December 12, 2009 at 5:39 pm #158245
Does anyone else find that they suddenly develop a hoarder mentality when it comes to work if you are a teacher or work in the schools? I’m pretty good about not keeping what I don’t need or love around in my private life and at home, but when it comes to school, I am afraid to throw anything out.
I believe it has something to do with uncertain budgets and believing that I might need whatever the item is sometime down the line. I’m in special education, to compound the issue, so there’s no curriculum or go to that you can use year after year –it all depends on what student walks through the door during a particular year and no two are alike.
Does anybody have any ideas about what is necessary versus what is hoarding?
December 13, 2009 at 4:03 am #160973
I have a similar problem. Early in my career I taught many subjects within my discipline. Within a few years I had accumulated curriculum and materials for five subjects. It was ridiculous, but difficult to downsize until my teaching assignments stabilized. Now that I only have two subjects its easier to manage.
I am glad I kept one of the subjects as I was able to pass it on to a colleague who relocated and had to start over. With better technology I have been able to let go of my old materials. I know that if I went back to one of those classes I’d create better materials based on the newer technology. Now I’m in a subject dealing with current issues. I’ve made a conscious effort to purge old material. My biggest challenge is simply finding the time to clean out the old; its an accomplishment just to keep up from day to day.
December 13, 2009 at 3:12 pm #160975
I am right with you, aep73! I have taught science in three different states and been in the profession for 22 years. That is a lot of texts, conferences, workshops, and state-mandated curricula changes. I am constantly fighting disorder and clutter. Science teachers hoard everything! My husband is also a science teacher, so double the number of binders, flimsy activity books, computer discs, rock and shell collections, old textbooks, aquariums, dissected electronics, sample projects and boxes of plastic containers! And paper….
Like you, I also fear that the curriculum or my assigned grade level will change and I will need something I purged. After purging 70 notebooks down to 25, I bought a ScanSnap and scanned everything in them. The materials I am currently not teaching from are at school now, and unless I use them in the next year, I am donating them to the teacher workroom.
I got rid of a lot of sample projects by taking photographs of them and tossing them. THAT was a tremendous help.
I am fortunate this year to be in a school where I have my own classroom and it has gorgeous cabinets and storage. In other schools I have had to store everything in bins at home or at the far end of my classroom with a cloth over them to discourage the curious.
With e-mail, my colleagues have been having good results getting donated materials “just in time” when they send out mass requests. We recently had to ask for packages of cookies for a lab and they got tons! I know there are people out there who want to share their collection of plastic containers or leftover party balloons or whatever if they know you need them for a specific acivity. That way you can recycle after the activity and not have to store so much.
Storing documents on Google Docs is my next resolution, as well as designing my online classroom website through Moodle.com As technology takes over the classroom, I see more and more colleagues using their virtual classrooms as much as the hands-on. Even if the curriculum does change, districts will adopt materials to support the new curricula. We have to let go of the fear that we are adrift if things change. The internet resources are out there!
Final thought: We need a teacher Unclutterer/Freecycle forum!
December 14, 2009 at 5:04 am #160989
@ Another Deb- I laughed out loud at the comment that science teachers hoard everything. As a history teacher I am not cluttering, just keeping an archive for future historians.
I need to take your suggestion and photograph my project examples. Does your district provide adequate storage space for your documents? I find I am always at the limit, but it forces me to purge constantly. I’d love to scan everything but don’t want to purchase a separate hard drive to store it all.
How does your school handle clutter in common spaces like workrooms? We had to give up one storage room a few years ago and it was an epic undertaking. Twenty years worth of abandoned teaching materials that should have been tossed twenty years ago. Yikes!
December 15, 2009 at 4:13 am #161006
My current school just opened in 2001, so it has not accumulated the massive load of paper from rounds of text adoptions, etc. I have been in those kinds of schools and seen what can happen after a few generations of teachers have been there. People are really reluctant to discard anything that might be district property. It can be both a treasure trove and a fire hazard.
We also live with the idea that the lovely storage and prep area might be lost to another use, but it has been under-utilized thus far. There are banks of empty cabinets and I am aching to organize it for better function. I am hoping with an upcoming retirement of the department chair, we can create a more useful space in there with a system that will work for everyone. Your post has inspired me to begin thinking about that space more seriously! Thanks!
December 27, 2009 at 6:03 pm #161175
I am a teacher as well and I have a fair bit of clutter What I did was treat myself to a scanner for Christmas and I am starting to scan in some of my worksheet-type stuff onto the computer. It is easier to copy and retrieve it from there anyway I also am a regular user of my Sony ebook reader and have been digitizing some of my teaching guides and professional journal articles.
November 22, 2010 at 5:05 am #174199
After this school year I am taking a long, possibly permanent break from teaching. I’m in a quandary about what to do with my materials. I don’t want to tote it across the country if I’m never going to use it again, but there’s some really good stuff and I don’t want to start over with nothing if I do go back. I plan to take my electronic files and some of the books I’ve bought for myself. I will leave things behind that I know will be used, but I don’t want to burden anyone with a room full of great ideas in curriculum binders that will probably never be used. There’s something very liberating about the idea of letting 95% of it go and walking away. I think my biggest clutter problem is information clutter and I’m having a hard time parting with some things I probably shouldn’t keep. Maybe I should limit myself to one or two boxes so I’m forced to keep only the best. Anyone out there have any thoughts on packing away a career to be revisited again (or not)?
November 22, 2010 at 5:52 am #174201
Hi, MellieTX. I have seen classified yard sale ads in my local newspaper for “retired teacher” or “downsizing teacher” selling supplies, “great for college students, student teachers, etc”. Sometimes they advertise seasonal clothing such as decorated vests, aprons, etc….books, posters, etc.
Let us know how things work out for you.
November 23, 2010 at 3:03 am #174229
Mellie, Donate it. Everything in in the “cloud” now. Anything you might need will be available online.
I am learning the hard way that the Millenials are a different breed. We are changing the way we approach curriculum and even though I was never able to use lessons from one year to the next “out of the box” there has been a huge change is what I can get students to do in the last three or so years. You will be spending a lot of time looking for new materials if you go back. I think the old stuff will add confusion and make you lose focus if you try to integrate it in years to come.
November 23, 2010 at 3:20 am #174231
I was SO bad with teaching material that, much like an alcoholic, I use to go to different teacher stores so it would not be obvious just how much $ I was spending!!! ;o)
It made my life easier. I worked in the inner city so these kids had very little and the parents had money to watch pay tv wrestling but no money to buy crayons or pencils.
Just try using workbooks with third graders when they cannot even write in them! Easy way to go bald pulling your hair out.
In Chicago we had no materials, lacked books. We were allotted a mere $20 a year (or so) to buy supplies!
I would tell people about the dire needs teachers were facing and few were miffed.
When I mentioned that we were without an American flag, friends were horrified.
One witch of a principal would not let me store my materials. I rented a storage space. Well, use your imagination!!!
Keep what you use. And in order to keep from being bored, use some different material every so often.
If you have to change rooms or worse, schools- it can be a nightmare, lugging all that stuff around.
If you can use some materials, just contact me. Seriously.
November 25, 2010 at 4:23 pm #174324
I’ve definitely been hoarding supplies. Schools provide so little for you that it’s hard not to stock up when notebooks are on sale for 8 cents a piece or colored pencils are $1. I left my teaching position in May 2009 to relocate when I got married, and I finally realized that I’m probably going to be a sub for a long time (at least one, if not two, more years, given my local school district’s latest estimates). So, I decided just last night that it’s time to donate my unused, mint condition supplies. I’ve got more than enough partially used notebooks to see me through my subbing and household needs for the next year or two, so I feel I’ve reached the point where the hassle of storing the items has exceeded the great deal I got on them almost three years ago.
I just taught for one year, but between that year and my student teaching, I’ve taught 10 different Language Arts courses, and I’m not sure how to tackle my lesson plans and supplies. Google docs seems like a great option for the worksheets/quizzes/typed plans, but what about all the books in my collection? I’m seriously considering an e-reader to reduce the amount of teaching books I own. They aren’t things I re-read over and over again, but become more of a reference book once I’ve read them through. An e-reader would probably let me reference the books more quickly, and I’d never have to worry about leaving the books at home or school because Amazon and B&N do give you online access to your purchases, too.
November 25, 2010 at 5:19 pm #174325
My Mother is a hoarder and was a teacher. If you watch the hoarder shows on A&E and TLC you see many of the hoarders are teachers (and school bus drivers…what’s up with that?)
Here are my thoughts on “teacher clutter” as an outside observer…
1. Scarcity Mentality
Resources at schools are tight and teachers think they don’t make much money (which is not the case relative to the average national income…but that’s a different topic all together) so they have it ingrained in their minds that resources are limited.
In a world of limited resources people often save everything, instead of saving the best.
Ask a teacher how in service training was this year and they’ll tell you it was terrible – but they have every scrap of paper from it any way.
2. Built in “Higher Cause” excuse – It’s “For the Kids”
Ask most teachers – they aren’t saving it for themselves…it’s “for the kids.” In case a kid asks a question they need to research. Or needs a pencil because they didn’t bring one to class that day (I’m not sure how the boxes and boxes of pencils stored at home help this, but somehow it is justified.)
I don’t think “excuse” is really the right word here …I think some teachers truly believe it is sacrilege to throw away anything marked for “educational purposes.”
3. Technology Gap
Many teachers are not technologically savvy. The reality of their day to day jobs does not require them to get up to speed and/or keep up with technology. (Never mind that this can be an issue with preparing the next generation). It’s not a judgment…it’s just an observation.
If you don’t know how easy it is to access reliable, cited information online – you may be reluctant to get rid of your reference books. If you don’t know how to use online storage tools like Moxy or Google Docs like other teachers, above, have referenced – you may still be filing (or piling) papers.
4. Teachers are collectors of knowledge
Many teachers have a philosophy of “continuous learning.” They want to continue to build their knowledge and insights in their area of expertise. The piles are in a sense monuments to their knowledge – you can’t see their brains, but you can see years and years of accumulated material.
If you look at these four areas in total, it is a disturbing picture. How is a profession focused on educating so afraid to clear out what is not good? so behind in a critical area? so blind to the truth that knowledge is within?
Throw out all your old textbooks and binders today.
- Don’t pass these on to someone else and make it their burden.
Drive to the lowest ranking school within a 25 mile radius and donate all of those supplies so kids can use them now.
Start today and put every document you create online.
-Do this for one year. If you didn’t use it for reference – toss it.
-You will learn new technology as you go, too.
Good luck. We need great teachers. Thanks for doing what you do.
November 25, 2010 at 7:14 pm #174326
I’m not a teacher by trade, but for about 2 years I taught French at a private language school that specializes in second language instruction for public servants (most if not all Canadian public servants at manager level or above need to be bilingual in English and French). The language tests are standardized, but the teaching methods varied widely, according not just to the language level of each student, but also their learning style. Most of my students were in private classes, but I also taught some group classes of 3-4 students. So every teacher would end up needing separate (and multiple) textbooks for each student, plus a big binder of material for each group class, plus specific material related to each standardized test.
Thankfully my school had a smart way of doing thigs. They had a big cabinet with multiple copies of every bit of teaching material used in the school, so teachers didn’t have to buy or store their own supplies, just sign them out whenever they took something. If you wanted to use a book or some material that the school did not already have, and you thought students could benefit from it, it could be ordered and made available to everyone through the school.
Every student also had their own binder, including their learning plan, notes, homework, previous test results and any additional material we gave them. The binders stayed in their classroom so they were always accessible to the teachers.
I accumulated no clutter or paperwork from this job beyond my contracts and a few select resources I wanted to always have on hand (no more than 50 or so pages). I realise this is a very different situation from most teachers, but I thought I’d put this out there in case anyone can get any use out of my experience.
November 26, 2010 at 11:08 pm #174368
There are many great ideas here on this forum–particularly using Google Docs for file sharing. I think one issue that hasn’t been addressed so much, though, is hoarding clutter through fear. In my district we are consistently told to file this, save that, and under no circumstances lose ANY paperwork related to IEPs or curriculum. Even though we have myriad back-up copies all over the place, most of us have bulging file cabinets teeming with stuff, and auditors can come any time in a ten year span.
Very limiting when one is trying to purge!!!
For context–I teach AP English and have been with this district since 1992, so you can imagine what my classroom might look like. And the 34 disco balls just pep up the clutter.
Happy thoughts to all teachers on this site, and if anyone wants to start an Unclutterer Educator subsidiary site, I’ll subscribe!
November 27, 2010 at 5:32 am #174377
I do a better job of decluttering my office than my home, simply because I can make unilateral decisions that don’t affect my family.
I currently work in a community college and average 7 classes, 4 preps, and about 270 students per semester. Two classes are online, and the others are either assisted or hybrid. I have to be organized, simply because the work flies in so fast and my only storage is in my small office – instructors don’t own classrooms in my building.
I started with my computer folders – 1 large one for “general” – such as travel, work orders, correspondence. Then, I created a folder for every semester, and within it have folders for each course. My Fall2010 folder has folders for my Beginning English course, 4 sections of English Comp. 1, and 1 section of American Lit. 2 and Traditional Grammar. Within each I store anything going to my students, whatever paperwork about a student (such as ADA accommodations) and the electronic grade book. Computer memory is cheap – I have a folder for every semester. This seems to work better for me than any other system. I’m shocked that my coworkers don’t do this, especially when I’m asked to help them find documents on their own computers. My document titles usually show the semester, course, and assignment. For instance f2010eng1113P13E3 means Fall Semester in 2010, English Comp. 1 section 13 Essay 3. Since the computer default shows the list instead of icons, I can search more easily. A power point to help on that assignment might be f2010eng1113P13E3pwrpt.
I have a scanner and load everything into the computer. Scan, save, throw away the paper.
In addition, I use Blackboard technology to deliver assignments, give quizzes, allow access to TurnItIn, and produce an electronic gradebook system. This alone drastically reduces the need for duplicate copies and alternative tests. In addition, it grades the objective questions.
Papers (if the students did a printed or handwritten copy) are returned to students, except for the midterm and final exam. I keep those one year and then shred. My five drawer file cabinet has Spring 2010, Summer 2010 and my old gradebooks, Fall 2010 and an empty drawer labelled Spring 2011. The bottom drawer keeps my collection of 1930s-1980s high school and college grammar books – I allow myself ONLY what fits in the drawer. At the end of next semester, the oldest drawer is emptied. This means I generally have an empty drawer for emergency temporary storage.
I have been known to cut out book pages I didn’t need, simply to reduce the size of a book. OR, keep the title page and the pages I wanted. Now, I simply scan these pages and donate the book.
Finally, I bit the bullet and really got rid of my old textbooks. It was vanity to keep my college Shakespeare books – I’ll never teach those courses; they weren’t valuable editions and never opened to read the plays or my comments. Old textbook editions and sample textbooks also left the area.
Next area for declutter? My collections of pens and pens – I’m going to purge them too.
November 27, 2010 at 5:33 am #174378
That is 270 students please. Sorry for the typo.
November 27, 2010 at 6:15 am #174380
marjoryt: Perhaps you could write an in-service seminar for your colleagues. That is, if you want to share your secrets on streamlining; you could become the target of jealousy.
November 27, 2010 at 7:15 pm #174388
Science Teacher here — I am very inspired by your suggestions, marjoryt. I love the idea of a scanner for all those papers I accumulate, especially the various reference papers and old tests.
I am cursed?/blessed? by not having ANY given storage in my classroom. Since I started teaching 5 years ago I’ve accumulated two filing cabinets, one full-sized bookshelf and two two-shelf bookcases on wheels. I have two shelves in a shared storage closet in another hall. Shared lab equipment are locked in another communal storage closet in another teacher’s classroom. At any rate, seeing as I don’t have storage, I don’t hoard the way many science teachers do. (That being said, when I need something, I have been known to take advantage of my colleagues’ stashes!)
My weakest link is papers — they’re everywhere, and I struggle constantly with their accumulation. I would love to have an in-service on organization at my site, and I don’t think I’m the only one.
I also attended a workshop “technology fair” for educators and learned how to create forms, docs & quizzes on google. I like this method a LOT. I think I will incorporate it much more in my daily lesson planning; I even get “street cred” from my students for being a wired teacher.
December 1, 2010 at 7:29 pm #174570
There are some terrific ideas on this leg of the blog but unfortunately they are obfuscated by the offensive diatribe pontificated by “Whistlerpotpie”.
The key reference is your thoughts as an “outside observer” that have very little validity and are certainly not based on reality.
I taught a thousand students ALL of them in the inner city. I did that by choice. I gave up a lot of luxuries in order to do best job I was capable of doing. I also worked in dangerous areas.
All of that involved spending a great deal of my own hard earned cash, giving to the poor. There are thousands of teachers sacrificing a great deal in the interest of giving these children the best education possible. And they go well beyond that.
There are kids without Christmas presents, clothing. One special ed teacher bought every kid in his small class a bicycle. No, these kids do not have bikes. They lack books, supplies, learning material, the most basic needs are not being met on Maslowe’s Hierachy of Needs. They have no learning toys. They own NOT a single at home that they can call their own. Most live in Chicago yet have never even seen Lake Michigan.
I went through a box of paper a month. What else was there to do without books? I could hardly scan everything, although I think it is a terrific idea. But who can afford the machine? Besides there were none.
I was extremely organized at work.
Most teachers, in my humble experience, went into teaching as they have a deep affinity for children. The people who do not like kids, who cannot manage them, often get into administration.
Your mother may have been a hoarder. But what does that have to do with her chosen profession? One may very well be independent of the other.
The people on “Hoarders” strike me as being Clinically Depressed and certainly not involved in teacher prep. They cannot manage their lives and often live in filth. They need ongoing professional assistance.
1 and 2. Teachers are severely underpaid. Just do the Math. In the States of Illinois and California in order to maintain certificates and credentials teachers are forced to take the equivalent of a PhD worth of courses.
Male teachers in high schools are paid more than teachers in grade schools. Compare the salary to that of a nurse, yet another female ghetto. Then compare it to a professional with a PhD. Teachers are highly trained professionals. Period.
I never took a vow of poverty, did you?
Hours, days, school years are being extended under the ludicrous notion that kids that are in school longer will learn more. Small children learn best by play. They all need time to be kids. I do not understand why they do not just round up the kids and put them on a kibbutz and get it over with. Kids involve a commitment by parents when they chose to have them and with that comes a great deal of responsibility.
2. Many people grew up believing that waste was a sin, a shame. I still think that way. It was ingrained in you. There was guilt about the starving children in China; I would have been more than happy to send them my chop suey.
I am not referring to hoarding pencils.
This “zen:” business is yet another fad. Most have no concept of what Zen Bhuddism even is. I applaud people trying to streamline their lives, to get organized but I hardly see it appropriate to turn your nose up at people with conflicting values or are in fact struggling and are willing to settle for a little less- I just want to get things under control. Living in a cubby hole or mooching off people on the streets just isn’t for me. But I do not have a problem with being chosing to do so.
3. Where is the evidence of teachers as technophobes? Older people might be a bit resistant as it is an unknown. I set up a database one summer of all the State of Illinois’ ludicrous objectives, with pull done menus, radio buttons. Teachers are inudated with email. A teacher mentioned that you have to keep the inservice sheets full of blather for years or you may be called on the carpet for it. Teachers do their grade books on the computer. Computers are everywhere in the classroom (although the books may be missing). Just who do you think taught those kids how to use the computers? It certainly was not the semi-literate parents of the students I taught.
4. Teachers as Collectors of Knowledge?
I find that the most offensive. Teachers are life-long learners and highly respect education. Education is NOT the accumulation of papers- far from it.
Socrates said that true happiness is the learning of knowledge. I tend to agree. Life without learning is bland.
December 2, 2010 at 8:33 am #174597
Thanks, Terriok, I was terribly offended by the condescending post by Whistlerpotpie but I couldn’t figure out where my “any” key was on the computer to post a reply, being so technologically backward and all.
Actually,as a junior high school teacher, I have picked up all kinds of technological training through professional development opportunities, NOT my degree program. Contrary to the supposition that PD is a waste of time, the materials are too valuable to discard!
Technology goes hand in hand with education these days. I am NASA trained to program a satellite pass in order to gather images to be used in studying earth systems. In another PD experience, I learned to use image analysis software and to construct GIS maps of any data my students collect with GPS units. I have spent snowshoe time studying avalanches in order to ground-truth remote sensing data on snowpack.
During a typical day, my laptop is open to the six different record-keeping and presentation programs I use on an hourly basis in the classroom. I am trained to repair balances and microscopes and to use probeware to capture the representation of a moving object and display it on the Smartboard via my graphing calculator. There are two kinds of scanners in use on my desk at home and my keychain holds three flashdrives full of media I have produced for lessons.
I have gone up in several small airplanes as my 14 year old students were given the stick to fly for ten minutes at a time as we learned about aeronautical engineering. Students in my classes have been out in research boats collecting monthly data on marine pollution that state agencies are able to use since we were operating their instruments.
I can use recombinant gene processes to analyze my own DNA or to create bacteria that glow in the dark.
Teachers all over the country are doing very exciting things with very limited resources. I scoured thrift stores and yard sales for the materials I have collected over the past two decades and am not about to apologize to an outsider for the chopsticks and marbles I had to use today or the solar hydrogen cell I am using tomorrow.
That “generous” salary keeps me in a couple pair of sensible shoes, a 14 year-old car and a very comfortable chair for my second shift of deskwork after the 10 hour stint on my feet all day.
We aren’t hoarders of knowledge, we’re just the conduit. So, I’ll switch off the valve for now on this rant. Lesson over.
December 11, 2010 at 9:54 pm #175072
In my current classroom I ‘inherited’ a LOT.
It is going.
There are worksheets 10+ years old. They are dated!!!
Books older than me -used by teachers for research.
I can’t imagine any information I can’t access online & I will turn to google rather than rumage through a stack of musty old books & I know that in minutes I can create more appropriate & higher quality resources.
So…… every worksheet connected with the topics taught this term which I have not used in going in the bin!
And today I started on the stuff I have at home. Admittedly not vast amounts – I relocated overseas 12 months ago & purged massively in preparation. I had a ring binder full of subject related stories to use in lessons – so far I have chucked all those which I have managed to find on-line & saved e-copies of.
Feels good……….more to go, and I don’t think I’ll miss any of it.
February 20, 2012 at 7:11 pm #206127
Let’s face it who wants to have to go searching through a storage unit in the dark by themselves? Most storage facilities are built on the wrong side of town or in industrial areas. Sometimes you might be the only person on the property, which makes it difficult if anything were to go wrong. Storageo changes all of that. Just pack up your boxes at home or in your office, then through our website schedule where and when you want the boxes to be picked up. This way you get all of the cost-saving benefits of Self Storage but with comfort and convenience to you.
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