Teacher Research 2018: Organizing Artifacts

Posted on July 9, 2018


5 July 2018

What happens when I sort and organize the documents from the past school year?

What happens in my thinking?

What emotional reactions do I have?



The pile.

When walked upstairs yesterday morning, I was determined to get the job done, once and for all. It was ten o’clock, and I had a jam session scheduled for three. I also had to leave room in the day for eating and showering. The time pressure would keep me on track. I looked at the pile. Although it was large, it wasn’t nearly as large as in years past, because I had done some organizing and filing over the course of the school year. I gave myself a mental pat on the back for that one and got down to business.

I set up my organization station: a place to hold stacks of documents and crates in which to file them, a recycling box, and a wastebasket. I stared at the pile on the floor.


Organization Station

First, I noticed that a lot of the items in the pile were notebooks. The pile shrunk by a third when I filed and labeled each notebook: Writer’s Notebook, Reader’s Notebook, Reading Research notebook, Mindfulness Research Notebook, Professional Development, etc. Done.

Next, I noticed that some documents were large piles bundled in bulldog clips. They were copies of class sets of documents related to my research in mindfulness or reading. Filing them made the pile quickly shrink further. That left me a stack of about three inches tall to sort by individual documents. No problem. Is it related to reading, mindfulness, a course I teach, my workshops, presentations, or publications? Is it correspondence? Is it writing-to-learn? Is it about learning?

Along with the crates for subjects that already exist, I have one with empty folders, and I file and label everything, with the idea that I will move things once, after everything is filed.

To add physical activity to this mostly sedentary activity, any time I had two or three items that needed to go to the first floor or basement, I walked them there, giving myself breaks from thinking AND getting “resistance exercise.” I also did deep squats rather than bends quite often when I needed to pick up an item from the floor. I read an article in the Guardian the other day that said that researchers have discovered that aerobic exercise like walking is important for health in aging citizens, but it is also important to do things that require balance, like yoga and dancing–and resistance, like carrying heavy things and going up & down stairs–to reduce the risk of falls.

(LOL! The fact that I just wrote the preceding paragraph makes me laugh. I am ALWAYS interdisciplinary–even when I’m filing documents, I’m thinking about brain breaks and physical activity! )

By two p.m., chaos had been transformed into order, and I felt very satisfied with my accomplishment. I had sorted and filed all the documents pertaining to my household, finances, education, certification, evaluation, and research. I stacked the crates neatly, walked downstairs, and turned off the light. My work here was done.


Sorted and filed.

Next, I’ll choose a subject: mindfulness or reading, and come back to the artifacts, this time with my research question in mind, “What’s happening with students’ mindfulness practices?” or “What’s happening with reading in ELA9 (3rd year of Independent Reading) or ELA12 (1st year of Independent Reading)?” I’ll read through the documents to discover themes and patterns of thoughts and behaviors; I’ll identify categories and develop tables where I will record what I’m noticing.

From the analysis of the artifacts, I will make discoveries that will:

  • help me understand trends and patterns in students’ learning,
  • help me identify ways to improve teaching and learning in future classes
  • give me ideas for writing new blog posts, proposals for presentations at conferences, and workshops
  • discover new questions to explore in my research.

When I look at that neat stack of crates, I feel a sense of accomplishment, but more than that, I feel a sense of excitement, because I know that the artifacts within them contain the experiences, knowledge, and wisdom of the young people I have the privilege to teach and mentor. I can now look at the crates and think, “I’m ready to learn! Teach me!”

And I know they will. I look forward to learning, because my students are great teachers.


Posted in: Teacher Research