Not That Teacher Anymore

Cleaning my classroom at the end of the year resulted in getting rid of some pretty old resources and materials. The result was not just a cleaner, “de-cluttered” classroom. I made a much more important realization in the process.

Recently I started a deep “spring cleaning” in my classroom. My district is getting ready to start a major building project, and in a couple of years, my entire school will be moving into new facilities. While that’s happening, we’re also moving toward one-to-one computing, and I’m using Google Classroom. My goal is to develop a paperless classroom in the next year or so. With all these changes going on, it makes sense to get rid of things.

It’s been a walk down memory lane, cleaning out my shelves and cabinets. In a way, it’s an archeological dig on a teaching career. There’s my copy of Shakespeare Set Free, which helped me transform my Romeo & Juliet “read and lecture” approach to a much more engaging, hands-on experience for me and my students. There are the thematic, interdisciplinary units we developed twenty years ago, when we first started teaming and the pressures surrounding state testing hadn’t yet engulfed us.

With every binder, book, and file I moved, I realized that I am not that teacher anymore. My worksheet collection is gone. Lecture notes have been recycled. Binders have been emptied and set on a table for others to collect and use.There was a little “tug” in the back of my brain as I threw things away or set them out for recycling or reuse. “What if I need that?” or “What if I get assigned to ninth grade English someday?” When I’m honest with myself, though, I realize that even if my district assigned me to senior English, which I taught my first year, 25 years ago, I wouldn’t do much of anything now like I did then. I wouldn’t lecture on the great British authors. I wouldn’t give the same writing assignments, or handle grammar lessons in isolation. I’m not that teacher anymore.

Cleaning and purging has freed up space in my classroom. Now, I have fewer totes and boxes hiding under tables and desks, and more space on book shelves. A year ago, I was considering getting rid of my papasan chairs, so that I would have more space for student tables and chairs; today, that is not a concern, and the popular seating options are still safe.

The cleaning and purging is also freeing my mind.Getting rid of old materials that no longer fit the way I teach is like cutting loose an anchor that was weighing me down and holding me back. I won’t have the temptation of looking back at what I did in the past; I can look at the course and my students with fresh eyes and apply my knowledge, skills, and experiences to developing new lessons and activities that will best serve those students and meet their needs.

I’m not the teacher I was 25 years ago. I’m also not the teacher I will be in another ten years. Each year brings new learning and new realizations; hopefully that means I’m getting a little bit better, every year.


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  • Joy Sama


    Another excellent post by Tricia Ebner.  Great points to ponder as we begin summer break.

  • ManuelParra

    Now it is clear where you are

    Now it is clear where you are coming from.. That is kind of right decision you made to implement changes in your teaching methods. Educatation system rapidly changes with each year. Nowadays teachers try to set up new rules making students get involved in more discussions rather than making notes that takes plenty of time during one lesson and as a result, the material that should have been understood by each and every student is not obtained.  Developing practical skills by means of student-driven problems in digital age is the most effective way for students to learn. Teachers are responsible for learning process, they must be well-prepared for each lesson and have in mind 10 ways to make your homework fun. Notes taking is old-fashioned teaching method. All subject related material should be available in the form of digital data.

  • LaurieWasserman

    Wonderful post; I’m not the same teacher either

    Tricia, what a wonderful and insightful post! I have been doing the same as you for a different reason: I am retiring next Christmas and donating my teacher books, materials, and games/activities to colleagues. I realized as I looked at lessons and projects from the past that they weren’t worthy of my colleagues’ students. They weren’t challenging enough and they certainly weren’t 21st century learning.

    It is a nice trip for us to look at the teacher we were and then reflect on the one we’ve become. Love your simile of cutting the anchor; thanks so much for sharing.

  • Amanda

    I shared this via my blog.

    I have this scheduled to share via my blog, The Mississippi Education Blog, on Thursday, June 16. I do a feature called, "What do you think?" there. After reading your post, I wanted to know what others thought about de-cluttering and the emotions it can raise. I just thought I'd share. I felt inspired to use your post in my feature this week. I hope you will check it out on Thursday.

  • Sheila Marquez

    Motivational and relevant to where I am

    I found your blog motivational and relevant to where I am. I am trying so hard to change my mindset from teaching knowledge to teaching skills. Why should I teach knowledge that they can look up when and if they need it. I want to create that need in my Project Based Learning or Argument Driven Inquiry lessons but I still feel pressured from the students and fellow teachers and even adminstrators when asked what I am teaching or being scrutinized for teaching "soft" skills of the 21st century. Help me be that teacher who can stand by my beliefs that we are in the 21st century information age and that students need the skills to access the correct accurate information to their job!!!

  • Linda Endow Hall

    High school Spanish
    This coming school year will be my last after teaching for 38 years (26 years at H.S.). I want to leave my successor a clean slate to start anew, to adopt a new textbook, go paperless, and set up a 21st century classroom. What resources can I read about this summer to prepare for the transition?

  • NicolHemphill

    Clutter Free

    I did the same thing at the end of this school year. I felt great and my classroom looked better. Some aspects of education are moving in a new direction so out with the old (some of it at least) and in with the new!!!

  • Veroniksa

    Motivational and great

    Motivational and great

    I see that what you write is very relevant to what I feel right now. We want to create teacher project to improve and promote skills of new age. We wrote on blog about this idea


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