It's something you probably never think about. In August, 1976, when I walked into my first classroom at Monroeville Elementary School I gave no thought whatsoever to how much "stuff" I needed to save throughout my teaching career.
We teachers are notorious pack-rats. We save everything...because literally everything can be used to teach something. Sometimes we might save an item for no other reason than, "Wow, I might
be able to use that for...um...something."
Most of this stuff I'll pitch or give away to other pack-rat-teachers, but I have an idea for things I don't want to keep, but would like to remember. I'll take digital pictures...and save the images on my computer.
Among the treasures I've found while cleaning out over the last few weeks are:
1. Dice. Not just 6 sided dice, but four sided, 8 sided, 12 sided and 20 sided dice as well...and not just dice with dots on them. I have dice with numerals, functions and pictures. These I'll give away.
2. Dozens of Magnets. One of the greatest inventions known to teachers is the magnetic chalk board (or, to newer teachers, the magnetic white board). At one of the schools I taught at we had floor to ceiling magnetic chalkboards along an entire wall. I put everything up there...schedules, pictures, student work, reminders, photos...and I was always collecting magnets. I'm going to save some of these...give the rest away.
3. Plastic Baskets...for holding books, markers, pencils, scissors, glue...anything that students might use in a small group. Also plastic storage containers of various sizes...dozens of them. Give away.
4. Computer software and equipment for computers which have been gone for years...and, of course, none of it is compatible with today's technology (and even if it was we wouldn't want it!). Yes...I even found an old laptop computer. Throw away/recycle.
5. Books. Old textbooks, favorite read alouds. (NOTE: If you don't read aloud to your students EVERY DAY you're not doing enough. Every elementary teacher...no matter what grade...should read aloud to his/her students each day. see Jim Trelease's Web Site and the Read Aloud Handbook.) I'll save some of these...give them to my children and grandchildren. Others I'll leave for other teachers.
6. Tote bags, briefcases and back packs. Why I needed to save more than a dozen of these things I'll never know. I got one at every Reading Recovery
conference I went to...and since the program was cut I've saved them all...in protest. I also still have the Reading Recovery decal on my door window. I'm going to save the decal and put it up on my bulletin board in my office at home. The tote bags I'll give away to other teachers.
7. A change of clothes. When you teach long enough in an elementary school setting you will almost certainly have been exposed to various bodily fluids...sometimes a change of clothes is necessary.
8. Change. It's like my room is a giant easy chair. So far I've found $3.53 to add to my retirement savings...
9. Photos of students and notes from students. Some of them are parents of children in my current school. Some of them are teachers in my school system. Some are dead. Some are in prison. I don't have pictures of all of them...and that's something I regret. Each of my students, even the ones I couldn't reach, meant something to me. I touched each of their lives...and each of them touched mine. We love our children...we laugh with them, play with them, cheer for them, worry about them, puzzle over them and cry for them. Being a teacher is much more than just presenting material...These items are a chronicle of my professional life. They're coming home with me.
10. Miscellaneous other stuff like recipes, plans for activities (some of these are ancient), old posters and pictures, student records, rubber stamps, boxes and boxes of pencils (with dried up erasers) and pens, 3-ring binders, stickers, dried up markers, and more post it notes than you can count. Give away everything that anyone wants...and toss the rest.
Next week I'm going to start working on my file cabinets. I have two of them that haven't been opened for a long time. Who knows what treasures I'll find in there.
Don't save everything.
Take more pictures.