Friday, 13 May 2016

A Hidden Danger of Being a Teacher

I've been absent from the Internet for several days on a self-imposed Internet-free zone - actually it was almost a completely computer-free zone as well. Sometimes I find it very necessary to step back and leave the world behind and focus on just my little house and its inhabitants instead. So that's what I did.

One of the reasons I wanted to have a break from the Internet is that it can suck you dry of time and energy that may be better spent doing something else...and I had other things to do. I have a lot of stuff. Yes, I know it because I see it everyday. Some of it is my personal stuff, my teaching stuff, my kids' stuff...but there is too much!! Tackling this problem however poses a problem because I really don't like to get rid of stuff...and being a teacher has made that worse!


Yes, a hidden danger of being a teacher is becoming a hoarder. You learn to pick up things cheap at the discount shops, keep the most obscure books 'in case you need it' - not to mention books in general seem to have a growth serum that automatically doubles each year.

Most of my teaching stuff is stored away in neatly packed and organised boxes. I purposely did this to make my return to full-time teaching easier. It's been about 18 months since I transitioned from full-time teacher to full-time mummy and I have started looking at all that stuff that is around the house. Books I know I have never used, worksheets I have collected over the years...CDs full of digital resources (though I like the digital resources because they don't take up room and I can print what I need, when I need it).

And so I have begun the task of de-cluttering. I thought about getting Marie Kondo's book about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up but I fear it would only distract me from using my common sense and getting on with the job.

Here are therefor some tips for teachers to keep control (or sort through) all of their stuff....

Tracking Usage
If you're a teacher I recommend you put the date you purchased/used the book on a sticky note and place it on the cover or inside of a book. That way you can check every 12 months to see what you are and are not actually using. Yes, it's a huge job if you have been teaching for any number of years - so if you're a pre-service teacher - START NOW!

I use the code P = Purchased / LU = Last Used and include the date. I prefer the cheap see-through sticky notes as they remove without marking/staining the cover - but use whatever works for you.



Organise
Always organise your books into grade levels. I first organised by topic (Mathematics/Literacy/Science) but then found that when I was in a hurry I had to double-check what was appropriate for the year level I was teaching. Much easier to organise by the grade level - this way you can see what resources you have and decide if you really need all those grade 1 books when you've only ever taught grade 5. It also helps to see what resources you may need if you are going into a new grade level next year (just don't over do the buying!)

Go Digital
Where you can: Buy Digital. Not only is it cheaper but easier to store and find what you need. If you want you can burn topic CDs and grade level ones - so you'll always be able to find what you need. Many of the big publishers have gone digital and I have personally replaced about 30% of my hard copy resources with the digital versions from publishers such as Evan-Moor, Carson Dellosa and Scholastic. TeachersPayTeachers is another great source for digital resources - but choose carefully to avoid disappointment and buy on a sale when you can. Another plus is that you don't have to pay postage - yay!

Do You Need 4 Versions?
After a few years of teaching you tend to settle on certain textbooks/publishers for certain things. Once you do, that's the time to start moving on the ones you don't use. Don't keep it just for the sake of keeping it.

Buy Basics!
Books are one thing but I also have a huge collection of mathematical, art, gardening, science...tools. You can't always get what you need if you are in a school where 30 teachers have access to very limited supplies so I recommend investing in your own equipment for your classroom. If you choose to do this make sure you initial or engrave every single piece of equipment, keep a tally and check it twice/once a term (depending on how frequently you use the equipment.

Here are some things to consider buying (not an exhaustive list but it will get you started)
* counting blocks/interconnecting blocks
* MAB blocks
* counters
* sorting circles (also good for literacy activities)
* fraction discs
* plastic and glass containers (science)

* pop-up soccer nets (choose carefully - don't get the dreadful circle fold down ones that never fold down - go to a sport store and invest in a proper one for about $60 AUD)
* balls (basketball, tennis ball, rattle ball, soft balls)
* tennis racket
* 4 large witch's hats/4 small or mini ones


Borrow It...
This doesn't always work which is why it is way down the list. I have personally found that I could never get my hand on the resource/book/blocks that I needed when I needed it...but if you can, do.


Being a teacher is a bit like becoming a snail: You carry around a house-full of stuff. Just be aware of what you have and make you that you cull your resources on a regular basis and check what you have before buying more!
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