I am preparing to move soon, and am going through a lot of cruft that I’ve held onto for a number of years. I’m reading a book, actually, on how to let go of some of this stuff, and not surprising to some who know me, I’m taking the time to “digitize” some of the stuff I can’t stand to part with. This is such an example.
In 1986, I attended Ingomar Middle School in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA. I have to say, of all the years of going to school, this was the best for me. I know it was a combination of caring, awesome teachers, but also knowing a number of kids who I could relate with. I did well in the 6th grade and I hated to leave the next year when my family moved to the Cleveland, OH, area.
The object which I scanned above is a coaster of some sort. We had to take a home economics class, and we learned how to cross-stitch. This was something I created and I have not been able to throw it away since middle school. In part, I have positive feelings about this school, as I have shared. But if it were, say, a concert program, or a report card, I’d look at it, then toss it. But this is different. This was something I put my mind to, my hands to, this is something I made. The object is homemade.
My sentimentality aside, I think it’s worth noting for the sake of this blog post the importance we place on objects we create. There’s a mental distinction I think between a worksheet we fill out, and something bigger, say, like this coaster. The apron I made later in the 7th grade in Ohio wasn’t as good as this in terms of craftsmanship (although, I am sad to admit, I too still own). But this was something I look back on as an object representing some personal success. I learned a new skill, I tried my hand at it, and wow, it had utility beyond, well, a worksheet.
I am not sure what the magic is between an object like this, and say, the worksheet. But in this case, if it was the color, the yarn, the texture, and the perceived utility behind it, it mattered to me. I wonder what my teacher, Mrs. Conrad, would think of me keeping this for so long. What did she intend for her students to do with these, when, say, they’d go to high school? College? Toss them away, no doubt.
I think it may be time to say goodbye to this part of my past, but not before I find value in keeping it so long. As educators, I think we have a duty to give students the opportunity to create things that resonate with them and mean something, well, personal. It won’t always be a physical object, but those are easiest to persist the age of time. It illustrates for me, again, the nuance between personalized and individualized learning. Facts are remembered and forgotten, unused. Emotions remain with us forever, even if it requires holding or touching something from our past.