Teachers: Pack rats or practical?

Teachers: Pack rats or practical?

A couple of weeks before the school year started, it dawned on me how much public school teaching is like putting on a theater production.

There’s the script – lesson plans – to write.

There are directors and crew members – teachers, administrators and support staff.

In my active-learning style classroom, students are the stars of the show.

Recently I have come to think of my teaching materials — from books to CDs to puppets and maracas – as theater props. You can give a show on an empty stage – but is it as interesting as a fully outfitted production?

My classroom is the stage

Storage of my growing collection of teaching materials has been an interesting challenge. I have lots of things on display in the classroom, more in classroom closets and an expanding array of items in my walk-in closet at home.

Only two weeks into the school year, my own closet has come to resemble a theater props room. No I am not going to post a photo of it, but here is an image from school.

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When I was still in the planning stages of my career change, I read Marie Kondo’s bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I did not follow her program fanatically, but was able to clear out two bedrooms, five closets and some kitchen cabinets before I had a housemate move in.

I sold books, CDs, clothing and unwanted knickknacks at second-hand shops. I sent the rest to Goodwill. I did some painting and put in new floors. And for a short time, my sleek and well-organized house could have been featured in a magazine.

Tidiness ended when I started teaching

Alas, I am now a teacher and the life-changing magic is gone. My closet is now filled with baskets and boxes of pens,  file folders, colored paper and even a couple rolls of bubble wrap. I have a collection of Mexican dresses and blouses in my drawers. I knew something had changed in me the first week of school when, instead of recycling the packaging material from an amazon.com shipment, I tucked it away in case I needed it for a classroom art project.

I didn’t feel obsessed with hanging on to the bubble wrap. I felt like I was doing something practical.

My good friend and outstanding Ohio music educator Tamara Morris once told me that while she admired people with extremely tidy houses, she would never be one. Tami has had an amazing career teaching kids music and staging school theater productions. She now coordinates events and publicity for the Ohio State University’s School of Music.

A new creative way of life

“A lot of people with neat houses never do anything else,” I recall her saying.

I nodded in agreement, thinking I knew exactly what she was talking about. And, by the way,  her home always looks beautiful.

Now, as I wonder what to move from the closet shelves when I need additional sombrero storage, I see I had no understanding at all of the wonderful trade-off she was making.

I am delighted to be joining the show!

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