I am on summer “vacation”. It’s a bit of a paradox, since the workload for the summer rivals (perhaps exceeds) the work of a school year, at least now that I’m finished with four years of teaching, but it’s a shift in priorities and schedule, and the beginning of a really big transition. Our school is renovating this summer (has been since March, will be until January at the earliest), which required a massive moving effort an hour after students vacated. I’m one to love the team-effort of any move: the chance to challenge myself to lift heavy things and endure for a long time, the sense of accomplishment one has when everything is finally empty. I had that satisfaction. I left my classroom, emptied (except for bits of trash that had fallen out of desks and things) at 4:15 yesterday afternoon for the last time. Driving to a preschool music class I still had to teach gave me some moments for reflection.
That was the classroom I had walked into a day after working at a summer of camp…where my first reaction was to explore instruments and materials haphazardly and begin to form a survival plan for the first year of teaching. I remembered crawling under a desk to cry once (which admittedly was dramatic, but it wasn’t an especially private room and the simulated solitude helped). I remembered the spiders that would interrupt my teaching, and how I would try to ignore them with the little kids so as not to cause panic, and that fifth graders had bravely volunteered to…dispose…of the biggest ones for me. It was where I had knitting club during lunch recesses, hugs and tears and unrestrained joy as students played, danced and sang. My classroom was the setting for some of my best thinking and innovation, as well as the regrettable moments of poor planning and communication that left students without clear direction yet gave me opportunities to reflect and grow. It was where coworkers and parents had come to converse with me, inspire, help, and work. I remember the humorous moments at programs and surprises by my sister (whether her coming to visit me was a surprise or a conspired plan to surprise students in my classroom), the dinners with my dad before nearly every concert, and the relief I always felt when they were over.
I remember dodging waxed floors in the summers to rescue Kodály materials for my levels at Drake, and spending hours after school creating and revising Kodály sequential plans and making, cutting, laminating, and cutting again the game pieces and manipulatives for some of the make-it-yourself-game ideas I’d borrowed from wiser music teachers. I remember having friends and their kids come to spend time playing music games and instruments after school. I remember receiving flowers, cards, chocolate, emails, birthday treats, post-it notes, and homemade crafts that filled my days with encouragement and assurance that I was doing something right.
Packing up everything and moving it out left my room and my time at Whittier a Finished Object, or FO. This particular FO is a gift for myself to cherish and remember, rather than give away. The Work In Progress is this summer and beyond as I forge the way between schools and communities, but as in knitting, the FOs influence the WIPs. I will miss a lot of things about my time spent on this FO…the people I worked with, the special bonds with students who were eager to tell me about their lives, the trove of valuable resources and experience from my music colleagues (some of them in the form of materials left behind that are not easy to find).
This blog post is reminiscent of other end-of-the-year or end-of-the-career articles and Op-Ed pieces I’ve read by and for teachers…perhaps trying too hard to be profound, but it marks a sweet chapter in my life closing, even if only for myself. I want to be sure that I remember the fullness of this school, this beginning, this classroom, contrary to the empty version I walked away from yesterday afternoon. I am grateful.