In an effort to reclaim my garage and remove the instructional clutter, I began clearing out old teaching materials. I haven’t been a classroom teacher in over four years, but still held on to the trappings of one. While many materials are timeless (e.g. counters, unifix cubes, fraction tiles, rulers, pencil boxes, & even project-based books or lessons), others needed to be kicked to the curb (e.g. transparencies, TAKS manipulatives and workbooks, outdated classroom handouts and textbooks, etc…). The whole process took me a couple of hours but was well worth it. I was able to clean out two whole bookshelves and an entire storage cabinet.
Why is this relevant or useful?
- Beyond the idea of reclaiming space, I wanted to purge for a cause. My first item of business was to gleen new and nearly new items that could be donated to Help A Teacher Out program and local preschools. I was surprised with what I came across: dictionaries, binders, file folders, index cards, pencil boxes, rulers, protractors, foam letters, and classroom posters (“Gallon Man”, you will be missed). With budget cuts and strains to education, I wanted to do my part to help local teachers… which ultimately benefits the work that they do with and for our children. (I had also planned on purchasing other items on their “back to school” shopping list).
- The second reason for my madness was to model the process of “removing instructional clutter” to prepare for learning. My rule of thumb was pretty simple, if the materials were outdated or the task could be better accomplished with a piece of technology (mainly the iPad & iPod… or other tool you have access to in your classroom), then I trashed the manipulatives, flash cards, workbooks, etc… I won’t lie, parting with numbered baggies filled with laminated TAKS chart activities and equation mats was a little painful. But it was more in knowing how many man hours it took to create the activities, xerox them, laminate them, painstakingly cut them out, and sort/package/label them then it was in the concern that they may actually be used again or that I would miss them. I did come across a few I wasn’t willing to entirely part with, so I opted to keep 5-10 sets versus the complete set of 30. Odds are if I ever did use them again it would be for remediation with a small group or in a station and not for whole class instruction. All in all, I had 2 garbage bags full of trash and a trunk full of instructional donations.
Many teachers have packed up their classrooms for the summer and some are even moving to a different room/space or campus. Before you unpack the clutter and restrict the space you have to teach and your students have to learn, consider removing the instructional clutter as you unpack. (In my case, I wasn’t taking up instructional space in my classroom by storing the outdated clutter, but simply garage space. Regardless, in doing so I was able to clear space for a more productive environment… a work bench area for my husband.)
What will you do with what you unpack and how will you make the best use of the space that you have?
Stay tuned for Spaces & Places: Part 2 where I will post my journey with a few willing teachers from planning their space to arranging their room for optimized learning (including planning for technology and creating stations and centers at the secondary level).