I had an "I hate everything!" moment in my classroom and set out to purge all the excess that was blocking me from the lean, mean learning machine of a classroom of my dreams. Turns out, it was not as easy as I thought! Luckily, I had some inspiration to help me along.
Have you even seen that show, Clean House? It's a show where this helpful group of cleaners and organizers go to scandalously cluttered homes and convince the inhabitants to sell, toss and give away their excess belongings. If you have seen the show, or one like it, you can see out of control these poor hoarders can be.
When I watch the show, I usually ask myself "What is wrong with these people? Just get rid of it!!! Can't you see what a mess you're living in???" When these poor souls protest when asked to give up 3 of their 5 blenders (which are still in their boxes), I can't help but roll my eyes and feel very righteous....I certainly am not like that! Thank goodness for that!
Then....I came across this book:
It is a fabulous book. I haven't gotten through all of it yet but it certainly got me thinking. The rubrics inside are for teachers to assess their own classrooms and for administrators to take a look at the school environment as a whole. I liked how the book stressed that these rubrics are meant to enlighten and inspire teachers, not make them feel penalized. The authors gentle and encouraging tone makes me feel that they are certainly teachers who have made mistakes and learned from them and know that no one is perfect...the kind of divas we like.
Another thing I like are the "Ponder Boxes" that are scattered throughout the book. Here is one that grabbed my attention....the parts about my desk. This lone little ponder box really set the spring cleaning in motion!
These two questions hit me hard:
"How much room does your desk take up in your classroom?"
Hmmm....looking at my area of the classroom, I actually took up a lot of space...and I mean a lot. It hardly seemed fair, that one person could take up so much space when others (my students) where given so much less per person. Whose room is this anyway? That led to the next question...or actually, the beginning of the question really stopped me in my tracks.
"If you eliminated your desk....."
What? Really? I could do that? I had no idea! The more I thought about how I use my desk, the more possible it seemed. I have a laptop after all so it's not like I need a desk. Plus, although I have an unhealthy penchant for heels, I'm on my feet or sitting with the students most of the time anyway. The more I thought about it, the more it made perfect sense. Think of the space that would free up! Why, I should just get rid of my desk RIGHT NOW!!!
I realized that my desk was not the only thing taking up a lot of space...it was the stuff around my desk. Resources, books, files...just stuff. A dawning and gloomy realization came over me....I had too much stuff.
THE SOLUTION....well, the start of one.
To have a lean, mean, classroom machine, some serious purging had to be done. Feelings of tension, dread and mild hyperventilation ensued. I started to realize how those people on Clean House felt. I will never look at that show the same way again. I know what they must feel when they have to give up their collection of blenders. I looked at every resource, black line master, you name it... and asked myself these questions:
Have I used this during this school year? - No....then on to the next question:
Will I use this...like really? - This was a tough one. I had to come to grips with some feelings of failure. Centre activities I had meant to use, wonderful things I has found and were storing for the time I will be organized enough, good enough, whatever enough to get the ball rolling. Or that great, new thing I had tried to do that fizzled...maybe if the new, better me would try it again, it would be amazing! I had to be honest and brutal here and frankly, it sucked. Yet I knew deep down that these things had to go. As the host of Clean House often says "Take a big-girl pill and move on".
Can I get this/store this online? - Seriously, why...oh why...do I have so many copies of blank blackline masters that I already have stored digitally? That's like having infinite copies all available to you at the press of a "PRINT" button. So, why the need to hoard these hard copies?
Could someone else use it? - Yes? Then it was put in the resource room. No? Toss it.
If I got rid of this, what is the worse that could happen? Usually I couldn't think of an answer. Well, maybe "I'll have to find/borrow/buy a new one". Hardly catastrophic.
You know what? Once I got going, it got easier. I thought about it less, my "Keep/Toss/Resource Room" choices came to me quicker...with the last two choices becoming more and more prevalent. It was liberating! It was elation! It was nauseating.....I was getting rid of SO MUCH!!! This is NOT in my comfort zone AT ALL!!!!
But I did it. The next day, I actually felt giddy when I walked into my room and saw my new lean, mean space! The compliments from my colleagues were also heartening. The lingering feelings of loss and tension slowly, but surely started to lift.
After all that drama, I still have my desk...but I will be getting rid of it for the next school year. I am not ready to make such a change with only 7 weeks left in the current year. I also need time to process what I had done. It seemed so simple when I started...get rid of the extra stuff. However, it was emotionally exhausting! I really learned what was truly important for my practice and embraced the teacher I am right now, not the one I will be when I am whatever enough!
Her classroom is lean and mean! It made me think "I want that for myself! What's stopping me?"
Not only did the book she co-authored get me started, I had the privilege of attending one of her reading workshops recently. It's where I got the book! Her humility, and understanding that we are doing the best we can was so validating and encouraging.
Bonnie Campbell Hill
I have not met her personally but not only did she help create a great, approachable book, she also posted some wonderful photos on her website featuring inspiring classroom environments. The pictures are featured in the book as well. Check them out here!
Leigh Ann Fitch
Thank you for visiting! I am a Canadian who teaches and lives in Oman. My goal for this blog is to improve my teaching by learning from fellow colleagues all over the world and sharing my reflections!