Keep the Promises You Make To Yourself

Today I returned to school to organize my desk, pare down the papers in the file cabinets, and file the stuff in the tubs and baskets that got filled up and shoved out of site during the school year. I had made a promise to myself I would do this before July. Good night! How could I accumulate so much paper? I left the house with a thermos of good coffee, my favorite mug, some James Taylor CDs, Dove Promises, and a box of garbage bags. I needed reinforcements for this undertaking.

It was quiet at school and the only sound heard in my room was the soothing voice of JT. Actually, once I sorted out the extra copies of every handout I had given students this year, the pile of paper dropped quite a bit. I don't know why I don't just recycle extra copies. Do I really think at some point I will make a file each time I have three extra handouts on participles? I don't think so.

In the file cabinet I dumped the reading data on the students that graduated two years ago. I doubt their parents would call me now and ask me how many words per minute their child read in sixth grade! What did I think I would do with the sign -in sheet from fall open house in 2004? Did I need the list of who went on a field trip during summer school in 2000? As quickly as I dropped paper in the recycle bin, I also relabeled the file folders. The corner of the room began to take shape.
The tubs and baskets I pulled out from under my desk and on shelves in the closet were the scariest. I was thrilled when I found a recipe our transportation director gave me. I loved that salad at a potluck. Whew! I also found the secret password that gets me into the state website to register for workshops. I ended up throwing away the Werthers candy in the bottom of the basket even though they were still in the gold wrappings. I couldn't recall when I had them at school.I packed up the fork, some Ziplock containers, cough drops, and three CDs that had been missing. I defrosted my little refrigerator,hauled bags and bags of paper to the recycle bin, and took other stuff to the garbage. At 2:00 I stopped to enjoy a Dove Promise, listen to a little "Fire and Rain", sip some coffee, and gaze at an organized corner of the classroom. The message inside the dark chocolate fit the occasion perfectly.


  1. Awwww, I remember those days --- first at the middle school and high school in "K" and then during many years of home schooling. There is something comforting to a teacher about "paper". Only another teacher would understand! Recently my son was complaining about the "waste of paper" that occurs at the university. He's absolutely a computer geek and lives by PDA and laptop. His "green" mind says there is too much paper waste and that the teachers give too many handouts. Grrr, I thought. I LOVED preparing and giving out handouts, but I suppose he really is correct. I know, I'm rambling --- but his comment gave me much to think about. Still --- the smell, the feel, the filing, the stacks --- of paper take me back to teaching days and such fond, fond memories! Thanks for sharing!!!!!

  2. This past spring quarter, I only had about six students who handed in papers in hard copy. I read and returned all the others electronically. I'm going to try hard next year to see if I reduce significantly the number of handouts I distribute and work to persuade my students to find them online.

    I really like this post a lot, esp. the top picture! and the conclusion...very nice!

  3. I guess it's time for me to weed out the files of curriculum I developed while teaching at a Private school from '94-'96. Maybe the students from my 5th grade class 3 yrs ago are no longer interested in the last few papers I graded. . .

    Dog Gone! And then there is the files of Cross-stitch patterns I developed 14 yrs ago, that were never accepted by any of the cross-stitch magazines I submitted them to. . .and the file with all the correspondence to those magazines, and the newsletters for the Cross-stitch club I started 15 yrs. ago (that only lasted for 1 year). . .Humm

    See a pattern here?

  4. I absolutely love this post. I absolutely love it.

    Here's hugs from one parent to you as a teacher - even tho you're not my child's teacher. Teachers are a special gift to all of us and so overlooked sometimes.

    I treasure my teachers I had growing up. Sadly I think I haven't paid enough attention to my children's teachers thru the years. You have reminded me of many important things.

    Thank you.

  5. I laughed out loud reading this. You did what I desperately need to do. I am sharing a classroom with another teacher now, for the first time in 27 years, because I am only teaching about 1/3 of what I used to teach (she's doing the rest). I couldn't bring myself to go through things last year when she came, but I really should now. Perhaps you've inspired me to get it done. Thanks!

  6. La Tea Dah: Ihad guessed you were a teacher. Read my brother's comment below yours. He tries to save on paper also. I try, but alas they need to practice.
    RP:I may have to try more of that.
    Pinhurst: Been there... done that!
    Shelby: Thanks... I was blessed with good teachers also.
    Rondi: We get it, don't we? When I moved after a few years of teaching I actually moved colored butcher paper with me because I didn't know if the next school would have it.

  7. We've worked for ten years to go paperless in our office. The final piece of hardware and software was installed last week and it is ... genuinely anticlimatic. But damn, our place looks good. :)

  8. JBelle: Wow... I wonder if I could pare down the paper a bit next year. Now with all that money you are saving by not buying reams of paper... go find more mugs for that awesome shelf!!!! It will make that place look even better.

  9. Definitely a good days work. And you deserved a treat. Always feels so good to complete a task that needs doing, doesn't it? Now, would you like to come over and tackle our storage room?! :-)

  10. Jackie: Of course I have a storage room here that needs the same "purge day". I better stock up on chocolate!

  11. I like the rewards you chose to get through the day. Most people have no idea how much work teacher's do behind the scences.

    Sounds like this was a very productive day for you :)

  12. Becca: It was productive and I think a lot goes on behind the scenes. It is a good thing I hid some stuff in tubs or it would have looked like the first picture above! lol


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