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Spring Cleaning and Cluttered Minds


Laurie Stenehjem, a graduate of North Dakota State University and a teacher with more than 25 years experience, is a mentor in the Grand Forks Middle School Resident Teacher Program. Laurie and first-year teacher Kimberly Johnson share their journal entries with Education World readers in alternating weeks.

We who live in North Dakota always spend some winter moments looking forward to springtime. Eventually, our wishes come true and spring arrives on the northern plains. Some years, it comes blowing in on a southern breeze; some years, it sneaks up on us one night and is simply there when we wake up in the morning. Some years, it seems to hide around a distant corner, close enough for us to know it's there but too far away to really stir us.

At some point, however, spring does arrive -- and, for me, it always brings with it a case of spring fever. Sunshine reaches into corners that I haven't noticed for a while, and I am energized to clean; to make everything new and polished and in order. I get a sense of power and energy and a feeling that I can put everything shipshape. This year, spring fever hit me the other day when I opened a drawer in my desk at school. Despite the many other, more-important things I needed to do, I had an uncontrollable urge to clean out that drawer right then and there. Spring cleaning must be a powerful force of nature.

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Spring brings a sense of renewal and new beginnings. As our frozen earth and dormant plants wake up and start carrying on their life's work, I start to think about the fresh start I will make for the next school year. This past week, we held interviews for next year's Resident Teacher Program. I know that out of that group will come the folks who will play a big part in my work in the coming year. I think about how we can make the program better than ever.

I've also been doing some thinking about how I will revise my Exploring Teaching class at the university. Our secondary program faculty has had some great discussions lately about how we can improve the knowledge and experience our teacher candidates get.

As I clean out my desk and ponder these things, a quote from Dee Hock keeps surfacing in my head. She said, "The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind but how to get the old ones out." That's what I need to work on. That's what I need to do ... spring cleaning of the mind! I need to approach my work as I would a cluttered garage.

I'll start by taking everything out and throwing away what doesn't work any more. I'll let go of what no longer serves a useful purpose and make room for the new things I've learned and new ways of doing things. I'll probably have some moments of sadness when I part with some of the lessons and activities that have become familiar and have served me well in the past, but I have to make room for what will better meet the needs of my current students.

I need to go through my curriculum with a clear eye and a ruthless heart and make room for the things I know my students need now. Yes! I'll get right on that.

On the other hand, it's such a beautiful Saturday afternoon ... maybe I'll just start on the garage.

Click here for biographical information and previous entries.

Article by Laurie Stenehjem
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