Thursday, March 14, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Treasures Unearthed

It was an asymmetrical, bi-level
haircut back then, circa 1990. 
Throwback Thursday, who does it? Pictures posted and tagged #throwbackthursday on Twitter and Instagram make me smile when I catch them. Go ahead. Do an image search of the hashtag. Add a year or a topic to your search string:  "#throwbackthursday mullet" for example.

I'm not up on hip memes though. I hardly have time to keep up with the feed in my Google Reader. I'll gain time now though, once Google Reader is no more.  Occasionally, a meme idea gets stuck in my mind like an old song or something you forget mid-story. It distracts me until I do something about it.  Throwback Thursday got me thinking about discoveries that come from looking back. I blame two things for my recent throwback thinking: one, Stacey Shubitz's themed Throwback Thursday post on Two Writing Teachers a couple of weeks ago and again today, and two, the need to sort and clean my classroom.

Have you looked in the back of the bottom drawer of your filing cabinet lately? Have you cleaned the corners of the bookshelves?  I've been at my current school going on five years, so it's been about that long since I did it.

I found all sorts of things in the filing cabinet  and on the book shelves by my desk. I was searching for a specific piece of writing and for a specific old book.  I can picture the writing typed on the page and the book's cover. I didn't find either, but I did uncover a few gems. I started a  throwback folder on Dropbox and dumped pictures of my treasures into it, so I can come back and write about them later.

On the book shelf of professional resources I found this:

My Lesson Plan book from 1997-1998, pages preserved in plastic sleeves.  A few students were working in my room after school. One said, "I wasn't even born then!" Fifteen years ago, I remember it better than what I had for lunch yesterday.

The book is full too. There are even a few pages from 1996-97, the year I participated in the National Writing Project.

The first thing I noticed was the classroom layout page. I made the book for students, so it holds more than lesson plans. I found procedure notes, handouts, lesson plans, even transparencies (perfectly preserved). This page reviews procedures for students.

Look at all the desks. Then, classes were capped at 32 not 25 and that cap, created by that Guidance department wasn't law, but courtesy. What does this room about my teaching or my beliefs about students and learning?

This year's layouts focus on students not procedures. Here's one of six classes: 

Where's all the stuff? Where are the computers?  Where are the book shelves or filing cabinets or our permanently set up seats in a circle or the "kitchen" area or sink? 

Big differences. What does this picture say about what I value? 

Here a quick photo-tour of my classroom. I teach in a double-wide portable, also known as a trailer or shoe-box. Fortunately, it's the biggest trailer on campus. It must be fifty feet long, maybe more. My school is about to embark on a construction journey and the trailer will be retired--the windowsills and floors are rotting, so that's a good thing--still, it's a huge space. The district doesn't put up-to-date equipment in portable classrooms. It gets stolen, so portable teachers get things we can afford to lose.

There's a discussion circle set with 27 chairs behind the teal book shelves. Student poets were  practicing when I took this picture.

I only work at this desk before or after school, it's a long view to the end of the room.

When I found the Lesson Plan book one of my first thoughts was: What was I doing the week before spring break then?

I wondered as I opened the book, felt the shiny Plasticine pages and flipped to March. Book talks, I discovered. My students were presenting the entire week before spring break. Smart move, I congratulated myself. I still like keeping students busy before a vacation.

I laughed at my assignment reminders at the top of the page.  Mind your eye contact, be enthusiastic while delivering your spiel. My reminders and the idea that students had to make a poster made me laugh.

If only I'd had students record the titles of their books on the sign-up sheet for presentations.
If I had, we'd all know which book Hank Green talked up that Wednesday, March 11, 1998.


  1. A fantastic trip down memory lane! And so informative! Really interesting to see the changes that have happened over time. Fascinating to see the number of students then versus now - wow.

    1. Thanks, Maureen, I'm glad you found it interesting too.

  2. Thank you for inviting us into your classroom both then and now. It's fascinating to see which things change and what stays the same.

  3. It is fun to look back! I taught eight years in a portable! It was a different world. When I moved to the main building for this year, I even found the key to the cabinet in the room!

  4. This peek at your shifting teaching philosophies (and hairstyles!) is fascinating! It's so fun to take a step back and see how you've grown. I wonder what I'll believe and do and think in 15 years? (By the way, I was in 8th grade in '97-98!)

  5. I once discovered my gradebook from my 1st year of teaching! fun to be able to examine the artifacts of your teaching transformation.

  6. Set up focused on students not on procedures--interesting insight. I would love to know what Hank Green was reading--I bet he didn't ever forget to be awesome, and I bet he was a lot of fun as a student, and future nerdfighter.