Here we are at the end of July. Early in the summer, I vowed that whenever we had a rainy day, I’d head into my classroom and try to get things set up for the new year. This of course meant that we had a very sunny July. You’re welcome. I think we had three rainy days, and two of them fell on weekends when I couldn’t get into my classroom. Sorry about that part.
So today, in spite of the sun and blue sky that said, “Ride your bike!” or “Bring a book to the beach!” I headed to school to spend a few hours getting ready. No, this doesn’t mean that I did something meaningful like plan units or lessons. No, it doesn’t mean that I thought about the curricular calendar or met with colleagues. No, here is how I spent my three hours before heading to dishwasher duty. First, I got out the black paint, wide brush, pallet and water cup. Then I “blackwashed” three large sheets of cardboard so I could hang up new quotes on my walls. I have some candidates, but I decided to leave these new ones blank (black) so that the kids can find the quotes they like. That might sound lazy of me, I realize, but I’m going with the idea that I’m empowering students. I, of course, decided that a little white trim would be a nice touch. This also allowed me to use masking tape, more brushes, and more time.
My painting finished, I decided to work on my welcome sign. This is difficult when one doesn’t know the names of the students yet, but I decided to make the background anyway. I’ve used the metaphor of a bee hive for the last two years. I won’t get into the complex reasons for using the image. The silly ones are easier to explain briefly: Hive rhymes with Five, the grade I teach, and both words contain two of my initials. This is why I headed down to the teachers’ room and got a very long sheet of yellow bulletin board paper. This is why I carefully cut out a cardboard hexagon to use as a tracer. This is why I spent the next hour tracing a honeycomb pattern onto a very long piece of bulletin board paper, in the process, inhaling a great deal of Sharpie fumes. When I finished, I attached it to the wall next to my door and carefully affixed the welcoming message.
At this point, I noticed that the paper on one of the bulletin boards in my room had not held up well from the spring. There was a gash where someone used tape rather than a tack. We can’t have anyone thinking that the sky blue paper is a holdover from last year. The welcome sign is one thing, but the background paper on the boards? I am not a bulletin board person, but when avoiding real thinking, I can make the most menial tasks seem urgent. I tore down the shabby old paper, found my roll of fadeless sky blue and commenced work.
Here is how it went: Picked up roll of paper and stapler. Stepped up onto chair at one end of bulletin board. Stapled paper in one corner; unrolled paper slowly; stapled in intermediate spot; realized that with chair in current position I wouldn’t even reach halfway; wished I had placed another chair in center and at other end; realized that to retrieve another chair or move current chair, I would have to step down and probably yank out staples; while pondering this problem, noticed another, a wave or bubble in the paper; realized that if I set down the roll to get the staple remover, the whole roll would unroll; uttered some inappropriate oaths about teachers who had worked for 30 years and still didn’t know how to put up bulletin board paper; pulled out staple with fingernails; smoothed paper; re-stapled; stepped down; accidentally pulled out two staples; moved chair; stepped back up; continued across board; reached other end with paper to spare; put in staple (after making sure that paper was straight and smooth); realized, while standing on chair, that scissors were all the way across room; realized that stepping down to get scissors, would mean rest of roll would unroll; worried that if miles of paper unrolled they might also pull out staples from already stapled sections; wished that someone would walk into room at that moment to hand me the scissors; fervently hoped that someone wouldn’t walk into room at this moment to observe my incompetence; eventually propped unused portion of roll between two sets of books, allowing mad dash to table where scissors reside; arrived back just seconds after remaining roll fell, unrolled, and dramatically pulled out all but one staple; uttered a few more expletives; collected necessary supplies (staple remover, scissors, stapler); re-rolled sky blue paper; started over.
Last week I wrote that I relished the mindless tasks of my summer. Apparently there are exceptions.