Learning The Art of Teacherly Love

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 16 2012

Hoarding: The Teacher Edition with Good Intentions

I know as teachers, we become very attached to the children we see each and every day. Therefore, we also become attached to the “stuff” that reminds us of them; the pictures they drew, cards they wrote us, and even work they did that we were so proud they accomplished.  We also have this subconscious voice in our heads telling us, “Wait! Before you recycle that workbook, even though our school just got rid of that curriculum because it wasn’t very good, maybe… maybe I can still use a few pages from it to supplement and add to the new one, when I get the chance…”  So we stash it away in our limited storage closets, never to be seen again because we can’t actually get to it to pull out those pages that may or may not work for this lesson.  Or, our even better intentions, of sharing everything with colleagues, or whoever will live in our rooms when we exit, get the better of us…


Speaking from the perspective of the colleague receiving all these “donations” left behind by a previous occupant, just in case there is something in there I can use… JUST THROW IT OUT OR RECYCLE IT, PLEASE!


I entered Room 306 today with high hopes of arranging furniture, getting everything ready and organized so I could get to the fun part, decorating and creating motivational progress trackers around the central theme of the “Human Race.”  (This theme is based on a book by Jamie Lee Curtis, “Is there really a human race?” and also because we just finished up the Olympics.  If you haven’t read it, you should!)  However, my dreams of hanging a race track around the room and creating individual running men for each child were crushed as I slowly became more and more overwhelmed by the amount of “stuff” in the room.  All the closets were bursting full of curriculum materials, full binders, folders of student homework, and various items that made no sense (like one of those sculptures of the odd looking, no-faced, wooden man used to teach how to sketch in art… really?).  There was also a rather large independent reading library, for 5th and 6th graders.  At first, I was thrilled to have a library and all these “resources” left behind, thinking, “Now I don’t have to buy as much! Yes!”  Wrong.  So wrong.  I cannot use any of the curriculum materials, as my students receive a modified curriculum based on their special learning needs, and they have yet to reach grade level in reading, so while they are 5th and 6th grade, the only way they will be able to read those books is if I read aloud and explain each part exhaustively.


At first, I had no plan of attack.  I could not even begin to develop a plan of attack.  I simply stood there, snacking on some fruit (provided by our principal and administrative staff; awesome!).  If other teachers walked by they probably saw my mess of a room with me standing in the middle having a picnic, and thought to themselves, “What on earth is she doing?! Does she see that build up of desks, the jumble of computer cords in a pile, and complete lack of organization?!”  Yes, I most definitely saw it.  Glaring at me like a giant blue-furred monster, smirking at me, with an air of, “Go ahead.  Try and do something to me.”  But I had no idea where to begin.  And then, of course, I had to go to a Special Ed team meeting to work on creating binders of our students goals and needs for all the other teachers they come in contact with.  So while my colleagues worked leisurely putting up their exquisite bulletin boards, and arranging their supply bins, my room sat in chaos, as I created organized documents to make their lives easier when our children are with them for very small periods of the day.


However, I do not want to sound like I did not enjoy today.  Was I overwhelmed?  Yes, to the point of doing nothing, in fact.  Yet, this is part of that whole “First Year Teacher” thing, and how can I do anything but live in the moment and just let the anxiety run its course for a bit?


While I may not have been able to arrange my room today.  I did actually accomplish a lot more than I originally thought…


I was able to;

  • secure room keys that actually open the door,
  • have the computers that are rightfully my students’ moved from the incorrect room to mine (which adds to the mess, but I got them!),
  • organize the necessary IEP documents to be copied and placed into each teacher’s binder when the Special Ed team presents tomorrow morning,
  • and most importantly, I got to hang out with the Special Ed team all day, get to know them, hear some stories about my future students, and start developing those invaluable relationships.  My Special Ed administrator even bought us lunch!
  • At the end of the day, I was also given the “Okay” from our Director of Operations to put all the things I do not need or would like to throw out into the hallway,
  • and I cleared out the closets
  • and donated the books (but not the bins! those are valuable!) to the 5th and 6th grade literacy teachers.

My room, still feels like chaos, but I know it is only temporary.  And I was able to salvage some great office supplies and a few teaching materials during the trashing process.  I realized that when it comes to my space, I like starting from scratch, and making everything my own.  While the previous teacher was probably leaving things behind with good intentions… Future “room switchers” and “school leavers,” and teachers of the world, DO NOT try to justify holding on to things or leaving them for the next person, JUST THROW IT OUT, PLEASE!  That would be “Manntastic!” :)


3 Responses

  1. I just want to say I am just new to blogging and site-building and truly enjoyed your blog. Most likely I’m going to bookmark your blog post . You surely have remarkable writings. With thanks for sharing your web page.

  2. Sharp thinking! Thanks for the aenwsr.

  3. G

    I switched schools and grades (up to 5th) this year. My former 2nd graders had Christmas in June when I gave them practically everything I had accumulated in a two year period. I learned very quickly that hoarding and teaching do not mix (although by looking in my fellow teachers’ rooms, I’m the only one whose room doesn’t look like a bomb exploded in it)!

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Dare to Teach with Love… Never cease to Learn.

Greater Philadelphia
Elementary School
Special Education

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