You need a “Why I Teach” binder

Did she know something I didn’t?!

My ultimate self-care tip for teachers

Get a three-ring binder. Any three-ring binder will work. And it doesn’t have to be new. Just dig one out from the bottom of your desk or repurpose one that’s full of handouts from that PD conference you went to last fall. Y’know, the one where they taught you that super-engaging argument writing lesson that you still haven’t figured out how to incorporate into your curriculum?

Yep, grab that binder and make it your new “Why I Teach” binder.

And start to fill it up with all those little mementos that students have given you throughout the years.

  • The construction paper cards.
  • The hand-drawn pictures.
  • The “Thank You” notes.
  • The Christmas tree ornaments.
  • The school pictures.
  • The poems written just for you.
  • Copies of those essays that touched your heart (or your funny bone).

I keep my “Why I Teach” binder next to my desk in a rack inside my computer cart. Every so often when I need a boost or a shot of positivity, I crack open my binder and experience a moment of reflective rejuvenation.

Laughter is so important, isn’t it?

However, watch the clock. If you’re like me, you’ll quickly lose track of time venturing down Memory Lane and reliving all those fun and rewarding moments that your teaching career has brought you.

I highly recommend making a “Why I Teach” binder. And if you can’t find a binder, just start tossing all those mementos into a dedicated file folder or a shoebox. You can hole-punch all the things later or do what I do and slide them into page protectors before placing them into my binder.

At the end of state testing a few years ago, I celebrated with my 8th-graders by bringing caramel-frosted chocolate cake. They had done such a great job all year and all that testing deserved a reward.

However you decide to make your “Why I Teach” binder, just do it soon. You work hard and often don’t receive the recognition or acknowledgement that you deserve. On those days when your strength is waning and your outlook is on the downhill slide, thumbing through your collection of authentic, heartfelt mementos written by the most important people in your school building will do wonders for your confidence and perspective.


My “Why I Teach” binder is a real blessing to me. I’m not sure what I would do without it. For more ELA resources, creative lesson plans, and student writing contest news, join my mailing list by entering your email below. In return, I’ll send you this PDF handout that will teach your students how to write Treasured Object Poems. These poems are absolute gems that help students clarify what they truly consider valuable.

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Published by marilynyung

Writes | Teaches | Not sure where one ends and the other begins.

4 thoughts on “You need a “Why I Teach” binder

  1. Oh, I LOVE this! I’ve had all of my student notes on display the last couple years in my room, but I didn’t put them up again this year. I need to find where I stashed them and do THIS!

    Liked by 1 person

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