There's something amazing about the end of the school year, the way it builds up from far away and crescendoes wildly into a whirl of stress and deadlines and craziness until you just don't know if the end will ever come. Some count the days, marking them off right along with the students, and others, like myself, try to ignore the next week and focus on making it through each and every minute with everything done that needs to get done. No matter which approach, the end does come. Goodbyes are said, some tears are shed, our 8th graders march across the platforms at graduation, and our sixth and seventh graders bubble over like a pot of water at a rolling boil until that last day---and suddenly they're all gone.
Today was called "DumpsterDay" at my school, and all of the teachers and professional staff worked to clean, organize, and throw out all of the junk we no longer need. All of the furniture was gone from my room, the floor bare, the posters removed from my walls. I filled the recycling bin with papers I no longer needed. I pulled odd conglomerations of items from my desk drawers and speculated on their possible uses: a wind-up dinosaur? confiscated laser pointers? a copious amount of Monopoly money? twelve small plastic containers of confetti? a tube of glow-in-the-dark face paint? Each new discovery met the test of usefulness and then was either tossed or carefully straightened on its way back into the drawer. I swept up an entire bottle of spilled gold glitter from the back closet and threw away a stack of dusty newsprint tablets that was dusty when I moved into this classroom six years ago. I went through all my files and thinned them out, putting them into an order that will make next year much easier.
Some people like to rush this process at the end of the year, especially back when this day was an optional day and everyone wanted to get out earlier. They shoved everything into the closet and smashed the door shut, willing to deal with it in the fall. I have always taken my time to put things away with care, knowing that once I am in the thick of teaching and living, I rarely have a chance to put things back just so or dust all of my bookshelves, for instance. I get so caught up in trying to keep my head above water with lesson planning, attending meetings, grading papers, doing observations, setting goals, (plus being a mother, a wife, a blogger, a housekeeper, a human), that I don't have a chance to step back and take a breather.
When my husband and I were not yet married, we spent a summer traveling across the country, living out of our car and backpacks and tent. Because of the economy of our possessions and space, we had a number of systems to keep everything organized and ship-shape, but every so often we would have to stop. Reset. Take what we called "an organizational moment."
I wish I could get one of those in my home life sometimes. A period of time (like a week, perhaps?) when everyone but me would go away and stop making messes, so I could clean, organize, put everything back where it's supposed to be. I could install those hooks by the front door for the kids to hang their backpacks on, and finish putting the pictures that are piled on the buffet into the photo album, and clean the oven so it would stop smelling like burnt sausage pizza, and finally catch up on the laundry (actually get all of the folded clothes into the drawers before they're dirty again!), and pick up all of the toys and have it stay neat for even ten minutes before it's trashed again. With two little boys, I feel like I'm running around cleaning in front of me while they destroy the place right behind me. I turn around and can't even see where I've been. This gets so frustrating, and it never stops.
Well, maybe next week, when I've got the kids going to daycare for a morning while I stay home. I'll have my own little dumpster day here at home, and get myself ready to face the summer vacation, so we can focus our attention on having fun instead of keeping afloat.