Monday, July 31, 2017

Cleaning the garage and creating the garden

The second half of July has been consumed by two enormous tasks that took a lot longer than I anticipated: cleaning out our garage and creating a garden in our yard. Both experiences were hard work but quite rewarding.

1) The Garage

I am not a hoarder, but as an educator, I have a tendency to "save things" because I think they may be useful to me or my students or our learning later on. Opening some of these bins has been both a trip down memory lane and an eye-opener. Turns out that some things don't date well at all. Other things are classic.

I graduated from York University's Faculty of Education (Concurrent Program) in 1996. I boxed many things, including my application package, acceptance letter, and program guides. The one thing I did keep, even though I may never use it, is the unit plan(s) I developed when I was student teaching. I don't plan on using them as they are -  a lot has changed since the late 1990s - but I kept them because of the hours and days of blood, sweat, and tears I poured into those individual lesson plans. There are times where I feel I've channelled more effort into those "baby beginning teacher" plans than I do now (and I'm awed by the level and detail in the evaluation methods and records!)

There was method to the Faculty's "madness" in making us work hard on crafting decent lessons and solid assessments. The content may be old/expired but the methodology is sound. In fact, my first year in the Faculty of Education at York had a big anti-bias curriculum focus - equity doesn't go in and out of style and the more I learn about this area, the more I realize I need to learn.

Another artefact, another memory. I nearly forgot that I spent a lot of time during my university days working for the Office for Students with Disabilities. I was a notetaker, attending classes with students who were deaf or who had hearing impairments to document what the professor said during lectures. I also read course materials ... on audio tape! I lurked online to see how this service has changed with the advances in technology. On their website, now called Disability Services, York University has three areas of support: Learning Disability, Mental Health Disability, and Physical, Sensory, and Medical Disability Services. Digging a bit deeper, I see they still offer note-taking services but Kurzweil and Read and Write Gold were mentioned specifically as reading accommodations.

My husband and I reorganized the garage, as well as weeded through all the bins. We created specific areas for the different kinds of materials stored. Books dominate our bins. I wish there was a machine where we could pour our unwanted books into and get 1/10 of the money back. We are still keeping many of our books, but some have been recycled, some will go to my students at school (because they aren't bad - I just don't need or want those anymore) and some will go to Value Village. In the above photo, the yellow words indicate things that still need to be done. I can't get into my school right now to drop things off, and going to the dump is a healthy prick to my conscience and involves a vow to do more to reduce and reuse.

"Cleaning the garage" also works as a mind metaphor, I realized as I wrote this. Often, I'm surprised by the things I've "stored" and there comes a time where I need to declutter and purge, by thoroughly examining what I'm "keeping" in this space, why I'm holding on to it, and whether or not it does me any good. Some things are better to get rid of. If you collect too many old things, there may not be room for the new, so be selective. (This works for physical and mental teaching spaces as well - who knew?)

2) The Garden

My family is amazing. After discussing plans with my talented younger brother, he designed and built two garden boxes by the sides of my back yard deck. This is in addition to the incredible front garden he improved with stone blocks and another he created from scratch where our old tree used to be.

The circle garden in the front yard

The new garden wall

Another angle (and a view of the spot we changed from garden to grass)

Then, my parents agreed to come plant shopping with us to choose some annuals to brighten up the beds before we decide what will permanently reside in those spots. My parents took great pleasure in planting the begonias, petunias, marigolds, hibiscus, and other flowers. (Farah Wadia will be happy to hear that we finally got around to planting that eco-friendly decoration from Grade 8 graduation - it didn't die!)

Grandmother, grandfather and grandson collaborating

What I really loved about this project (and what can be tied back to teaching) is the multigenerational and multi-level involvement. Having specific skills helped a lot, but everyone, including me with no gardening or construction experience, could contribute somehow to the final product. (The part I played involved financing and driving.) This could be an example of Project Based Learning or an Inquiry Plan (e.g. "What can we do to improve the look of the outside of the house using the natural environment without breaking the bank?"). There were many STEM / STEAM elements involved (i.e. measuring how much wood, estimating the cost of materials, designing the size of the planters as well as ways to contain the soil without rotting the wood, selecting what plants would suit that location in the yard with the amount of sunlight it receives daily, colour variety of blooms, etc.) The great thing was how everyone could share in the success, regardless of what role they played or how long they worked.

The only downsize to all this garden and garage work? The triumphs encourage you to do more, try more, clean more ... and I have to be sure that my enthusiasm doesn't extend my reach, financially or time-wise! Thanks everyone for everything!

1 comment:

  1. So cool - I love it when my kids work with my father-in-law on permanent projects. It's awesome. I agree with you on the questions that come with purging. Why am I holding onto this is one to ask on a regular basis. Thanks so much for sharing, as ever.