates, events, and people who have made an impact toward achieving a more just society and includes links to additional resources to help teach about them. Each week has a social-justice-related quote as well as a question for teachers to pose to their students. Nasir uses the social-justice information in her morning messages to inform kids and get them talking. “It’s become a supplement to my social-studies curriculum,” she says, adding that since all the information is right there in the planner, it’s a constant reminder to incorporate social justice into her daily teaching.
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