Perhaps it is an inbuilt function in teachers to have a hoarding mentality. It may not be immediately visible in their home, but take a stealthy glance into their cupboard at school and you may well stumble across an Aladdin’s Cave of paper. Teaching tends to come full circle and therefore the prospect of throwing anything away is borderline heretical. Combine this with endless ‘useful’ boxes, containers and books, and you have reached the teacher’s secret stash.
So it is hardly surprising that following five years of walk-in cupboards, this was a mere fraction of the result…
Bringing home five years worth of laminated resources, worksheets and cut out wall lettering, then needing to sort and organise it into ‘keep’, ‘shred’ and ‘recycle’ piles took, as you may imagine, quite some time. Several trips to the recycling bin, a seemingly infinite number of times unblocking the shredder and some tense moments of shredder overheating later, and I had only approximately 15 lever-arch folders and two box files to my teaching name. True to form, I stashed these into another walk in cupboard and promptly forgot all about the little clip-together eggs and piles of carefully organised decimal cards.
But this week – it was now or never.
Having stored all these items for a year and a half in every crevice of storage available, loath to throw them away in case I ever want to return, I had to make a decision. Space or stuff?
In my heart I know I don’t want to be a classroom teacher. My head knows that while I love the classroom camaraderie, the best expression of it for me is probably not in the school setting. For all the things I love about it, there are more things I don’t enjoy.
For those that have kept resources I’ve heard the horror stories of it all going mouldy after ten years in a garage, but by contrast the colleague who threw away everything, only to return to teaching a few years later.
But I know I don’t want to return. It would take a seismic shift in thinking for me to be back in the classroom.
So I took the plunge. I got rid of it. All of it. Over-stapled laminated wall displays got binned. Numerous number cards had to go. I recycled everything I possibly could, and then stalled.
My 15 folders of useful worksheets and resources. The precious work of Sunday afternoons and late nights after school, hours searching on TES and Primary Resources… The thought of simply recycling five years worth of investment was all too much.
Unable to part with it to the bin, I text an old student with the offer of a space-hogging pile of stuff for Years 5 and 6. The answer came back in a flash – after all, not needing to create your own resources is akin to a goldmine – and so an hour later, my cupboard was bare, and I had none.
No resources. No worksheets. No lesson plans.
This may not be entirely true, somewhere I have a memory stick. My track record with those remaining intact is somewhat dubious though and I’m not sure I would have five years worth available to me anymore, as the memory of an entire term’s work in a dropped hard drive is still a little sore. The fact I’ve also not located said USB in my decluttering may also mean I have no lesson plans.
Reluctant as I was to part with this work, when it left I felt liberated.
I have space. Physically yes, but also mentally. Deciding to declutter from teaching means acknowledging I may never go back and that I don’t have to always think that I might. Removing all the folders and resources means I’m not planning to go back. I’m making a conscious decision that returning to teaching is incredibly unlikely for me. I’m making a decision to remember how good a teacher I was just on memories, rather than lesson observations and my University portfolio.
It was a wrench, I can’t deny it. So much work, time and effort had gone into it all. But it’s not wasted. It was used, loved, learnt from, and will continue to be so. Ridding myself of teaching resources is allowing my life to move into a new, enjoyable, stuff-free phase where there’s a lot to look forward to.