Ghosts of Classes Past

Typically at this time in the summer, a great wave of panic washes over me as the realization summer is almost over and I need to get my classroom (and myself) ready for the impending start of school.  My marvelous wife calmly reassures me all will be okay and pledges to assist in the clean-out of the previous year’s whirlwind exit and in the reset for the fall.  In the eight years as a classroom teacher, this panic has gradually lessened, but is still always there.

This year’s reaction is a bit different.  Circumstances presented themselves in unexpected fashion and, long story short, I found myself accepting a technology director position at my school.  As a result, I will be leaving my home for eight years and downsizing into a mini-closet of an office to run the nuts and bolts of the school’s digital infrastructure as well as support the staff in the integration of technology into their lessons.  Fun stuff!  I’m looking forward to meshing my tech background with my education career, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit anxious.

Anyway, before my replacement sets foot into my old classroom, I went in to re-organize the supply cabinets and pull my personal belongings.  What I thought was going to be a relatively quick pack-up turned into a gigantic trip down memory lane.  Personal mementos tumbled from manila folders lost to time and frantic attempts at organization – drawings my son made years ago, aging class photos of students now in college, thank you & happy birthday cards from students.  Piles of resources line my desks, resources I’ve designed or collected and personally culled through to supplement the gaps in textbooks.  Initially, I thought I’d box it all up and take it home; why not, they’re mine!  But, as I stare at it all, I can hear my wife’s voice saying  “Where the heck are you going to store all this?  And, what on Earth are you going to do with it all?”  Only select items made the cut to go home; the rest await to be useful engines for their new owner.  As I put away mouse and rat traps, memories of spur-of-the-moment Rube Goldberg demonstrations slam into my consciousness, as do impromptu lessons about why rat traps are more dangerous than mouse traps.  Containers of flour and cocoa powder flash me back to crater formation demos and the excitement that erupts from the class as I drop a 10lb ball into the bucket from over 2 meters up, kicking out debris all over the floor and onto those closest to the impact site.

In short, I wasn’t counting on having an emotional reaction to packing up and moving out of my classroom.  For the first time, the idea that I’m no longer a classroom teacher is sinking in.  Interacting with the kids on a daily basis, building relationships.  Hearing about their weekend adventures and letting them in on mine.  The demonstrations, the excitement they generate; watching a student have that “ah-ha!” moment and suddenly getting it.  The grading of papers; angry parents; disciplining students and catching dress code violators.  I’ll miss some of it, other parts I’ll do a jig over not having to deal with again.  It’s a bittersweet feeling.  It’s got me choked up…

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some photos to bring down to my new office.

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This photo was one of the first to ever adorn my teacher desk.  That’s me in my beloved 1995 YJ, with my son (3yrs old at the time) in his red Power Wheels Jeep, doing the Jeep wave.

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A foam hammer given to me by a student on the last day of school. There’s writing on both sides.  It reads, “Kids don’t learn things from practice and guidance… You’ve got to hammer it into them!”  I’ve used it as my “goodbye” hammer, gently bopping the students as they leave for the summer.

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