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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Not Trash

I almost threw out Darien's tooth today! Correction--I threw out Darien's tooth today, but then dug it out of the trashcan from underneath used tissues, lunch remnants, and pencil sharpenings, because I happen to possess the teacher super-power of trash immunity. I had noticed a plastic bag on the floor and tossed it while scanning the room for any other quick fixes that would make me feel better about our classroom's level of cleanliness. It's really amazing how much more satisfied I am with the state of the classroom and perhaps even the world at large when just a few stray markers have been put away, the empty sandwich bag has been disposed of, and the leftover lunch utensils have been picked up off the floor.

When Darien asked to have his tooth back, I truly had no idea what he was talking about.
"I took it?" I asked. I did sound like something I would do, particularly if the tooth in question had been getting more attention than the literacy center assignments, but I had no recollection of confiscating anyone's newly lost tooth. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah--it was in the bag." And thus commenced the trash digging.
Fortunately, the lost lost tooth situation turned out just fine, which is more than I can say for another trash situation a couple of years ago.

One year, my second grade class studied the physics of flight. The culminating project of our months-long unit was the design and construction of airplanes out of balsa wood for a flight contest. A few days before our final flight contest, I came into school one morning to find the laundry basket that usually held the twenty-four planes empty and sitting next to the also-empty trash can. Still in denial, I checked the closet to see if I had perhaps stored the planes in the closet without first putting them in the basket. When this hopeful theory did not pan out, I had to admit that I knew exactly where the planes were—in the dumpster. On the verge of panic, I ran through the school to find the custodian. Out of breath from running, I panted, “I think—I think the cleaning crew THREW AWAY our planes--ALL of our planes, all 24 of them--why would they do that? They are clearly not trash—they are planesour planes that are now gone!”

The custodian and I put on latex gloves and opened the dumpsters behind the school. Bag by bag, we combed through an entire day’s worth of school trash before finally finding the planes among peanut butter sandwich crusts and orange peels. Thoroughly repulsed, we disentangled the pile of plastic propellers and balsa wood wings from dirty napkins and still-dripping milk cartons. We had worked so hard on those planes that I couldn't just leave them there in the bags of trash. I salvaged what remained of the kids' work and sprayed an industrial disinfectant all over them before realizing that there was just no way I was going to put these trash-covered and now chemical-covered creations back in the kids' hands. It worked out alright, more or less, actually. The kids whose planes didn't fly so well got to revise their whole design!

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