A late August morning brought a break from the humidity that seemed to have descended upon Southern California like a damp dish rag. A slight Autumn chill was present in the breeze I felt, as I gathered up my rolling cart and grabbed my backpack, preparing to drop Kate off at the babysitters. I was heading off to my new classroom at my new school.
This was happening. I was no longer a bulldog. I was now a snow leopard. Hello Kitty, indeed.
Squeezed in between days off from my summer gig at the credit union, the race to get my classroom ready took on added exigency because I really only had 3 1/2 days to do a job that normally was something I would take 2 weeks doing. Gone was the idea to put new fabric on the walls. I’d just pull down the previous teacher’s flowerly borders and replace them with some mix of solid border in school colors. But that would have to wait. While my boxes had been moved from my old school to my new classroom, I needed to move them out of the way to get to my bookshelves to place them where I needed them to be.
Short on time, I turned to recruiting former students. Summer plans and band camp got in the way for two of them, but talking to moms and older sisters finally got me 5 eager helpers to do what would amount to be the slow but necessary job of unloading the majority of the boxes that 2 of these same students had helped to pack back in June–the boxes which contained my classroom library. As I drove into my school’s parking lot, there they were.
After catching up with these 5 girls, ranging in age from middle school to college sophomore, we got to work. Eventually, the bookshelves were moved into place, the classroom library was unloaded, and by the end of the first day, thanks to these girls’ help, the remaining tasks were those types of things that I pretty much had to do on my own.
Eventually, my help had to leave for the day, and I continued to work on my own. Offloading more boxes on my own, I determined that I needed to get an additional bookshelf to replace the several which had belonged to my old school site. Already the mental list of must-buy stuff was growing longer. And while friends at my old school site were crowing on Facebook about how finished their own classrooms were, I was just starting.
The need to be at my summer job made me more and more apprehensive about what still remained to be done in my classroom. I was now facing the emotional transition between leaving behind the wonderful people at the credit union where I had been encamped the past two months, trying to finish my classroom, and trying to make the emotional transition between where I had spent the entirety of my teaching career and this new room in this new school. I am not even factoring my general nervousness of needing to prepare for Katelyn’s own transition into kindergarten in the midst of this career chane. Still, slowly it seemed, but quickly, given the little time I had to work, I could see things some together. I re-bordered the walls, tearing down the final traces (save for her fabric choices) of the previous teacher. I got the new bookshelf and continued to off-load books. When a group of the staff gathered to review goals and objectives for the year last week, despite being dressed for the credit union, I tried to grab every moment I could during breaks to move a few things from my car to the room, or putting stuff away from the room. Admittedly, as the photos suggest, the school is organized around “pods” of classrooms. They are open, with common areas in the center of each of the two buildings which comprise the school site. I was still adjusting to the new site when my next-door neighbor came by to ask me to turn down my music, as I forgot the basic rule of shared space and the need to keep peace with the neighbor. Meanwhile, more and more emptied boxes began to pile up outside my door. I finally told my new principal, who had come to check on myself and other teachers working in their rooms, that I finally had the crap out of boxes and on top of desks. Yes, progress was being made.
In the meantime, I slowly began to adjust to the different atmosphere and personality of this school. Along with a fellow refugee from another school, both of us agreed that we were lucky to be here, along with other items of agreement that we had in common. Summer was rapidly ending, and the school year, as is its wont, was coming on like a train.
By late this afternoon, I had moved out the remaining empty plastic storage containers that could find use in our garage at home. I threw away remnants of old things I would no longer be needing, along with finding uses for some items that I hadn’t used in a number of year. Our class lists arrived, and after meeting with my new team members at my grade level, my new circumstances were becoming more real by the moment. By the time I was ready to leave, by 4:30, I had laid out my opening day, and I had even managed to sharpen my pencils early rather than waiting until the final moments before school started. My room was ready for children, even I wasn’t quite there yet.
And as I walked out, I grabbed the last of the stuff I needed to throw out, some of which had sentimental value of a sorts, but were reminders to me of what I no longer was.
Whatever I was to become, now lay on the other side of tomorrow.