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On Becoming a Teacher & A lesson in Minimalism

I am finding that – with Sawyer’s hectic school schedule this semester – I spend a lot of mornings alone, even on the weekends.  Today was such a day.  Sitting at the table alone with toast in one hand and a pen and pad of paper at the other, I brainstormed lesson plans for my classroom.  While I have been absent from cornsilk doll, I swapped out employment.  In the wake of current politics, I decided that it was finally time to stop working a day-to-day job and find a career that speaks to me and influences the world in a positive way.

That career, for me, has been teaching.  I am currently at a Pennsylvania private school teaching a classroom full of eager three-year-olds about friendship, animals, and (in the interest of the upcoming holiday) what it means when we celebrate Valentine’s Day.  I have been teaching for almost three months and I could not imagine doing anything else now that I’ve discovered this passion.  However, I am finding (and my best friend, a first grade teacher, can also attest to this) that the profession easily allows for the accumulation of stuff.

Stickers, art supplies and examples of completed projects have all found their way into my previously tidy little apartment.  Not only did I not have enough space for the three binders I bought to keep student records, teaching records, and substitute plans and guides, now my space found itself home to labeled banker boxes of children’s books, projects pages that have yet to be used, and boxes upon boxes of craft supplies waiting to be squabbled over by acutely excitable toddlers.

What I have found is this: having previously been practicing a more thoughtful and minimalistic space, I have been picky about what I have invited into my space now that I’m a teacher.  I have kept a fastidious watch over my Year-At-A-Glance sheet that I’ve made as well as the lesson plans I’ve drawn up and planned my classroom activities up to a month in advance.  This allows me to both be prepared but also retain my own sanity as well as the sanctity of my accommodations.  (At least the kittens don’t seem to mind the new stuff that does make it’s way into our apartment.  Their favorite thus far has been the easter egg submarines craft, that are now roly-poly toys filled with catnip or treats, depending on how generous mom and dad are feeling that day…) img_6780

I have been pleasantly surprised at how contained and simplified I have been able to keep my teaching when it comes to bringing work home with me (and lets face it, we all bring work home with us at one point or another, some of us more than others).  I often find myself completing crafts for the week ahead so that my class will have examples to look at while they complete their own craft.  This means I have to have a small stockpile of paint, construction paper, and other crafting supplies at my fingertips while at home.  I have a small box of paint, paper, cotton balls, pipe cleaners, etc. that I keep under the bed for just such occasions.  It is nice to keep the box out of sight when it’s not being used, and it doesn’t take up the vital space I need in closet space (thank goodness!).  The binders have found a home at the bottom of my linen closet.  They fit easily between the portable folding ironing board and the wall, so they aren’t too much of an eyesore and they act as a cat deterrent as well (they used to hide back there and I’d close them in the closet without knowing it!).

My kids take their projects home with them at the end of the month.  Therefore, I don’t have to purge the classroom quite as selectively as I do the finished “examples” I have made of our projects that somehow weasel their way back into my space when I come home at night.  In my last recycling bin, I disposed of a construction paper 2D cheetah face, a painted egg carton steam engine, and a trace-your-own constellation of the Big Dipper that I made with star stickers and chalk.  Example work (because who doesn’t need examples when you head out to your “next big thing”?) that I’ve kept have been a cupcake liner panda bear and a thumbprint painted tongue depressor caterpillar; they both live in a pouch in my teacher binder with lesson plans, Year-At-A-Glance, and reference sheets.

Keeping papers, materials, and clutter in general at a minimum as I continue to work in this profession will be a constant goal of mine.  Keeping the chaos of stuff down to a dull roar is all I can ask for as I continue to learn what I will need in terms of supply and demand for the classroom.  I realize that the collection of children’s books will only grow larger as I progress as a teacher, but hopefully they will be put to personal use as well when children of my own come along (don’t worry mom, it won’t be any time soon!).  A small bookshelf will be installed in the next couple of months to help organize the classroom from the personal books, and a secretary desk is also a dream of mine to keep clutter at bay on the dining table (right now I’m using the table as a base of operations for all things school-related and it gets to be a little overwhelming sometimes).  img_6781

But, in the here and now, keeping the stuff at bay seems to have become easier today than it was a month ago, and I can only hope that it will continue to grow easier as the time passes.  I remember my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Baldwin, who only needed to make minor adjustments to her lesson plans for each year, because everyone knew exactly what we would learn (for example, we would make model globes, and drop an egg in a box rigged to survive a two story drop from our teachers’ roof) and everyone looked forward to that.

I would love to, one day, be that kind of teacher.  Until then, we’ll keep it down to a dull roar.

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