I started packing up my classroom this past week. Eight years in the same classroom means a fair amount of stuff to pack up. That would likely surprise most of my colleagues because my classroom is almost completely empty (as a music teacher, I incorporate movement into every single lesson and chairs and other stuff just gets in our way). I’ve never been the typical elementary teacher whose walls are covered with posters and sayings. In fact, I find myself on a bit of sensory overload when I go into most other classrooms.
It’s the same at home. I like space and openness and clutter just gets in the way. A few years ago, my husband and I started reading the work of The Minimalists, two guys in their 30s who write a blog about living with less. Last summer, we played “The Minimalist Game” and purged 1,038 unneeded items from our home over the course of a month. That’s right….1,038. You’d think our home would be empty, but it sure isn’t.
So, back to teachers. We are notorious for keeping stuff that we just don’t need but think we do. We might need it. What if we switch grade levels? What if we change jobs? What if the curriculum changes? What if my classroom doesn’t have the exact same lesson, equipment, furniture, experience as every other classroom at my grade level?
But does it matter? Will you really have to create an entire curriculum from scratch if you move grade levels or buildings? Have you used it in the past 6 months, let alone 5 years? Could you even find it quickly if you ever did need it?
I’d say no. I would be willing to bet that you never use half of your stuff, maybe even less. We all have our favorite activities or materials, our go-to’s for each particular subject or concept. Hopefully you’re changing things up now and then, but I bet it’s not because you dug something out of your files. I bet it’s from a workshop you attended or a colleague you chatted with at lunch. Or maybe you got a great idea in your Twitter chat this week.
My solution? Toss it. Better yet, recycle it and save the planet a little bit. Clean out the file cabinets and keep only the best of what you have. See where your holes are in your curriculum and get rid of all of the excess. Having full file cabinets doesn’t make you a great teacher anyway. It just makes for an unhappy custodian who has to keep getting and moving your new file cabinets every year.
They say that kids that have too many toys never play with all of them, but that kids with only a few toys use them much more and value the ones they have. I’d argue that teachers are no different. Use the stuff that’s good. Grow it, improve it, and get rid of everything else that’s just okay. Because really, if you only “sorta” like something, are you going to like teaching it anyway?