Teachers are packrats; not amateurs, but true, professional packrats. There isn’t a piece of junk, or a can or a container and especially anything used to package or transport eggs that they can throw away without having a “to-do” about possible uses. So, in August, without trepidation, they arrive with their truckloads of things, and the move-in begins. In addition to all of their accumulated materials, they move in idea books, games that help teach, favorite items from years past and wheelbarrows full of who knows what. The closets are never large enough and there are never enough shelves. It is a storage nightmare – the more space we have, the more stuff we collect. Teachers have been reduced to filling the trunks of their cars with treasures and their garages with better treasures. One teacher was caught going through the dumpster after another teacher actually cleared some things out. We don’t throw things away in front of her any more; in fact we don’t even talk about cleaning in front of her. In fairness, I must admit, she did build a working radio using wire she found that day. Another teacher showed up with a car full of “trash”. It seems that she was driving through a subdivision, noticed a chair at the end of someone’s driveway and stopped to see what else they were throwing away. Lo and behold, she found a record player, an old French Horn and several canisters. I thought it was odd because we don’t have vinyl records at school anymore and the canisters were a little on the battered side, but I didn’t say a word. Sometimes only the trash collecting teacher can see the uses for other people’s discarded goods.
Once I went to a teacher friend’s house; and her dining room table was stacked with assorted piles. I’m not always as tactful as I should be, so I asked, “What is going on in the dining room?” She was actually puzzled by the question. “It’s school stuff.”
“Yes,” she replied “I ran out of space in the classroom and I didn’t know what else to do with the stuff. Anyway. . . .,” she continued, “Who uses formal dining rooms anymore?”
That was a question I couldn’t answer. I certainly don’t use mine. So, I said, “I just like to keep my special things in the dining room because it’s the place that stays just the way I want and no one ever disturbs it.
The twinkle in her eye spoke volumes and she answered, “Precisely! These teacher magazines, papers, ideas, boxes, and cartons of stuff are exactly what is precious to me and I leave it in the dining room because no one disturbs it.”
I asked her what happened to keeping things in the trunk of the car.
Her reply? “It’s full.”
“What about the garage?” I asked.
“My husband thinks his car belongs in there, but I share the other half with the lawn mower and weed eater.”
“Do you think that maybe you should rent a storage area?”
“Done,” she answered quickly.
Frankly, I didn’t want to hear anymore.
I know the old saying about one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Teachers certainly have a knack for seeing treasures when others can not.
Finding the treasure is a good thing. After all, if a set of battered canisters looks good, imagine how adorable a naughty child must be or how cute a child who needs special attention must look. It’s the way teachers are – finding the nuggets of treasure in everything and everyone.
For example, the first thing Byron’s teacher said, in a loud whisper, when she brought him into the office was, “Isn’t he the cutest thing?” Well, Byron was her second grade treasure and he couldn’t figure out why everyone was so distraught about the peanut butter and jelly sandwich IN the plastic sandwich bag being flushed down the toilet. His teacher knew it was a naughty thing, but she couldn’t talk to him without laughing. I was the one who had to put on a serious face and explain that flushing anything except bodily waste was unacceptable. It didn’t help when he reminded me that the sandwich was just several swallows and a couple of hours away from being appropriate for flushing. As he spoke, I realized that this little “nugget” was stealing my heart, just as he had stolen his teacher’s.
Some teachers find goodness in strange animals, too. We have many wonderful classroom pets that everyone finds warm, fuzzy and lovable. And then there’s the science lab with its tarantula, odd frogs, lizards, geckos, meal worms and a host of other unusual “pets”. They have, for the most part, been donated to the school by mothers who changed their minds about having them in the house. These second-hand critters are my friend, Lollie’s, treasures. She can make a single new habitat teach a multitude of lessons.
What, you may ask, are my treasures? That’s easy. I watch teachers take each diamond in the rough, each part of something or someone and work their magic. I am the observer as each egg carton becomes an art project and other unusual items become teaching tools. I have a front row seat as each child is transformed into a lifelong learner. I even learned to treasure that crazy, battered French horn when a child turned it into a planter. Who’d have guessed that the radio made from dumpster wire would be the beginning of an entire ham radio club? And when that dining room table, full of stuff, is harvested and modified, it is sure to reap treasures untold. As for Byron – he’s one of my most beloved treasures.
With twenty-five teachers and two hundred children, I guess you could say I have a gold mine.