So I've been an elementary school teacher in the same NYC public school for two years now, right? I'm not exactly Ron Clark, but I know my way around the classroom. I know what a meeting area is. I know not to surround a meeting area with any fascinating objects that will inevitably interest my second graders more than, you know, our meeting. I know what seat sacks are for.
But I had not, until today, ever attempted to set up my very own classroom, and what I have to say about that is HOLY EFFING WHOA.
So first of all, my very unscientific sampling of NYC public school teachers on Facebook suggests that teachers all over the city have been dutifully trekking into their classrooms all week to set them up (despite objections by the union). But noooooo, not at my school, where we very specifically received one day. One lousy, measly day, a day on which I also happened to be scheduled to attend a workshop.
So what did I do? Did I maturely shrug my shoulders and say, "I don't want to give up my unpaid summer time anyway; I'll just get it all done on Tuesday"? Um, that'd be a nope; I e-mailed my principal in a panic and in return was granted today.
Today. One lousy, measly day (besides Tuesday). So this morning, the soon-to-be Mr. Brave and I loaded up the car and headed off to school.
I thought I was prepared for the overwhelming task ahead of us, but it turns out nothing can prepare you for trying to center gigantic sheets of backing paper so that no bulletin board is peeking out from underneath the borders, or for hanging a number line three inches from the ceiling, or for putting tiny squares of mounting paper on cut-out candles so that every single freaking kid's birthday is represented on the little month cakes. Or for moving heavy furniture from wherever the janitors decided to leave it. Or for unlocking closet after closet full of...I don't even know what those closets were full of, because I haven't finished unpacking them yet.
Seriously, people. The backing paper alone took like a good hour and a half, mostly because it turns out it takes way more backing paper than I thought it would to cover my enormous bulletin boards, so we had to go rogue and borrow some from a supply closet, which turned out to be all ripped at the bottom. As Mr. Brave put it: "Who knew putting backing paper up was just as difficult as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro? I mean, it's just as dangerous, and what's the altitude at the top of that bulletin board, anyway?"
Then our next major task was to rearrange all the furniture, a challenge made even more daunting by the fact that the janitor had specifically warned me not to slide any furniture across the floor (you know, right after he put all my furniture wherever he felt like it). So before we actually moved anything, Mr. Brave did his best to help me conceptualize my vision for my layout. Now, Mr. Brave is brilliant in many ways, but he is not a second grade teacher, and our conversation went something like this:
Miss Brave: "So if I put the meeting area here..."
Mr. Brave: "What's a meeting area? Like, what do you do there?"
Miss Brave: "...and I wanted to have my Fundations stuff near the meeting area..."
Mr. Brave: "What's Fundations?"
On the up side, though, Mr. Brave was consistently outraged on my behalf: "Your Fundations cards are missing the Y! They should buy you teachers a whole new package! They should give you laborers to move all this furniture for you!"
In the end, I arranged my classroom...exactly the way the previous teacher had it. Hey, it worked for her.
Then, in the middle of the day, I got a text from one of my co-workers; apparently our union rep had sent out an e-mail encouraging us not to come in early to set up our rooms. If we come in early and give up our free time, the thinking goes, the DOE won't have any motivation to push back the first day of school for students.
Now, this was my first year setting up a classroom, but it was definitely at least a two-person, two-day job. You can't convince me that if I hadn't given up my own time to set up, I wouldn't have just been screwing myself over for, like, the rest of the year. Remember back in June when we first got our two days before Labor Day back and the great plan was for all the teachers to show up on the same day as the students? Now there would have been a clusteryouknowwhat.
By the end of the day, we had been at school for close to ten hours. We used all of our double-sided poster tape, all of our mounting squares, and about a million staples (thank you, one-touch stapler). My school shopping list got longer, my French-manicured nails got shorter, and the first day of school got a heck of a lot closer.