Saturday, October 01, 2005

Accumulation

I realized this morning that I actually don’t have that much schoolwork to do, as Monday is a one-day week: a weekend before it, then Tuesday and Wednesday off for the Jewish holidays. I decided to take this weekend to catch my breath, since I already know what we’re doing on Monday (battling the laptops finishing our PowerPoint lab reports once & for all). Therefore, instead of planning, I’m cleaning.


Small apartments in New York City force one to think carefully about what one owns. I’m a collector, a piler, an accumulator; it was no stretch for me to use the piles of papers on my desk as a simile for the way sediments build up in layers. Yet, I can also be fairly cold-hearted in deciding what to keep and what to throw away. I don’t save every email that my friends write me (and emails don’t even occupy real space!). My rule of thumb with physical objects is that if I haven’t wanted it in over a year, I probably won’t want it in the future.

There are, of course, exceptions, for sentimental value or just plain value. My calligraphy pen from high school hasn’t been used in something like 6 years, but I am certain that one day I will want to use it again. Plus, it doesn’t take up much space. I have a crate full of art supplies for making collages. These get used only a few times a year. I have a box of stuff for school, full of plastic egg cartons, cardboard tubes, trinkets that I don’t want that might make good prizes, pieces of ribbon, film canisters, you name it.


My question for you, dear reader, is what I should do with all the teacher stuff that I have acquired at workshops over the years. Stuff from the Region is easy – throw it out! – because if it’s important, they’ll hand it out again, and again, and again. So there’s no real need to save any of it. I have a curriculum binder from the Environmental Volunteers, a fantastic organization that I interned with in the Bay Area during college. The curriculum has both general and regional resources, all of excellent quality. Yet, this binder fails the one-year test. Throw it away? And what about the folders of resources from NASA and NOAA, full of activities on mapping, earthquakes, etc.? These also fail the one-year test, but I wasn’t teaching Earth Science last year…. Throw them out? Keep them for one more year? Sort through them and attempt to figure out which parts I want? And what about my TFA Summer Institute curriculum binder, and materials collected at subsequent TFA workshops? It was too much, a deluge of detail, when I was a new teacher. Some of it would undoubtedly be useful to me now that I’m past the insanity of my first two years of teaching, and actually have space in my brain to take in subtle ideas about quality teaching. Yet a lot of it is really basic. Then again, as I begin to move into leadership and mentoring roles, should I keep it in case I need ideas for new teachers? Should I bring it all to school and store it there, where I have a bit more space? Should I throw it out, since it fails the one-year test (for that matter, most of it fails the three-year test…)? Part of the reason I haven’t looked at this stuff in a while is that there is just so much of it - should I organize it so that it is easy to look through when I need a specific resource?

Or maybe I should just move into a nice suburban home where I can dedicate an entire closet – heck, an entire room! – to the detritus of professional development? And buy an SUV, so I can transport it back and forth from home to school…

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