Due to the long weekend, I am responding to the Reflective Teaching Questions: A 30-Day Blogging Challenge For Teachers out of order. Rather than trying to stick to the suggested order, I will jump to Day 8: What’s in your desk drawer, and what can you infer from those contents?
Picture the scene. I have a typical teacher desk with two left drawers, two right drawers, and a long middle drawer over the knee area—the topside drawers are smaller leaving the bottom drawers designed to hold file folders. The desk is really a place to lay magazines as they come in, hold the library phone, eat my lunch, and quickly sit at to look at email. I have always preferred not sitting at my desks opting for student desks or library tables. I like the convenience of these tables and the non-permanent nature to them. I cannot “set up home” at a student desk or library table. I can only have my computer and other materials I actually need at the time. Then it all has to be neatly cleaned for students to use.
I am a librarian and believe in order and organization. I can almost fully recite the Dewey Decimal down to all the 10s. In my kitchen at home, all food and beverage products are arranged so labels face frontward. My pantry, cabinets, refrigerator shelves and drawers are organized so only certain items go on or in them even if that means at times a shelf sits empty. Suffice it to say, I am really into organization.
So please believe me when I say “Do not open the desk drawer!” Not only will you not find what you are looking for, you will be amazed at the mess it contains. There are an assortment of dried pens and markers, random paperclips that are often warped, cards and letters from students, pictures from previous school years, and various cereals and snacks.
The desk drawers are catchalls. Oddly, some of the random items (the dried pens and weird paperclips) moved with me from my previous library. As I packed for my move from Arlington to Raleigh, I was very precise and leaving behind what belonged to the school, library program, or was too specific an item for me to take. My desks have never been organized nor used for their intended purpose. When it was time to pack up my desk drawers, I wanted to leave behind a neat desk ready for my successor. Therefore, I packed up the clutter: the notes, cards, dried pens, etc.
I believe this reflects my thought on the desk as a whole. When I taught in the classroom, I always used my desk as a writing center for students. All of my work was done at the table I used during small group instruction. Also, I live my by my computer. My computer and Google Drive are highly organized with series folders and sub folders. I could get philosophical about preferring a “paperless” way of life. But in all honesty, I have really poor penmanship and have relied heavily on word processing. This is probably why my desk drawers are random.
As to the randomness of it all, I could easily throw out the items but I have not. Why, I do not know. I am not a hoarder by any means. My librarian colleagues know me as a “ruthless weeder”. The snacks are thrown out when they hit their best used by dates. The pens go when I try to use one and realize it is dry—but only if it means that I have to walk and find a new one. For all my ruthlessness when it comes to weeding and purging, I believe the contents and randomness of my desk drawers reflect my heart. I hold onto what some might call “trash” because the contents reflect times gone by. Maybe it’s a note from a student, or a pen I used to sign off student recommendation. Maybe it’s the paper clip used to hold a stack of papers reflecting an awesome (or not-so awesome lesson). Maybe it’s a snack I brought because I looked forward to eating it but did not because realized it was nut based and the next class coming to the library had a student with a severe nut allergy. The contents are varied, random, and unorganized. They reflect my love for my job as seemingly odd as that may sound.