Thursday, July 22, 2010

The story of my last day

It was a very strange thing how this school year ended. Everyone asked me if it was hard to say goodbye on the last day of school. My answer, a resolute "NO!!!" For anyone who experienced the joy of having to come in on Monday June 28th (yes folks, I said Monday) for the last day of school in the New York City public school system, I'm sure you remember that the temperature that day was hovering around 100 degrees and humid. Keep in mind that everyone had already packed up their classrooms completely and even suggested to the students that perhaps it was okay if they couldn't come on Monday, they could just have their parents pick up their report cards and it wouldn't be a big deal. Of course, my entire class who did not already travel to the DR (which is a whole different story) was in attendance. The children spent the morning lying in front of the fan while I sprayed them with water, then it was time for lunch. After lunch, one of my students threw up. Yes, I said it. My student threw up on the last day of school. Thanks for coming!!! Then I think I read them a story and sprayed them some more. Finally it was time for dismissal and they were gone by noon. Teachers, of course, still had to stay until 3:17.5 (don't you love the half minute). My colleagues and I went out to lunch at one of the few air conditioned eateries in the neighborhood just to cool off. We were so hot and disgusting. Finally we worked up the courage to come back to school and sweat out wait out the last couple of hours. We got our papers signed, turned in keys, and chatted and sweated more. There were no announcements, no schedule for the day. Finally, we all just walked out at about 2:30 and no one said anything. That was it. That was my last day.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The new classroom

I went to my new school today to drop off my boxes of materials, refrigerator, microwave, and books that I had purchased out of my own pocket while at my previous school. The principal met me at the door and showed me to my new classroom which was absolutely GORGEOUS!!! After working in a dilapidated old building with no AC and barely enough functioning electrical outlets to run a computer, I was amazed by what I saw. I have two HUGE closets for supplies. There is a bathroom.... no you didn't read that wrong, I have a bathroom for the students INSIDE the classroom. Can you believe it? At my last school the girls literally had to travel 1/4 mile through winding hallways to find their bathroom. We had so many "accidents" it was ridiculous. I also have a sink (I know... can you say "Science"?). On top of that, there is an elevator (OMG!!!) and brace yourselves.... Central Air!!!!! Yes folks, the school actually hosts summer camps and enrichment programs over the summer instead of being boarded up because it has air conditioning in the year 2010.

I can't believe I almost forgot this. I actually had to go back and edit the post to reveal that I have a Smartboard and 3 computers. Can you even imagine? I can't even envision how that is going to change my teaching.

It is just such a relief to see that my new work environment is pleasant. I felt like so much of my classroom setup over the past 5 years involved trying to cover up how disgusting my school actually was. I wanted to shield the kids from the filth so I would apply a fresh coat of paint to counters and even parts of walls. I tracked down cabinet door handles from various parts of the building (and architectural salvage stores) to restore my beautiful wooden cabinets to their original 105 year old glory. I would cover splintered tables with colorful cloths, and strategically place bookshelves over holes in the floor. No more!

One thing that I noticed, however, is that as a new school in its 3rd year of operation, the classroom materials were sparse. I come from a school with a 105 year legacy of materials, so I always found myself throwing things out rather than needing basic things. If I didn't have something, I could always roam the building and find it in the piles other teachers were throwing out. No matter! I already wrote a grant for many of the things I will need. In the past, all of my grants have been fulfilled and I'm hoping this one will be too.

I was also a little annoyed (OK, totally shocked and irritated) with how the previous teacher had "packed" up the books. She basically took the book bins full of books and threw them on top of each other in the gorgeous closet. I already know that many of these books will be bent when I come back in September. And I know from experience that the bins will be filthy. I guess working at a school where we never got anything new, I learned how to preserve what we had. Maybe this teacher didn't realize that new books don't get purchased each year. I didn't have time to sort it all out today since I was blocking the custodian's parking spot and the last thing you want to do at a public school is piss off the custodian the first time you meet him or her (same goes for the secretaries and the security guard).

All in all, I'm extremely excited for the new school. I already have so many ideas about things I want to change about my routines and my instruction. I can't wait to meet the students and their parents and to be a part of a more progressive and organized school environment. I feel re-energized by the whole thing!

I hope everyone is having a great summer! I don't feel totally relaxed yet, but I'm sure it will come to me soon. I'm starting my part-time summer job (the same one I've had for the past 4 years) on Monday. It's super easy and helps me pass the time and make a few bucks.