Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cleaning out my desk

Next fall I'm going to be at a new school, and that means cleaning out my desk at the Old Place. Old Place High School for Boys is where I've been for the past three years, and my desk has attracted a good deal of paper.

I didn't get weepy or anything when cleaning out, but I'm just sentimental enough to take pictures of a few things before throwing them away. Join me, if you please, on this semi-random photo journey through the awkward growth of a new teacher.


Our first stop is my first year in the classroom. These two pictures decently represent my stormy, confusing beginning:

(I think it's awesome that someone looked at that book and said, "Mr. P could be anybody! This demands clarity," so he took out his pen and wrote "ershan.")


I tossed all of these things, because nothing really lasts, even the things that take an hour to cut up and stuff into envelopes for a 43 minute lesson.


Here's another throwback from my first year teaching Geometry, when the idea of having actual models for plane/line interactions got me excited:

It's a plane! It's a line! They're perpendicular!


This next pic requires a bit of context. For a solid three months last year there was this incredibly annoying beeping noise that went off in the office. At first we thought it was the copier having some bizarre malfunction, but we used science to dispel that theory. (Turn copier off; beep persists.)

Anyway, it drove us nuts. It finally got me so upset that I chased the noise around the room and finally tracked it down to the inside of my desk. I reached in and my hand fell on this:

Good god, that was annoying. I impressed a bunch of colleagues later that year when they found themselves trying to figure out where some mysterious beeping sound was coming from...


I now feel ridiculous for ever thinking that storing all of my lessons in a binder was a good idea.

But it did feel great to throw all those out. Especially my behavior tracking sheets, which lasted for about 4 months at the beginning of my second year:

I used to walk around the classroom keeping track of who was doing what behaviorally. It didn't work particularly well for me, but I had a really, really rough first year, and I used this to try to manage things better during year two.


At the end of the day, I had a good time at Ol' Old Place, I learned a ton, and I met a bunch of really cool kids, some of whom appreciated and liked their time with me. 

It was time well spent.

Onward and upward, or whatever.


  1. Love the idea of photo documenting things. Might make it easier to throw some things away (at least I think it would for me).

    If the behavior binder didn't work, did you change something that did work?

    1. As my lessons got better, my behavior issues became much rarer, and I started dealing with them on an individual basis. The thing that's helped me the most with serious behavior issues have been extensive, out-of-class discussions with kids, either over the phone or in person.

      But all of this is so context-dependent. If my school had uniform behavior policies, or if my kids' behavior was worse, or if my personality were different, I could imagine the equilibrium that I landed on would be quite different.

  2. Wow, you're going to a school with GURLZ. I am so impressed with your work, and with throwing things away. it took an intervention from a custodian before I started doing so ( "I see teachers with 30 years in the classroom who still have their original handouts. No, they don't use them, why do they keep them?") But I just took them home. This spring I had 6000 cu.ft of dumpster space to clean out all the unnecessary stuff, and 15 young people to help me.
    Luckily most of my brain is still intact.
    Good luck, enjoy your summer of new creation!

  3. In 2010 I moved to a new school and inherited the classroom of someone who had just retired. He had been at the school since 1975. While clearing out his old file cabinets, I found final exams from as early as 1982. Good for you not letting htat happen to you Michael!

  4. Very sweet! Good luck to you and keep us posted.

    Yours, Amy

  5. If I have stored something digitally, I never keep the paper copy. There's no way in hell I'll ever find it when I actually need it.