Having a classroom on the third floor of an 85-year-old school building in New England in the middle of winter was pure joy. Before students started streaming into the building, I could stand in the silence and look out my classroom windows to watch thin trails of pure white steam rising from rooftops of neighboring homes. The steam rose into the light gray mist of falling snowflakes. In the snow on the playground below, the shoe prints of students from preschool to eighth grade made a scene I never remembered to capture on film, but it was a scene that has never left my memory. Having a classroom on the third floor of an 85-year-old school building in New England in the middle of winter was inherently charming. Then again, no, it wasn’t.
Having a classroom on the third floor of an 85-year-old school building in New England in the middle of winter was a frustrating effort at balancing extreme heat and extreme cold. The sole thermostat existed in the principal’s office on the first floor. And I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but heat rises. At the start of the day, the third floor was a balmy 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and my collection of wool sweaters found steady work. Of course, by the time my second period class trudged into my classroom, we’d hit 85 on the thermometer, and I’d switched the ceiling fans to medium speed. My sweaters looked classy draped across the back of my desk chair, and we all found ourselves wasting away in an absurd Margaritaville, searching for our lost bottles of ice water.
Such are the minor trials and tribulations of teachers that, unlike our students, seem much less impermanent and much more like old friends. I knew where to stand at the front of my classroom to find just the right balance of hot and cold. I knew which radiator at the back of the room got the hottest and was off-limits for everyone. Old friends.
But I guess this is what made my job and my classroom and my experience seem unique. I’m sure there is something about your teaching life that you’ll never forget.
What comes to mind when you think of your “old friends”? The eight-year-old copy of The Mailbox magazine you found in the closet when you moved into your classroom? The metal chalk holder you just can’t seem to get rid of, even when the chalkboards have long been gone? Whether it’s the class pet that lived ten years and had ten different class-given names, or the interactive whiteboard that has the supersensitive area in the bottom right corner, what is something you’ll never forget about your teaching days?