Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Reflection on Scratch Paper

As some of you well know [former students, family, pets],  I do not waste paper.

When I taught school, I would collect paper that had only been used on one side, flip it over, and place it in a drawer.

Sometimes I would take one of those pieces of paper, use the back of it for brainstorming, note making, or wadding it up tight, I would hurl it at unruly students. Actually, they didn't have to be unruly.

When I was at DCHS, and after I had made a considerable stack in that drawer, one of the vocational education teachers {thank you, Mr. Brewer} took my 8x10 one-sided used paper, cut it into fourths, applied glue to the edges, and sent it back to me for scratch paper pads.

I loved these ready made pads.

When I left DCHS, I moved those stacks of pads, and as I moved to three other schools, South Cobb, Harrison, and KMHS, I moved them again.

When I was at KMHS, a fellow teacher looked at me when I changed classrooms and said, " How many times have you moved this paper?"

I said, "None of your business [Brendan]."

Over my thirty-three year teaching career, I saved paper with one-used side for scratch paper. Even though I no longer had my "man" from DCHS, I cut the one-sided paper into fourths, and I continued to recycle.

At Harrison, one of my sweet students made me a box for it. {Smooches to Chris H}

Then, when I retired, I moved it again. Home.

Now. I use it still.

I will never run out.
{Somewhere out there, my 'phews and nieces are groaning: "I guess we can add that to what we'll get to toss [no pun intended] when she dies."}

I make notes to myself and David, grocery lists, write down things I read in books [which I move to a more permanent place -- is that more groaning, I hear?], or I wad it up for Tallulah to fetch.

She likes fetching and batting the paper around.

BTW: When David and I had new carpet installed, the installers moved this huge piece of furniture in our bedroom: underneath it -- hundreds of wads of paper. Bwha.

These guys didn’t speak English well, but they must have been looking at each other and making comments under their breath: -- "what the heck?"

I, personally, didn’t feel the need to explain hundreds of 5 1/2 x4 1/2  inch paper wads. Installers need their own "horror" stories about the houses they visit. Otherwise, what will they talk about at dinner?


I get lots of huge “inside’ grins from the “old’ stuff I find on the back of these pieces of paper.

Old absentee lists with students’ names circled. [some dated back to 1982]

Memos from the county, the principal, or in school personnel -- always a waste. Heh.

Old tests, handouts, or student work [tossed into recycled boxes in my room]

Today as I made a note on one of them, I found old spelling/vocabulary tests complete with student writing.

How old?


Even though the students’ names are missing [this is the lower left hand side of the paper], I can see where I had marked their misspellings wrong in red ink.

These students, circa 1980s I’m guessing -- so DCHS or South Cobb, have some creative spellings.


Vial -- viel, vile [would work, but not], vail, vrylle

Esteem -- asteam, esteme, exteam, isteam, issteam

I wanted to show you the variation on calamity and boisterous, but this darn, word program kept auto-correcting.

Technology. So arrogant.

As I looked at this, I thought of the resistance to spelling from my students who complained [yearly -- until they just surrendered] about my expectation for their spelling to be correct of vocabulary words.

Student: It says “vocabulary” not “spelling.”
Student: Can’t I just know what they mean? Please?
Student: Spelling is old skool school.
Student: Why should I have to know both? Who is gonna ask me to spell and know what it means? Who?
Student: You’re so mean.

Fighting that battle was hard, but I did it till the end.

I might have been the last to expect it. *sighs*


In this particular pile of scratch paper, I also found, in my handwriting, a handout with “terms for short stories” and “terms for poetry.” Nobody needs that anymore either.


We have the internet.

The world is safe from illiteracy and misspellings.


ETA: This is an inherited trait. As I walked away from this blog to do something else, I had a memory flash of my mother, sitting at the kitchen table with the old dot matrix continuous feed computer paper and writing and making list on the back of them.


  1. So I'm curious, now: do you recycle aluminum, cardboard, and plastic, too?

  2. I too keep paper & print my daily census on it. I also recycle everything else. Also I remember telling you, I majored in social wor not English when you would correct my letters-yes we used to write to each other!

  3. Oh yay! You were/are a teacher. Me, too. Not in public schools anymore though.

    And another thing, me too, regarding the scrap paper usage. If I had the choice, I would pick the stack of scrap paper over a new pair of shoes or something "girly" like that. I always get funny looks at the grocery store or bank or hardware store when I refer to my junk mail envelope list.

    (OK, so I'm full of beans and what-not today. Speaking of unusable scrap paper that has writing on all sides, here is a solution. Scatter your junk mail out, make piles, pull out the envelopes they provide, stuff envelopes with assorted junk mail, and pop in the mail. Visa loves getting Mastercard aps and vice versa. Maybe this is only fun for me?)

    Happy Day, miss Harriett. Can we be friends yet--despite the whole age thing?


  4. Hey it is Chris H, glad to see you still are making use of your note box! : ) I still cut up paper into notepads myself but I have never made myself a box. It made my day to see the box I made on your blog. ; ) I am slightly appalled that I didn't do better job with the joinery. I mean wood putty with a clear finish. Shame on me. Well I guess i was in high school. I am still proud you think fondly on it. I know none of my literary works left that kind of lasting impression (a favorable impression that is) on you so I guess it is a good thing you have my wooden gifts. ; ) love ya Ms. Gillham - Chris

  5. I just gave 1000 sheets of tractor-feed paper (clean on both sides) to an 8 years old elementary school student to use for scratch paper. Wow, what I would have done for 1000 sheets of paper. Phonics had pluses and minuses when it came to correct spelling. We could sound out the word, however, the multiplicity of vowel and consonant combinations often made it difficult to procure the correct spelling. Fortunately, Miss McDaniel forced us to select the correct choice from all the possibilities. While I now just ask "Siri" when I need the correct spelling of a word, I always think that Iphone should rename her Ms. McDaniel. Siri isn't nearly snarky enough.