Tuesday, May 29, 2012
A Wastebasket Full of Papers
Every year, it seems that the kids think school's over right after April vacation. A few years ago, during a break between classes, I noticed that my wastebasket was filled to the rim and overflowing in a paper waterfall. It was late morning and my basket is never full that time of day. I figured it was a student who decided to throw everything away and start summer vacation early.
I decided to investigate to see what else was in my overly full basket. YES! I became a garbage picker, but trust me if I had lifted one piece of the crumpled paper and saw anything organic, my garbage picking days would be over.
All the bits and pieces on the top were nameless, so I continued digging, determined to find out who the culprit was. Near the bottom was a beautiful sketch with a name in the lower right hand corner. Ah ha! I would definitely be a good guest star on CSI! I didn't know who the name belonged to, but I was determined to find out.
All kinds of school notices, some from September, were buried and the more I dove into the mess the more I found. A notice about parent conferences dated in October, a notice about an orchestra field trip to Woolsey Hall, two late homework slips that were supposed to be signed by parents, but weren't, a late slip from the library dated in October. I sensed Mr. Artist's parents weren't getting the notices and he had slipped through our loving teacher fingers.
I found graded papers! How dare a student throw away a graded paper. We teachers spend hours grading papers and expect that they end up on kitchen refrigerators or at least on the kitchen table for a day or two.
I began to feel a little lightheaded as I stood up, clutching wads of papers, some stuffed under my arms. I walked into the hall and saw one of my coworkers holding a gym bag. She was also in a frenzy and yelled, "Do you believe (so and so) left her gym bag in MY room? We've been telling them ALL year that they have to take everything with them when they leave for the day". I must have really looked like a mess because she looked me up and down and then peered at me with an incredulous look on her face. "Your face is beet red. You okay?"
"Not exactly, but I'm determined to find out who stuffed his entire school year in my wastebasket. I stormed down the hall, papers falling from my grasp as I yelled, "Who has (so and so) as a student?" I was waving the artistic sketch that had the potential of being a Rembrandt in a hundred years or so, and almost hit Mrs. W. in the face with it as she walked into the hall.
At last, I thought. And I began to rant and rave about someone stuffing my wastebasket, with forms from the office, field trip forms, late library notices, then took a deep breath and looked her.
"I'd like to see him so that I can return his valuable pieces of memorabilia that he did this year."
I was psyched and couldn't wait to ask him WHY he stuffed them in MY wastebasket. I had it all planned out. I'd tell him how important it is to take things home and to keep his parents aware of what we do in school.
Mrs. W. looked at me and sighed. "He's gone."
"Gone?" "Well send him to me tomorrow morning, okay? I just need to see him for a few minutes."
She sighed again. "He's gone for good." She slipped into one of the student desks and looked up at me.
"His grandmother called school about an hour ago and told the Main Office that he had to be in the front of the building in 30 minutes. She said that his father had just been released from prison and they have to go into hiding because she has custody and the father wants custody. He's such a good student, I can't imagine what he's feeling."
The papers fell from my arms like gentle rain and formed puddles around my ankles. I couldn't even think of how to respond to her. I picked up the papers, told her I was sorry I was like a raving maniac and headed to my room.
The sketch hangs in my family room as a reminder of how fragile our students are.
Posted by Ruth S. at 7:08 PM