I know several teachers who’ve retired or changed careers, and most of them have trouble getting rid of their old lesson plans. It’s hard to discard work we slaved over, researched, and taught. But people are different. One retired teacher kept her papers and lesson plans for years, but another threw out her lessons plans, textbooks, and schedules the week after she retired. What makes one person one way and another the other way? I don’t know, but I’m in the camp of teachers who find it hard to forget the hours we labored to make grammar, literature, creative writing, and communication skills relevant for our students.
I have good memories of days in the classroom, and the memories of my former teachers are even more precious. I studied Shakespeare with a leading Shakespearean scholar. I studied short stories with a highly regarded writer. I discussed literary themes with the best of literary critics. Those were heady times for someone like me who loved the literary arts. I still have notebooks from those classes. But alas, I can’t continue to live in the past.
The first papers I discarded from my teaching days were old examination papers. I looked them over, remembered the students and their anguish over having to write those papers. The second batch of work I’ve discarded are some lesson plans—not all. Still on my table are my syllabi and the rosters for each class. Those I can’t yet give up. The fourth batch of papers I will throw away are the student evaluation papers. .I haven’t tossed them out yet, but by the end of January they will be gone. The marks and comments reflected students’ ideas of whether or not I was a good presenter, offered directions clearly, or listened to their complaints with understanding. At the time, I had to remind myself that I should not judge myself as successful or a failure by those remarks. Teachers have a hard enough time teaching without having to think about whether they are entertaining. Moreover, the teachers I most fondly remember are the ones who were tough and demanding. In my mind, teachers should be among the highest paid and most respected professionals in our society.