For reasons I will soon be eagerly discussing, I am cleaning out my classroom. And not just my classroom, but the various places in which I have stashed 17 years worth of teaching and theater *stuff.* Among the items I came across today:
- 2 huge gallons of apple juice that expired in 2008.
- Sesame Street and autumn motif fabric from my "Let's iron appliques on sweatshirts and tote bags and then outline them in puff-paint" episodes of the mid-1990's.
- A copy of the Ladies Home Journal from 1915.
- Inexplicably, 19 vests in various brocade fabrics and corduroy.
- My high school sweetheart's Soccer letterman's jacket which I wore for the entire winter of 1988-1989.
- Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with Donny Osmond...on VHS.
I also found these:
My semi-formal and prom dresses from the late 80's. What to do with these? I have kept them in my costume collection under the guise of someone-might-use-them-someday, but really, the fact that I still have them made me feel one step away from the adult-diaper hiding, maggoty freezer Hoarders that both terrify and entrance me. Why have I held onto this stuff, really? I certainly never expect to wear it again myself. I have the pictures safely scrapbooked and captioned, memories intact. I don't have the answer. Just the question.
My flower girl dress from when I was in my mother's wedding, with the chicken-dinner stain that, luckily, I dropped on my lap AFTER the pictures.
I also found these, from when I taught 5th grade and had a yearly commemorative stamp contest for the Revolutionary War.
How seriously my students took this! Hallway displays, leveraging for votes, all for bragging rights and the privilege of being in this laminated book...which went into the trash today, having spent six years in closet purgatory. I remembered what I told my mom when she was moving out of her house. "Take a picture. You don't need the item, just to remember the item and what it meant to you. Take a picture, and pitch it." I filled two dumpsters in Hull on that logic, and I employed it today...mostly.
I found this:
My poetry apron, made back when I had time to copy and laminate poems, add appliqued pockets to an apron and puff-paint it with whimsy. I was that, heart and soul. I was Fifth Grade Teacher, and reflecting now, I truly did the very best I could. I wasn't perfect, but I was cheerful and enthusiastic and committed and loving, and I made my classroom into the safe haven I had envisioned it to be when I used to talk to Elise in my sleep about multiculturalism and cooperative learning in our dorm room at UMass. I did it. I was "Ms. Hines," spunky and theatrical and creating the weather every day in my classroom.
I still am, to an extent, but in recent years, my spirit has evolved, and my ambitions have evolved, and I have dreamed beyond these walls. Not to devalue them in any way; I have loved this work, and it was my absolute dream job...until a new dream came along. I will always be grateful for everything I learned in teaching 5th and 6th grade, and the ways it gave me purpose and stability and a job at which I could eventually be solid and competent enough to make second in my life to raising small daughters.
The idealistic teacher I encountered as I cleaned out drawers and files today was familiar and someone for whom I have great affection and appreciation. But she is gone, now. I, myself, at 40, cannot ever teach Number the Stars again. Can't do it. And the truth is, I love 6th graders, LOVE them, but I don't give a shit about ancient Egypt...or ancient China, or even ancient Greece. Never have, thought I talked a good game. I dug Buddhism. I kind of liked the idea of Rome - the roads, and the aquaducts, and the funny things that happened on the way to all of those forums...but I won't miss it one tiny bit. I have taught Homecoming and Tuck Everlasting as well as I possibly could, honored them and drove home their themes and messages with all of the emotion I could muster. We journaled our asses off, and did some great projects and adapted Shakespeare plays and made mobiles and dioramas and portfolios. We did it up.
I took my poetry apron to one of the teachers on my floor, a person who is the Nicest Person I Know, and I guarantee you, nicer than the Nicest Person You Know. And you know what she said when I gave it to her? She said, "You know, I feel like I made this happen with my mind. I was just going through all of my other aprons - my word-root apron and my long-vowels apron, and I thought...I wish I had a poetry apron. And here you are, with a poetry apron. And now I will have a little part of you with me when you go."
You'll think this is quaint, maybe, or else that I am surrounded by other insane people who also make things happen with their minds - poetry aprons and grant proposals and dream jobs and the like - but for me, this was yet another example of a perfect tiny bit of synchronicity, of things appearing for people when they most need them. I believe in that reality more now than I ever have before...and if you know me at all, that's freaking saying something.
Not that the world is perfect, and I still struggle every single day with the idea of why-do-bad-things-happen-to-good-people, but in the realm of small things that I can control...like poetry aprons and just the right note from the Universe when I need it, or the perfect song on the radio, or seeing a "101" at the exact moment when I'm trying to make a decision...I have to say, I am just a big old pile of gratitude and awareness these days.