Adventures in Past-Shedding: You Want Me to Throw Out WHAT?

It’s been 18 months since my teaching certificate expired, the one I first earned in 1987. I haven’t taught an actual class of high school students since 2010. But that hasn’t stopped me from hanging onto all my old folders of lesson plans…until now.

Although the Mate and I left Tacoma in 2010 for Lopez Island, we didn’t sell our house here. We’ve been lucky enough to have housesitters who took care of all maintenance and utilities and still gave us the right of return whenever we (or other friends) had business in the Big City. But that’s about to change. The house where we became Northwesterners and raised our family is finally going on the market.

Which means we have to sort through all the boxes stored in the basement; divvy up furniture and dishes and linens to friends and relatives and Craigslist; curate, then cart a zillion loads of books and clothes and dishes and blankets and toys and who-knows-what-all to various giveaway sites we thought we’d already maxed out on when we moved ten years ago clean up a bit.

Why, I ask myself, did I even need to look inside the box marked “Old Lesson Plans”? Why not just throw it away? My certificate is lapsed. No former colleague is about to call me for best practices on introducing To Kill A Mockingbird.

My first gig, 1987: Orange High School
in Hillsborough NC

Of course I looked anyway.

I taught five–count ’em, FIVE–sections of 9th Grade Civics, each section a complete different planet of kids

Now, if you notice that the above picture is cut off, that’s not an accident. That’s to avoid showing off the last name of this one kid, Don S, who quickly became the bane of my first-year-teacher existence. Don was the kind of kid I learned to love–funny, basically good-hearted, but with zero use for anything that wasn’t centered around his ability to have a good time. I spent my first week of teaching doling out “LD’s”–lunch detentions–to Don. Like that helped any. 🙂

In those days, besides filling in the Plan Book, I wrote out a complete Lesson Plan on a separate sheet every day. Before I threw all these materials away, something called on me to take a closer look. To see what was so gol-durned important to me, at age 25, that I spent my precious after-school hours (when I could’ve been grading essays) honing in on.

Yep–one of these, every day. Good thing I only had ONE class to prep then!

And here’s what I noticed: that whole bottom portion of the form is given to self-evaluation. What worked, what didn’t, why, and how to fix it tomorrow.

Some days, I remember, it felt more like I was going backwards than forwards with those kids. (Can I get an Amen from any teachers out there?) And yet…I kept filling out those sheets, day after day, until, finally that self-evaluation didn’t need to be written out anymore. It was completely internalized.

Fast-forward to my latter years of teaching. Instead of one prep, I had FIVE. But here’s all I needed to write in my Plan Book.

Made perfect sense to me at the time!

What’s missing from that latter Plan Book is the same thing that’s missing from the non-existent Daily Plans I pored over in the 1980s. What took its place? Confidence. Experience. Trust. Did I also get a little bit lazier? Mayyybe…though more likely, as with most working-outside-the-home parents, anything that saves time is anything that saves sanity.

Mostly what’s NOT in these boxes is inside ME. Still. Thank GOODNESS I don’t have to box THAT up and take it to Goodwill.

I would love to hear any thoughts from others discovering emblems of their working past. Any echoes here?

2 thoughts on “Adventures in Past-Shedding: You Want Me to Throw Out WHAT?

  1. I cleared out boxes that lined a wall in the garage. These boxes held remnants of my teaching career. I started in a curriculum that was scripted and ended my last year in a scripted curriculum. And thus could not use my experience, my knowledge. It was time to step off. I kept the novels I taught, found notes from lesson plans brainstormed with my partners , you, Julianna, Steph, Lynne, Colin, Lisa, Fletch, Wendy. Reminiscing about our support, conversations, humor, daily encounters with our young teens, and then, recycling those notebooks. These experiences remind me that the journey is best when shared. The shared knowledge and shared belief in our work made teaching a much more positive experience.

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