Every teacher has at least one drawer or file box of blood, sweat, and tears: the hard copies of articles, activities, and ephemera collected from conferences or constructed over countless summers and Sundays. Sure, we have electronic versions of many things, too, but there is something about the physical representation of the work. Those manila file folders are sometimes the only evidence we have for hours of toil.
But what does a teacher do with these collections at retirement? Or the change of a grade level or subject area? Or other change of job assignment? We're not willing to throw away these files---we know how much thought and care was taken to bring them into the world. And yet, having these items molder away in a basement is hardly a fitting end, either.
My classroom stuff has been in just such a limbo for some time now. I have felt guilty every day as I head into and out of my garage. I thought I could hear those files whimpering to be used again...how unfair it was to keep them cooped up and away from kids. And yet, I wasn't sure about where I might end up jobwise. I had a "just in case" excuse I kept in mind, knowing full well that even if I went back to the classroom, lessons would need remodeling.
This week, it was finally time to let things go. There was a passle of science teachers at an event I attended this week. I took seven boxes of books I had accumulated over the years---only two boxes worth went unclaimed by teachers. I found a teacher who is just about to start teaching AP Bio for the first time---and I gave her my files: lock, stock, and barrel. I gave away bulletin board supplies, posters, and other items. Not only did I regain some nice space in my garage, I also let these items have the opportunity for new life in classrooms all over the state. I feel like part of my teaching life is living on, even as I explore other job opportunities.
The nest is not completely empty. There were a few things I wasn't quite ready to part with and I am sure that there are others hiding in boxes I didn't open last week. But there will be other groups of teachers I see and other opportunities to gift some treasures. Oddly enough, I don't feel a loss as evidence of my classroom life ebbs away---I feel richer for having shared.