Good bye to my old desk
I remember choosing the desk at my old job site – it was a sturdy and heavy typical “teacher’s desk.” And since I’d never really had a desk at a work site before, it was a special moment to choose it and to bring it to life in my classroom and work. A month ago, I had to start cleaning it out, readying it for a new occupant. Here is my little poem, ode to my desk and letter to the teacher who replaced me:
To the brave occupant of my new desk:
I bequeath the common necessities of a teacher –
the pens, pencils, post-its, paperclips
white-out, dry erase pens, stick pins, magnets, stapler and tape.
You will also find in these drawers a collection of unexpected items
especially necessary to the early childhood teacher –
band aids, star stickers, hair brush, little girl’s hair clips, matchbox car, timer,
change for the pop machine and thank you cards for parents.
I left a few folders full of useful things –
like extra nametags, photos,
an inventory of classroom supplies and recent purchases.
but I’m taking the rock.
It is amber and red and I can’t remember where or when I found it
but it’s been here ever since and I think it will be necessary
in a drawer of my new desk.
if you are a teacher there is no other month like this one
celebrating blackberries, lake dips, forest walks, lanquid evenings, full moons, meteor showers, ice cream, cook outs
and yet all the while…
mind buzzing imagining room arrangements, surrepticious visits to a classroom to dust off book shelves, sharpen pencils, make space for stiff backpacks and tissue boxes
waking up in the middle of the night, making a note to remember one more thing
and then trying to sleep in, mindful that soon
a summer morning in bed will be a thing of the past
Tomorrow will be one more full day of cleaning my classroom equipment and packing it away for the summer and I’ll probably have to come in Friday just to pack up my desk area – it is a mess all unto itself!
Now that the last week of activities with children and parents is behind me, it is easier to begin reflecting as I cram the last few items into already chock full cupboards and scrub surfaces I should have paid attention to months ago. (How many boogers have been wiped on this little stuffed kitty? How many grubby hands have pushed this school bus across a filthy floor!) My aide, Lupe, and I chuckle at these thoughts but our memories are fresh enough to be pretty grossed out at the same time.
This morning I listened to Lupe talk to our principal during her evaluation about what she learned this year. She has been with me two years now but this was the first year she took over my position when I was out of the classroom twice this year. Her confidence has grown. We also start thinking about what curriculum was especially successful and worth repeating and improving upon, and why we don’t feel that way about other things we did with the kids.
As usual, I have last little bits of fish to fry with building work – creative projects for the walls – yea! So a few more meetings over the next 2 weeks but otherwise, summer vacation begins in earnest this weekend. Sisters coming to town, trips planned, dips in the lake to look forward to and books. Yes, I finally get to get lost in a book and have nothing else I should be doing when that happens.
Our district is doing a lot of interviewing for positions for next year. Some of the other districts in the area are as well and so some of our current staff are looking to move to schools closer to home or just to move on to something new. It will be interesting to come back after summer and see how the dust has settled out and what kinds of new is waiting.
I’m part of the old dust. Not as old as some of the staff here but of an age that I have been asked more than once how long I plan on continuing to work. The answer is: for more years than I would probably wish but I’m not ready to leave yet anyway.
I like teaching, I get something new out of every year mostly because I do something new every year. I do have some kids who return to my class because they entered as three year olds but the make-up of the group is different from year to year. There is always a new focus for learning from the district and/or my building and I enjoy being challenged to think more deeply and teach more intentionally.
But some staff my age are done – they are done – and it saddens me that for whatever reason, whether it is not being able financially to retire or not ready to let go of the routine of work, or a combination of the two, they continue to teach.
I worry it will happen to me. I know I can let go of the routine but it will be a while until I’m ready financially. But because of that I think I work harder to stay positive and engaged and dedicated to this work which I believe is one of the most challenging careers out there.
I would not want to be a high school teacher working while this challenging political arena prevails. My hat goes off to Nick Gregory, a high school social studies teacher who posted this open letter and concluded with this statement:
“Mr. T………, you are a reminder that progress is not dependent on a specific political party or the ambitions of one man. Advancing American democracy demands a citizenry that is vigilant and informed.
You, Mr. T……., are the pathetic reminder that we needed a pathetic reminder.”
(You see I don’t even want his name to appear in my blog.)
Thank you Mr. Gregory for naming a nail and pounding it vigorously on the head.
Tomorrow I will be teaching an after school art class. Teaching isn’t really the right word… “I will be hosting a workshop space and presenting materials and ideas for projects students can do with fabric, paint and other stuff.”
I’m excited to work with students older than the age of 5. I’m excited to have some time over the course of 4 weeks for creativity, experimentation and learning to take place.
I’m a little worried about how the time will go tomorrow but I know that after tomorrow I will have more information about the students, what they are looking forward to and how we can do that together.
I’ve been a preschool teacher for a long time and as long as I’ve been teaching there has always been the “gun” thing happening in my classroom. Preschool boys, not all, but most, like to build – and create – and pretend to shoot – guns. Often.
Of course I say the mantra “there are no guns at school,” but you know what! that is a ridiculous thing to say, because these kids just built them and are playing with them so – enough already! there are guns at school!
What I have found to be more effective – well, lets say more relative – is to talk with my students about their designs, asking how they work and what they are thinking about when they play out their scenarios. Because, after all, these are toys, folks. Just because a kid creates and plays with guns doesn’t mean he is thinking about shooting people. I’m sorry to say some of my students are allowed to play video games where they shoot at people but most of my students aren’t doing that at home, yet they still like to build guns and pretend to shoot and obliterate an enemy.
My students have created amazing Lego tanks and other types of armored vehicles and yet none of my Legos have any components that are meant to be guns or cannons. They have created block tanks and playdough fire arms. They have found many ways to configure all sorts of things into weapons that look like they would hurl projectiles. So I have to celebrate the visioning, engineering, and resourceful capabilities of these young designers.
My only caveat is that I request more “creation” than “destruction.”