I don't know how many of you grew up during the era when children were starving in _______________ (fill in the blank), but I was always encouraged to clean my plate so that my mom wouldn't have to slip the meatloaf and lima beans in an envelope and send it far away to someone who would appreciate it. Unfortunately, I held on to that creed into my adult years, thinking I was a good responsible human being if I just "cleaned my plate". Even more unfortunately, it led to me "cleaning my wallet" as I participated in an amazing number of attempts to lose the consequences of cleaning those endless plates of food. I could probably solve a small country's hunger problems with what I forked out (or was that forked in?). But I digress...
There is another aspect of cleaning your plate that has more positive results. Now that we are on our summer break, it's a good time to reflect on how we can best "clean our plates" in our media centers and libraries. Clean them both literally and figuratively. I know that as I prepare to exit for the year, determined to leave when everyone else does (ha!) I usually resort to a massive toss of papers, etc. into my desk drawers and any other available storage space, to be tackled "when we come back". However this year, I had to prepare for a major carpet replacement, due to being flooded a few years ago. Yeah! Carpet! So starting early with packing books, moving computers, and putting any movable item that the media secretary or I could carry out of the way, my cleaning mojo got to work overtime. So much so, that I started getting rid of items that just took up space, unused furniture (atlas table, anyone?), or just didn't reflect my 21st Century library! A friend even e-mailed me to inquire if I was okay, you know, dividing up the spoils before permanently checking out? I assured her that I was better than ever. There's something about clearing your space, or plate, that energizes you to see your media center in a whole new light. Oh, the possibilities for next year!
Then there's the figurative "cleaning your plate" that is equally energizing and motivating. Another media friend confided that she might leave the media world to be a regular classroom teacher (as opposed to us "irregulars"). When asked why, she said it was all just too much. Like what, I pressed. And she proceeded to list at least 10 things that really have nothing to do with general media duties, or even moving our children ahead academically or motivationally in reading. You know, the kind of stuff that we big-hearted media folks take on, because no one else will, or we happen to be at the meeting where this stuff is doled out. I told her I don't do any of those things, and we are both in very large elementary schools, with only slightly different demographics. Just say no, I told her...or in other words, "Clean your plate"! If we use the excuse that "no one else will do it" then maybe it's not important since no one else will do it! If they (those evil they's) think you can do it because you seem to have the time, well you'd better be using your time better, my friend, in the programs and classes that will move your students ahead, not count or collect money that anyone else could do. (wait, check those new guidelines on handling money....just don't do it for the whole school!). You know what I'm getting at.
Take time this summer to reflect on what really needs to be cleaned off of your plate at school. Whether it's a room arrangement that inhibits student movement or encourages misbehavior, materials that belong in Beaver Cleaver's classroom, activities that aren't in your overloaded job description, or other things, how can you return to school in August refreshed and recharged and ready for action? Starting with a clean plate, or slate, can do wonders for your personally and professionally. You'll get there, just begin with a small change at a time. It's easy once you get started.
It'll give you that priceless peace of mind that will help you to Stay Grounded!