When teachers pack up their classrooms for the summer, it’s not that they’re planning to be gone really that long. After all, summer vacation is usually no more than a couple of months—and those couple of months go by in a flash.
But it seems like a long time nonetheless. “The summer”—that simple two-word phrase that stirs up such happy anticipation—brings to mind an almost endless assortment of leisure-time possibilities.
The classroom packing-up work is done largely to help custodians and maintenance workers who will be working throughout the summer making repairs, waxing floors, possibly painting walls, and doing other work to get things in good shape for a new school year coming up in August.
Putting things away allows furniture to be moved much more easily and protects equipment and supplies while the work is going on.
The annual act of packing up has always been a very significant time for me during my years of teaching. It’s a very tangible acknowledgment that the school year is over. It brings a special type of closure to the year and excited anticipation of a new year while preparing for a well-deserved break from the ten-month rigors of the year behind me.
It’s both an emotional and a psychological thing—but especially emotional.
For two or three months both faculty and students are acutely and excitedly aware that the school year is winding down. It’s both mentioned and implied in countless ways nearly every day, as if the queen were coming for a visit or something enormous like that.
Of course, the end of the school year also means the dreaded standardized tests, on which the state- and federal-judged academic success of the entire year rests. Once these mandated tests are finally over, only a few days are left, filled with end-of-the-year reward field trips, special assemblies, and high school graduation ceremonies.
It’s during these last few days that teachers start packing up everything that isn’t nailed down and boxing them away for future reference two months hence. It’s a happy time for the most part, with only a few occasional tears shed as good-byes are said to students and fellow staff members.
The transitions from one part of the calendar year to another are perhaps felt no more acutely than in the life of a school, especially the transition from the end of the year to the beginning of summer vacation—and then the return in August to start it all over again.
There’s really nothing else quite like it—really.
Enough for now. Time to do some more packing.