I've taught a long time. More than half my life. Almost 30 years. Last week, however, I did something I have never done before. I helped close a school. Not just for the summer. I've done that lots of times. This time, I helped close a school for good. Forever.
The school where I worked this year is being turned into a charter school. About 18 months ago, the district decided, for whatever reason, that the school was not meeting kids' needs, and would be converted to a charter school. Last fall, they converted the primary wing. This fall, they will convert the intermediate wing.
I was in a somewhat unique situation. Unlike most teachers, who had worked there for five, ten, or even twenty years, I was only at the school for one year. I knew I was only going to be there for one year. I didn't have tons and tons and tons of stuff. Basically, all I had was my personal items- pictures of my boys, the rocking chair where I sit for read aloud, and, my books.
My books. The staple of my life as a teacher. Picture books. Nonfiction. Poetry. Chapter books- both stand alone and series. Forty-five boxes of books, to be exact.
The kids left on Friday at 1:30. Most of the other stuff- district curriculum, math manipulatives, computers and document cameras-had been removed, one thing at a time, throughout that last week. As one of those teachers who usually teaches until the bitter end, and then takes down the room after the kids are gone, it was actually kind of strange for me to have things start disappearing before the week was over, but that was how the process had been organized, and so pretty much everything else was gone.
And all that was there, on Friday afternoon, was just the books and me.
By that time, my generally somewhat neatly organized classroom library was everywhere. About one third of the books were still in bins on shelves in the library area. Another third were in open boxes spread across the floor in our class meeting area. And the final third--the books that had been in kids' book bags, the books that had been borrowed by colleagues, the books that had been used in different areas of the room, were stacked in piles anywhere and everywhere where there was room for a pile.
I looked around at those piles and piles of books, and wondered how I was ever going to be out of the building by today at four, which is when the charter school is scheduled to take over the building. I envisioned leaving everything. Fleeing to Mexico. Or just making mad sweeps off the counter and sorting everything out next fall at my new building. I wanted to cry.
But then my book club arrived. Karen. Brenna. Laura. My home gals. The women who have been my friends almost as long as I have been a teacher. They know me well. Know I am the total disorganization goddess of the world. Know my nonlinear, non sequential, non organizational personality. Know that I have difficulty pulling off anything linear and sequential, like a move.
And so they showed up to help. Laura, ever the hospitality goddess, with a cooler full of water and ice. Brenna, a true organizational goddess, with a plan for how we would get things into boxes and out of the school. And Karen, fresh off of field day with her own second graders, just there, as she has been a hundred, or maybe a million other times when I have needed her.
And within minutes, everything was organized. Brenna made boxes. Laura sorted piles and piles and piles of books by author and category. Karen taped boxes and took down the few remaining bulletin boards. Together the three of them figured out that I would need a storage locker. And sent me to procure said locker while they made boxes, and packed, and taped some more.
By the time I got back from the storage locker, the books were all in boxes. The boxes were labelled and taped shut. The cars were lined up outside, ready to be loaded. And so, within three hours, 45 boxes of books were packed, loaded, and unpacked into a storage locker without incident (well, ok, there was the unfortunate incident in two unnamed book club members forgot how old they were and attempted to turn a storage cart into a surfboard, but only minor injuries were incurred), and we were sitting a local eating establishment, sharing adult beverages.
Today is our official last day. I have to clean out my desk and check out. But then I will spend the rest of the day helping my teammates pack.
Because not everyone has a book club like mine.