Friday, June 23, 2006

A Daunting Task

I am not the kind of teacher who has a neat desk. The papers pile up, I just throw things there, and spend much of every Friday afternoon organizing it and promising myself I'll do better next week.

But even through the mess, I know exactly where everything is. Oh, the schedule for Field Day? It's in the third pile against the wall underneath the homework from Tuesday. This week's Time For Kids? In the bin on the right behind the National Geographic. A pencil? I think I just saw one tucked against the wall behind all those test prep materials.

Until yesterday. During 8th period, another teacher covered my class while I conducted an IEP meeting. When I returned, one of my students excitedly greeted me at the door.

"Ms. Armstrong! Ms. Armstrong! I did something special for you. Look!" He pointed to my desk as he said this.

When I turned, I saw two neat stacks of papers and an empty expanse of wood that I barely recognized as the top of my desk. I tried to smile through my panic. "Thank you," I forced out and hugged him before sending him back to his seat.

So this morning I will begin the process of finding the things in the messy stack I usually keep on the front left corner of my desk, the things I need every Friday morning. If there weren't only three more days left of school, I might even make a sign "Thank you for leaving my mess. It's the nicest thing you've done all day."


CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

I'm glad to know that I have company!

I am an inveterate “messie.” Another name for people like you and me is “pilot”—as in “pile it here, pile it there.” My system (or lack of a system) for handling clutter has been my way of life for decades. Now that I’m teaching, the clutter is a problem. I need to be able to find things quickly in the classroom so that I don’t waste my students’ time. I need to be able to find things quickly in my garage office so that I don’t waste my time.

I'm afraid it's going to be a long process.


"Ms. Cornelius" said...

Me, too. I had a student last year who always wanted to help me in the same way. I finally let her, as long as I could supervise. It got to the point where she knew what to do, and she could do it in five minutes.

I had a principal once that was driven crazy by this attribute of mine. Every now and then, he'd ask for some random memo from three weeks ago, and I'd pull it right out of a sloppy stack of flotsam on my desk. He would just gape. It was fun.