Friday, August 29, 2008

Progress that destroys

That's what the Queen Mother (aka the principal) said when she came in my classroom a couple days ago and saw the chaos: "progress that destroys." I kept telling everyone who came in and saw this:

that is really wasn't as bad as it looked. "I know it looks like a mess," I would say. "But it's all in piles!" And that's what the Queen Mother meant too -- I was making progress, but the progress sure looked awful.

Today things look a little better.
And actually, that was this morning when I first got there. When I left this evening, it was even better than this, although an outsider might not be able to tell the difference. Today I had a slow morning, even going out to a cafe for coffee, a currant scone, and the newspaper before work. But then when I got there, I started to get a little panicky. Setting up my classroom hasn't been this hard in years. I guess I knew that moving up to a new grade and switching classrooms would increase my workload. But I hadn't anticipated all the work that setting up would be. I certainly hadn't anticipated that I would spend most of the first 3 days of the week sorting through things left behind by last year's teacher, choosing what to keep and what to get rid of. I haven't had to go through someone else's stuff in years -- it's been mine, and I've known what to do with it and exactly how I wanted the classroom to look. This year, I've been moving furniture this way and that, trying to decide what will work best, in a way I haven't in years.

The good news is that I only cried once at work today. So that's not bad at all! And with the help of the Wailin' Jennys (which I accessed at school from my home computer via my Sugarsync backup!!), I managed to wipe my eyes and get back to work. I got the furniture mostly where I want it, and I set to work organizing books. Second grade books are different from first grade books, and I got excited about old favorites from when I was little: Ramona, Roald Dahl, Frog and Toad. It will be fun to see my students reading these kinds of chapter books and loving them the way I did a long time ago.

The other good news is that at least I have learned enough over the years to stop and go home when I can't handle it anymore. I knew the other day, when I looked at the math shelf and it seemed utterly overwhelming, that it was time to go home. "The math shelf is not overwhelming, Ms. Swamp," I said to myself, "so it must be that you are too tired and too hungry to stay here anymore." So I went home. And as I face the holiday weekend knowing that I will be in my classroom for all of the next three beautiful, sunny days, I just remind myself that I spent more than half of the past two months in my sleeping bag, in beautiful places. So now it's everyone else's turn to be outside and relax, while I work on my room.

We all just have to hope the progress I'm making doesn't destroy my mental health before I'm done. :) Good thing I have several Friendly Neighbors around who came by last night to bring me flowers from their garden, shuck, blanch, and freeze 20 ears of corn, eat a 98% local dinner, and watch Obama give his speech. That should be enough to keep me sane.


  1. I absolutely know the feeling of the progress that destroys. *shudders* For me, it often gets worse with all of the random stuff that persists in staying around once I've taken care of the stuff that is easily organized or put away.

    Good luck with everything! ♥

  2. I like the idea of progress that destroys, or alternatively, destruction that is progress. I find it to be a universal phenomenon, but teachers may experience it intensely in August.

    Not only is it universal, but it operates at all levels. In your head, in your life, in your school, in your community, in your world. It's a little scary. But not avoidable.

    Thanks for the phrase. It is a nice gift.