Once in a blue moon, I’m moved to rid myself of the clutter that accumulates over the course of term time. While I was busy having one of the greatest summers I’ve ever had, the heaps of paper and stationery and books and shoes and so on languished in piles around my room. The piles became mountains. This morning, as I knocked over a mountain on the way to brush my teeth, I thought it time for a spring clean. Yes, it’s autumn, but hang the orthodoxy.
You know the kind of purge I’m talking about. Summer clothes are banished to the bottom drawer, items are dragged out for re-heeling/mending/taking to the charity shop, hours pass in a haze of ‘what on EARTH was I thinking?!’ It was a morning of cathartic entertainment.
By mid-afternoon I had filled three bin bags. Now, while this sounds utterly slovenly on my part – and, to some extent, it is – the contents of those bags were different. They weren’t bags of clothes or shoes. They were reams and reams of paper. Paper that had gathered in my room since September 2013, or the day I started my teacher training.
Since I started my training year, I’ve kept every single sheet. Every booklet, every inset pack, and every set of notes from the many seminars I attended on the various facets of teaching. I found ‘outstanding teaching toolkits’, guides to various kinds of lesson, data analysis packs. Over the course of two years, including my NQT year, I’ve amassed close to 3,000 sheets of paper – resources, lesson plans, training notes, advice, photocopies of god knows what… I kept it all, in the naïve expectation that, at some point, I might need them.
Today I threw them all away.
I figure that the following is true:
- If I haven’t revisited this stuff in the last two years, I won’t.
- If I found it useful, I would have in some way assimilated it into my teaching. If I didn’t, I don’t need it.
- There may have been a huge amount of wisdom contained in that paper, but nothing compares to the wisdom you gain by seeking advice from good people about real life classroom experiences.