Moving a classroom is a lot like moving a house. There are boxes and boxes of stuff and you always wonder where it all came from. I cringe at the amount of money I have spent on teaching supplies. How did I get so much? I regularly purge and I still have half a garage full…and I am a floater teacher! Just think how much stuff a homeroom teacher has! As I have made the transition from professional to unemployed, I have come to realize it is entirely too much! Too many boxes. Too many files. Too many items. All clogging up my life. I have begun a serious eradication. All that I have held on to is being lifted off of my shoulders as bags of trash are filled and disposed of. Funny how that lightens my load and gives me a spring in my step.
While I have been going through my files, I have been like the Tasmanian Devil of cleaning. No papers are sacred. I am ruthless. Why is it teachers are so hesitant to get rid of stuff? I think we are afraid of not having something down the road when we need it, however, when you have stuff that is 30 years old…it is time to do some serious soul searching. Why do I hold on so tightly? For me, it all boils down to fear. Fear of being unprepared. Fear of not having what I need. Fear that “one day” I might have to have it…whatever the item is. Fear that if I get rid of stuff I have wasted my money. All the time and effort put into these activities…it just seems wrong to throw them out. But behind all of that logical reasoning is a fearful heart.
I have decided something…NO MORE FEAR. Cutting loose from the toxic environment I was in has brought with it courage. The ability to move and breathe again. And so, I have been disposing of my boxes of fear. It is kind of a hard thing to do for me. It is, after all my career I am throwing out. There are so many great memories in those boxes that I am selective in what goes in the bags. I take each file or box; I ask myself…when was the last time you actually USED this? If it is more than 3 years ago, I toss it. But there is one file that I kept in its entirety. One that I took a long break to sift through. It was the one with the notes in it. One that I had forgotten I had. It is my shot-in-the-arm file.
As a teacher I have always collected things…hence all the boxes. But one thing that has always meant a lot to me is the notes I get. Maybe it’s because I love words so much, but there is just something about a handwritten note…or even a heartfelt typed one. I started this file years ago because I recognized the power to lift me up in the words written on the pages. For days when education is frustrating or when I feel less than adequate I had a place to go to remind myself why it is I do what I do. In the file are notes from students, thanking me for teaching them to read. Thanking me for caring about them. Telling me that I helped them to become better citizens. Many written in crayon, most with misspelled words throughout. These notes brought tears flowing…happy ones.
Then there are the notes from fellow teachers I have worked with over the years. And notes from every single administrator and superintendent I have ever had…almost. Those are the ones that took my breath away on this most recent perusal. As I read them I remembered something important about myself. I am a collaborator and I am good at it. I am a team player and I like to build things. I am an asset, not a liability. I realized that the last few years I have taken a pretty big hit on my self-confidence. I have not felt valued or as if I had anything to offer. But reading these notes reminded me of who I am as an educator.
After these notes there were the awards. For projects I have done. For Teacher-of-the-Year. For programs I have developed. For presentations I have made. For things I have written in magazines and newspapers. There are clippings of things written about me, and things written by me. Then letters from two different Governors and one State Superintendent. Wow. Is all that really in writing? Did I really do all that stuff? How did I lose this woman so completely? What is it that took myself from me? More importantly, how do I get myself back?
I am not sure of the answers to those last couple of questions. I am in the process of coming out of the darkness and into light and freedom. I fully expect I will find myself there…after the purging and the letting go. But of all that I will trash…I will hold onto the shot-in-the-arm file…to remind myself not to get lost again.