Saturday, September 29, 2012

Are We Done With This Yet?


Downsizing


We need to downsize.  The task of going through a lifetime of things stored in our basement seems a bit daunting at the moment.  We decided that the only way we can possibly accomplish the task of moving and downsizing is to do it in stages.

Stage One


Sort through professional papers, books, notebooks, teaching materials and memorabilia from the classroom and our professions.  

Most folks don't have to close down two complete offices during a lifetime.  Many just retire and walk away from the job they may have performed for many years.  My husband and I were educators.  We have a lot of teaching materials that we either could not give away when we retired because we weren't sure if we would need it for consulting and such, or we didn't have time to sort through as we went through the process of working right up until the last day on the job.  Hence, we brought it all home with us with the best intentions of going through it all later.  You know how that goes.

Well, later is now.  We must make those hard decisions.  What shall we keep?  What shall we toss?

Thankfully, there are those who understand.  There are those who have been there and done that.  My dear friend Dixie has been a teacher, and she has moved a lot of times.  She has the skill set I needed for the task that I face.  I didn't even have to ask her for help.  She just picked up the phone, called, and said, "I will come and help you pack.  When do you need my help?"  She came for three hours one day, and she came back the next day to finish up with what we had started.  


Dixie holds two books.
Are we done with these yet?
Yes, for sure toss No Child Left Behind!
We are happy to get rid of that for sure.
Some of my best friends are ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers.  We share a special bond.  We love our profession where we were blessed to teach immigrant children who were learning English while they tried to adjust to life and school in a new country.  As Dixie and I were going through endless books, papers, and professional notebooks I had acquired during my career, I found the training notebook I had put together for a professional development course I taught to teachers in the local school district while I was working at the Colorado State University-Pueblo as a program coordinator and professor.  When I opened the notebook to see if I should keep it, there was Dixie's name and phone number on the first page.  I had taken the number down so I could come to visit her at the school where she taught.  She was actually teaching in the same high school and had the same job I had held before I left to go to the University.

Back in January of 2004, I had been hired to write the curriculum and develop the program that would allow teachers and pre-teachers to add an endorsement to teach the Linguistically Diverse (ELL - English Language Learners) Education Endorsement to an existing teacher license.   I left the public classroom at that time.  After I retired, I met Dixie again.  We taught together when I took a semester position to teach reading at an elementary school where Dixie was teaching ESL.  We became fast friends and have remained so ever since.  I recommended she be hired after she retired to help teach the same course I was teaching to foreign students learning English at CSU-Pueblo during the second semester of 2011.

I love Dixie's approach to most things in life.  She is very practical and level-headed.  She is great sounding board for me.  She also is a faithful friend.  She has long time friends all over the country.  Once you are her friend, she is there for you forever.  I don't think I could have accomplished much of this move, been able to survive the death of my daughter, or been able to cope with my health issues without friends such as Dixie.  Thanks, Dixie!

The emotional side of downsizing

I think I could write a book on this topic.  Our basement, the mess that it was, had been culled over and over by my husband and myself over the past seventeen years, and yet it still remained the repository for our lives.  When we married 20 years ago, we combined two families that were well established with a lot a stuff.  We thinned out many possessions then.  The scrapbooks and mementos from the past were relegated to the basement.  The textbook we saved from college were still there.  The books we read in the 60's, 70's, 80's and beyond were there.  We are readers.  We have books.  Our professional books and papers were there.  Our children's games, books, and even many toys were there.  The grandkids played with the Lite Bright, played UNO, played all those other games from the 70's.  There were Fisher Price people and animals, Barbie dolls, and G I Joe toys in the basement.  There coloring books, crayons, legos, small toy trucks, and puzzles.   I'm a mom who has a hard time getting rid of those things.  I got a bit emotional about donating the small children size  table chairs where my children sat to eat and play games when they small.  I almost gave it away, and then rescued it in the end.  

We tried to be objective.  Dixie was most helpful with assisting me in objectivity when it came to professional items.  She guided me to ask the good questions.  "Is this outdated?"  "Will you use this to teach again?"  "Do you plan on doing any more consulting?"  "Are there duplicates?"  "Was this book one you bought for a course you took, or was it for one you taught?"  I was able to get rid of many things based on answering these questions.  We made our piles of things as we sorted:  to storage, to the new house, to donation, to shred, to throw away.  We got it done! 

Some professional files etc.
To some, all of these boxes, files, and notebooks are just a bunch of junk.  To me they are my body of work that represents my professional life.  Many of my files of lessons taught, curriculum developed, and presentations given are saved on thumb drives.  Despite this, I felt the need to keep some hard copies because they give me a more clear picture of what I developed.  I may yet decide to consult again.  I was not ready to throw it all away.

Going through the remnants of my professional life gave me renewed confidence.  I was reminded that I have accomplished a lot.  I was a stay-at-home mom until my divorce in 1982.  I had five children between the ages of five and fifteen.  I had not finished college.  I went back to school and earned my first BS in Business Administration in 1987 while I worked full-time and went to school full-time.  I finished my second degree, a BA in English with an added teaching certificate to teach secondary Language Arts (grades 9 -12) in 1995.  I was 50 years old when I began teaching,  and I finally reached a lifelong goal by doing so.  From there, I earned the long sought for MA in Teaching Linguistically Diverse Education in 2002.  

Cultural responsiveness, assessment, lesson plan guide, second language learning strategies, content instruction to English language learners, L1 and L2, Lau vs. Nichols 1974, and other such terms no longer seem relevant to my everyday life.  I no longer look forward to monthly meetings with my great friends and colleagues at the Colorado Department of Education - English Language Acquisition Unit where other colleagues from universities around the state and I met while we worked on projects funded by a Teacher Quality Enhancement Grant we had received.  In fact,  the ELAU no longer exits in the same form.  I remember meetings at BOCES and the CDE Talking Book Library.  After fondly going through my meeting notes, I  finally throw out all the agendas and notes from those days.  

I look at Socratic Seminar Grading Criteria forms I created while teaching World Literature at the high school level.  I ponder the EQ's (essential questions) for lessons on Beowulf, The Inferno, Oedipus, the King, and other pieces of literature we studied.  I read the list of Habits of Mind to use while responding to literature:  give evidence, state connections to other topics, state the significance of what you are arguing, etc.  I look at the handout for a unit a work by Shakespeare where students were to write a personal commentary on one of three topics:  Power relationships, Courtship/dating, Sisters.  Most of all of these final bits of teaching materials that remained after other times of getting rid of things, I finally tossed, but I remembered those days of teaching with such fondness and a bit of longing.

Books

I take with me fewer concrete reminders of my teaching days.  We have lightened our load considerably when it comes to books.  Some books, mostly or personal reading books,  were like dear friends that I had to send away.  This quote says it best:


Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot



Despite these feeling and emotions surrounding our beloved books, we just could not move them all.  It is too expensive, we can't carry the loads up and down the stairs, and we have no place to put them in our new place.  So, we donated many to a local bookstore that takes donated books, re-sells them, and the proceeds go to the local library.  We donated 35 boxes of books filled with about 20 books to each box.  That means we got rid of over 700 books.  That was just with this latest book culling project.  About five or six months ago, we probably go rid of at least 300 more.  Believe me, we kept plenty.  We still have our most beloved books to take with us.  Plus, I have many, many of Julie's books.  She had great books!  I treasure her reading choices and selections.  Those books are not going anywhere except with me in my lifetime.

Stage One Completed!

Stage Two 

Move the things we have left from the basement to a storage unit.

Yesterday, after receiving much help from wonderful friends and family members, we finished stages one and two of our move.  The basement is nearly empty.  The box after box of canning jars are gone.  Childhood toys, games, and books are mostly gone.  Jim and I made the run to Colorado Springs with the U-Haul truck last night and loaded a much lighter load than we thought it would be into the storage unit.  We promise ourselves that this is a temporary fix for stuff we will revisit once we are completely moved.  

We are tired, yet we are also most relieved to have this part of our move done.  Now, we await the final closing and hope it all comes off according to plan.  Then, the professional movers will come in and pack up the house and we will make the move to a new home and in a new town.  I will be going home, but for Jim this is a very big change.  He is very excited, and so I am I.  I am finally over a lot of the nostalgia and sadness over leaving this home.  I am ready to move on.  We are tired.  We are stressed!!!  We are happy.

State Two Completed!
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