It is truly a nightmare when you have 10 years of educational materials sitting in your garage and even worst when you have not used those materials. The task needed to come sooner or later. Mission declutter! It was not an easy task. I honestly wanted to keep everything I was finding. It was truly a treasure hunt. It was really hard for me to decide what to keep and what to throw away. Here is my strategy:
1. If it is paper, it can be replaced.
I have been in education for over 20 years. Needless to say, I had tons of papers and binders. I needed to let go. With technology access, finding and keeping information is so much easier nowadays. If you are too concerned about privacy issues, keep your papers to be shredded at a later time. There are organizations that will shred your papers for a small fee (I know my high school does it as a fundraiser as well as my credit union bank)
2. If there is not a chance that you will ever teach a subject again, it’s time to let go.
Do an honest assessment about whether or not a topic you taught years ago will be in your future teaching assignments. In my case, I was an ESL teacher for 10 years. I kept all my books because I know teaching ESL on a part time basis is something that will always be available for me to do, even after retirement.
3. If it worked in the past, it does not necessarily mean that it will work again
As teachers we suffer from separation anxiety. Separation anxiety from countless hours of work on lessons that were effective 10, 15, & 20 years ago. We put so much time and effort into our creations that we really want to keep them forever. My strategy was to think about Heidi Hayes Jacob’s saying that we are teaching 21st Century students, in 20th Century classrooms, with 19th Century materials. I threw away many lessons and materials I created several years ago to force me to be innovative, creative, and most importantly, timely. Our digital learners have different skills and abilities and they need more dynamic and engaging lessons.
4. Once is put away, is forgotten….
I made a conscious effort to just keep what I truly think has present and future educational value. I also worked longer hours to organize my materials in an easy to find spot. Label every single box you put away and keep your most to be used items at reach. It is better to keep less but to use it more often.
5. Digitally scan all your materials on a traditional scanner or using the scan features on a tablet or IPad
I have to confess that I did not get to this part yet. My plan is to scan lessons and activities digitally as I am using them over the next school year and have a digital cabinet.
6. Finally, if you created a great lesson once, more than likely you will continue improving.
Just let it go….. You were smart and creative yesterday and you are smart and creative today. One of the benefits of being a connected educator and long-life learner is that you don’t want to use materials from the past without revamping them to fit the educational needs of today.