But the middle class bag lady in me will not be denied. The storage spaces at school continue to be stuffed with things we might one day use. When I first arrived at Woodland Park to teach the 3-5 class, there was a room at school called the "office" that I shared with the Pre-3 teacher. She, a far more orderly person than me, would occasionally complain about my habit of bringing in stuff we might one day use without first considering where it would be stored, but for the most part it was not a stretch to continue to call this room our office. When I took over the Pre-3 job a couple years later, parents almost immediately began to comment on the condition of the office. "Your office is messy, Teacher Tom," they would say, "Would you like me to help you organize it?"
After a few months of that, I began to refer to the room as the "work room." That simple act of re-branding dramatically reduced the number of comments for quite some time, but as I continued to bring in junk we might one day use, there was once more a surge in offers of help.
That's when I accepted. During one of our annual all-hands-on-deck school cleanings, I turned matters over to a series of four able parents who tossed things, organized things, labeled things and generally made it look like an "office" again. I did enjoy the results on a cosmetic level, but I didn't enjoy the pressure I felt to maintain it, nor the constant searching for things that had been organized by someone else. I'm sure it's a surprise to no one that it wasn't long before every spare inch again became filled with things we might one day use.
So two years ago I took the inevitable step of re-re-branding the room, giving it the moniker of "storage room." No one offers to help organize it any longer and while Isak's mom Leslie did one day idly mention that it looks even messier than usual, it was a comment without judgement.
I've come to the understanding that there is something in my personality that needs spaces like this and since my spouse has evicted the bag lady from our home, it's inevitable that she would take up residence elsewhere. I know that others peek into the storage room and shudder, but each morning when I walk into that room, all I see are possibilities. There is something about a room stuffed with potentially useful junk that gets my creative juices flowing. Not only that, but this habit of mine is one of the reasons we can run a program with some 40 or so kids on a monthly curriculum supplies budget of under $150.
And eventually my eyes will fall onto something that I've been simply storing for 8 years and decide we're either going to use this crap or throw it out. A case in point are a set of 10 large arches of wood, probably 4 feet long, to which are attached long strips of gauze dyed in stripes of blues and greens. They have eye screws and cord across the top, telling me that they were designed to hang from a ceiling and were probably used either as part of a dramatic production or an art installation. I've been shifting those things around for a long time, only occasionally getting one out for the kids to drive through as a "car wash."
A few weeks ago I brought 3 of them into the outdoor classroom and challenged the parents working out there to figure out what we could do with them. This is what they did:
The dye has since washed out in the rain, but I think they add something magical to our sand pit. They move and billow with each light breeze and create "rooms" within the sand pit and around the water pump.
Inspired by this, yesterday I added a couple more of them to our inflatable kayak set up.
We called them waterfalls, but I think they functioned more as mood-setters than anything else. It may not be evident due to my typically poor photography, but they really set the stage for our boat, "jet ski," and fishing hole.
Sometimes the day comes when the junk I might use one day actually gets used. Who knew?