Always remember that the future comes one day at a time.
My hope for today was to finish packing my classroom. I wanted it done. I wanted to be done so that I could come to school tomorrow in dress clothes for the 6th grade promotion ceremony. Then I could pick up my rolling cart and roll it, along with my tired old self, down the walk, to my car, and be gone. I was done.
Unfortunately, the school year was not.
Prior to this point, the school year had devolved into a frenzy of report cards being finalized, followed by scrounging up boxes and other packing materials to wrap up or put away a wall-long classroom library. Then there were my teacher books, and other random items that needed to also get into boxes along my rear wall for the movers that would come next week to pick up my items and move them to my new school. On top of that, I was not the only one packing my classroom for a move however. Even as I was preparing to move on out, a number of our school’s teachers were also moving to other classrooms around our campus, including one close friend into what would be my old room in less than a day. This amount of classroom shifting was unusual for our campus, and rumor was scuttling around that it was all predicated by the decided refusal of one teacher to move out of her classroom, even though her grade level was being changed, thus forcing my other colleagues to move out of their classrooms instead. It was actually disappointing to see others having to pack nearly as furiously as I was packing, for that reason alone. Nevertheless, it made me even more secure that my decision to take this new opportunity on the other side of my school district, was the right one for me. But that opportunity couldn’t begin until I closed down shop in my present location.
And I still needed boxes. Promised boxes by the district, I realized that these boxes weren’t coming, at least not in any timely way to match my timetable. At first however, I was the beneficiary of boxes from our school cafeteria. As I noted, since several other teachers were also moving, I quickly began to lose out on empty boxes, forcing me to dip into our supply at home, or making Staples and Home Depot runs for specific kinds of cartons for the odd items I had to store away.
So it began. Last week, the lead office aide made it known that there was more of a concern with getting a textbook count than actually allowing teachers to finish their instructional units for the year. As a result, I closed down my teaching, pulled the books out of the desks, and made the first (of many) announcements to my kids to take their stuff home. I began to use my 6th graders as an ersatz moving company. Within a day and a half, my classroom library was packed away, along with its bookshelves, and in the corner of my room, my collection of taped up boxes began to grow longer and longer at the end of each day. Of course, the grade level’s end-of-the-year performance was another obstacle to finishing, but I managed to squeeze in packing when and where I could, having kids come in at lunch, and staying after school to try to get a bit done each day. I even was able to have an old student come in and help me, and the end of the day today, she planned on coming back, and I would, with her help, hopefully finish.
But it was still morning at this point, and as I walked into my classroom, I still had small stuff to finalize–like printing report cards–before I could turn my attention to the morning’s tasks. I was just ripping open my breakfast sandwich bag to try to force some food down when the phone calls came. Immediately after I got off the cell phone with my wife about her own phone’s GPS, the office called on my classroom phone asking me to come up to the office to “hang out”.
Those who know me well, know that I never “hang out” in the office. Was I in trouble? (Possibly, knowing my circumstances from time to time…) No, I wasn’t. I was skeptical by this point, however. I was also somewhat annoyed. I had told close friends that in blowing off today’s staff luncheon (because I wanted to pack after school instead) I wanted no acknowledgment of my departure. I just wanted to leave. Grumbling, I saw fit to walk to my car to grab one more long carton for my flat posters, before finally going up to the office. There was a parent waiting outside my door, but that didn’t seem unusual to me, even when she didn’t ask to speak to me, since often parents hang out with their kids while they wait for school to start. That should have been my first indication that something was up…
On my way up to the office, I then asked a colleague exiting it, what might be going on up there, and she told me that nothing seemed out of the ordinary. In the meantime, the office secretary was now wandering down to my room to tell my kids to get me away from my classroom, not knowing that I was already in the office, trying to call my dad to stop by after school to help me move some of my personal furniture from my room.
Finally arriving back up front herself, the secretary had caught up to me to tell me what was up. Even before she said anything, I had deduced that something was going on in my room, with my kids though, not with the adults on the staff. So I let my initial annoyance turn its frustration about at least trying to get my report cards printed. Ultimately, what I didn’t know was that all of this running around campus was about how my students weren’t about to let me leave until they let me.
As it turns out, the kids had drafted a couple of their parents with them to help decorate my room to say “goodbye”. I had planned to buy them pizza later on in the day, after our 6th grade promotion practice, but I honestly had no idea that they would go to this length to “party up”. With streamers hanging, several balloons, and a literal nacho bar and sweet tray set up in the corner, my wish to not have the staff do anything was being granted, but that wasn’t enough for these kids. Sure enough, amid all of the best wishes on my classroom whiteboard, there was this:
True that. Out in our misbegotten trailer, our group of (school mascot) Bulldogs often felt like shelter pups. But this wasn’t about the school, or even about me. These kids wanted to say something to me, even with my mind scattered across a mismatched bunch of packed boxes, with still more detritus scattered on the floor, waiting to be packed or jettisoned. My students wanted neither. I couldn’t pack them nor could I jettison them. All I could do now was to hang on to their company for this pentultimate day today, and the three hours in my classroom tomorrow where they’d be waiting for their promotion ceremony.
A few hours later, J., my former student, and I finished packing the last of my boxes. I took my 4 mascot bulldogs and placed them out to greet my friends and colleagues who would, in time, move in to this classroom. Among the staff who would be left after my departure, I knew they’d at least carry just a little bit with them of what once was the school that all of us knew.
So it went that J. and I dragged off things that would go into my garage at home and packed the back of my car. Her mom then dropped by to pick her up, and, along with their 5th grade son, the four of us reflected about all that couldn’t be left behind for the movers to take, for me to take to my garage for the summer, or even given away. But we all agreed on one final point, because it no longer felt like my school anymore, when my 6th graders walked out the door to our multipurpose room tomorrow, I would be, literally, walking right out with them.
After today though, I got the needed reminder that promotion day is all about the kids, even while they wanted to make today about me. Today was a nice reminder about the proper way to end it all tomorrow.
What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from. — T. S. Eliot