Monday, November 7, 2016

Subject Notebooks in the Trash

Eight years ago, I sat on my study floor and put together 20 subject notebooks. I cut and pasted photos onto the front covers of 25 cent notebooks. Each notebook had a theme and the images corresponded: love, honesty, siblings, friends, teachers, birthdays, lies, snow, Disneyland etc. My students loved them from the beginning. They were free to write whatever they wanted, but they always had to own the words--they had to sign their names.

 I had always thought they would be strictly for writing, so the second year, I was delighted when I heard the classroom echo with phrases such as "Read what so and so wrote," or "Look how funny this is." The subject notebooks were a good read, and were becoming a legacy of students' lives.

At the end of the school year, I found them in the trash.

I was crestfallen.

I had left the notebooks in a different classroom we had shared with another teacher. It was cleared out for a new teacher and the person on a white tornado mission didn't understand the history or the value of the worn notebooks.

It's a mistake we all make too often--not understanding the value of time, of objects, of personal experiences of other people. It's far too easy to toss when we don't know a person's story, a person's attachment, or the history of what may appear obsolete.

I used to make this mistake when cleaning out a child's room. I would toss some memento into the garbage, only to hear the child screech, "Wait! That's my...note from a teacher, a friend...or a gift from a friend who moved."

I used to do the same thing to my husband. How sad I didn't always understand the history before me.

There are other ways to disregard what's important to another person too. It's time.

We make this mistake every time we are late. In essence we're saying, "My time, my projects, are more valuable than yours. I had to finish this or that...." The person forgets that the important other who may also value time and have other projects and obligations waiting.

Probably our biggest mistake in not valuing the other is by not listening. We cut off thoughts and ideas that may be valuable, precious, hidden and brought out like the best china. Their words are served up and when we don't listen, it's rejecting gourmet food. Or specially prepared popcorn with extra butter and fresh grated parmesan.

Keep a person's subject notebooks out of the trash: respect his property, listen to his words, be aware of her time.