Friday, March 20, 2009

The Purge Begins

Busy Day and I'm Tired

The weather got a lot better by this afternoon, but I think I am honestly too tired to do much with the Boys. Today the students were not in school for teachers' workshops and the rest of the English Department and I moved dozens and dozens of books.

As the the most senior teacher in the department, and practically in the whole school system, I have, over the years, gathered a really nice collection of classroom books, and all kinds of helpful books for teachers. Some of these are well over 30 year old but still excellent sources of lessons, worksheets and all kinds of activities for students. I have classroom sets of five different Shakespeare plays, the Odyssey, a fabulous mythology book, writing books--the list goes on and on.

These have all been stored in a largish storage room in the back of my classroom. My big fear was that when I retired, the "powers that be" would take them all and toss them out--especially since some of the books are so dated. (But hey, a workbook with super exercises on grammar never goes out of date!!)

So, today, since the English department was scheduled for a workshop on Shakespeare, we decided it was a good time to start setting up our new bookroom (the former audio visual room) in the English hallway. So, after 38 years, I surrendered nearly all my teaching materials to the department as a whole. ( I still need Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Taming of the Shrew stuff.)
The meant about four trips of carts loaded with books being transferred from one end of the building to another.

Then, when we opened the door to the AV room, it was a mess. Now, I had been the AV person some 20+ years ago. Good grief, stuff was still there from when I had the job!! Even some very useful classroom magazines I had stored there in 1985 were still in one of the drawers. Unbelievable! Don't know what the two people who have had the job since I did were up to, but it was like stepping back into a time capsule. I even remembered what (now totally obsolete) stuff was stored in some of the other drawers and cabinets.

Anyhow, with a joint effort of stocking and cleaning, the room is now in a little better order and several of the bookshelves in my back room are cleared. The material is now in safe hands. The other teachers can use or dispose of it at will, but I honestly found all but a few of the books very useful over the years. I still have more things to bequeath, including worksheets for all the plays and other literature I taught my classes. I think, perhaps, I will simply make a folder with masters for each and then discard all the extra copies I've made along the way. This way, all the work I've done over all these years might help someone else teach.

It is a little strange to get rid of the stuff, but once I started, it got easier and easier. I still have two shelves of video tapes to go through. Then there are three file cabinets with worksheets and one more metal cabinet of miscellaneous supplies.

That wore out the morning and wore me out, so the afternoon workshop, sitting down at the computer was actually kind of relaxing. We had an excellent presenter on teaching towards multiple intelligences. Basically, it was about how students have individual learning styles based on they way they naturally think. It is up to teachers to try to find different methods of teaching the course material in order to encourage and help every student find a way to master it.

I actually do a lot of "differentiated instruction" in my classroom already, but I still picked up a few cool ideas to use for the last few months of my career. My latest venture is having the kids write "Bottom's Ballad" from A Midsummer Night's Dream. If you don't know the play, one of the characters is enchanted into having a donkey's head and then becomes the love object of the fairy queen. After much confusion, he falls asleep as a donkey (ass) and wakes up as a human again, completely mystified by his experience, which he thinks has all been a dream. He then decides the story should be told and speaks of having another character write a ballad about it.

The ballad never happens in the play, so I have "commissioned" my students to write it. Some of them are working in teams and all of them have the opportunity for some nice extra credit if they set it to music and sing it for the class. I've written my own version as a demo model, but I haven't sung it to them yet--I just read it aloud. So far a lot of the students are preparing musical numbers for Monday. Now we'll just have to see who actually follows through. I am really looking forward to hearing the results.

This is the kind of stuff I am going to miss. I wish that all of teaching could be fun like that, but there are just too many times when forces outside the classroom step in and spoil the spontaneity.

Three more months. Then I will be a retired teacher.


  1. It does sound like the whole day was a lot of work and maybe a little nostalgic. I'm sure it's going to be hard to leave after so many years. There must be so many students who were influenced by you and your teachings of the classics.

    On the other hand I'll bet you'll like your retirement once you get used to it and find the time to spend doing all the things you really love.

  2. OMG you are really preparing your depart to retirement!

    Very interesting about the different teaching style. There is also here a bit of it. My son has "special" tuition for helping to learn to read in English. He can read in Italian but not in English.
    His teacher uses lots of 3D techniques. she is very interesting.

    I iwhs I had a look at your English grammar worksheet. You always sound like a wonderful literature teacher. Reading your post always makes me want to follow one of your course!

  3. so you've made the decision then? best tell the school before they find out from here!

    in teaching, as in everything else, what goes around, comes around ... someone will recognise the value of your stuff!

  4. I so admire your positive attitude about all this. It must be hard to leave all this behind, despite the allure of so much more time to devote to yourself.

  5. I think you'll have a great retirement Jean your always so busy and active and deserve time to realx and enjoy the finer things in life..horses:))