Clean It Up!

It was a part of the job that nobody liked, so it piled up and got progressively worse until some poor person had to deal with the entire pile at once. I was that person.

My first teaching job was in a school that had a severe overcrowding problem. There were  1200 students in a school built for half that. Classes met all over the crazy place. Any widened part of a hallway got turned into a small, impromptu classroom by putting up partitions and hanging a poster-sized whiteboard on the wall. Desks were any makeshift or ancient specimen the custodians or maintenance could find in storage. My classroom didn’t have desks. It had three 8-foot tables surrounded by a mismatched collection of stools.

As the science lab teacher, that worked fine. My room was actually split 2/3 for me and 1/3 for a special ed teacher. We worked it out so he pulled his larger classes when I was teaching computer lab down the hall or when I was on my conference time, and he made sure that his conference time was scheduled when I had my larger classes. It all worked out fine with a little juggling.

Attached to the science lab was a lockable supply closet. On my first day there, halfway through the school year, I started planning out what kinds of activities I would be able to do with the kiddos who were going to be entrusted to me for 50 minutes at a time. Naturally, I wanted to see what kind of supplies I had to work with, so I unlocked the closet and tried to open the door.

I barely got it open far enough to peek inside and flip the light switch. The room looked like someone had upended several science project kits in the room then run out the door before the resulting avalanche could bury them, but there were sturdy shelves lining the walls.

I smiled. My classes wouldn’t start until the following Monday, so I had time. I was up to that challenge, but I wasn’t half brave enough to wade in there in a skirt and sandals.

The next day, I wore slacks and closed shoes. Opening the door took a considerable effort. I’d thought about getting a running start, but a couple good shoves got the job done. I stepped inside and confirmed that the qualified disaster area extended beyond just the sliver I’d seen the afternoon before.

First, I’d need to take stock of what I had, and that meant hauling all the junk out of there and sorting it. Fortunately, I had those three tables and a long counter down the back as well as 3 mobile lab carts. Lots of horizontal space for sorting, and if I ran out of that, there was always the floor.

Unpacking the room took the rest of the day, but it was like a treasure hunt. A kid sorting through a pile of random toys might have been happier, but I doubt it.

There had indeed been science kits upended in the room in addition to the random scientific flotsam collected over time. I sorted the kits back into their boxes and found their documentation. Then I split the rest of the equipment up by what I would most likely use it for. By the time I left, the closet was empty, and every horizontal space available in the room was covered with an amusing assortment of stuff.

The next day, I cleaned up the closet itself. It looked like no one had shown it a dust rag since the Johnson administration. Forget dust bunnies. That closet was infested with dust elephants. I went through an entire roll of paper towels trying to find out what color the shelving was supposed to be then I borrowed a broom from the custodian to evict the dust elephants from the corners of the room.

When dark gray metal shelving shined, I knew I was ready to put everything back in. The reassembled science kits found their spots on the only shelf tall enough to hold them.

Then I went around the room neatly stacking stuff and clustering them by which discipline would be most likely to use them. While I did that, I took an inventory, which I attached to the door when I was finished.

Once finished, I surveyed my work and decided that it was good enough for a start. .



2 thoughts on “Clean It Up!

  1. Makes me wonder what kind of science teacher they had before you and why they left such a mess. I was always brought up that learning occurred better in an organized, neat environment.


    • Well, the position was created to relieve an overcrowding issue and only lasted one semester. The teachers typically responsible for the state of the storage closet were besieged with other obligations for their over-crammed classes. I don’t wonder why the room was a wreck nor do I actually blame them too much. Entropy happens. I just happened to be the one with the energy to fix the problem.


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