I paced about my classroom frantically yesterday. I had taken my moving truck, all the way from East Lakeview, up to my old school, where I had what felt like thousands of things to pack into boxes and bring with me to California. I looked around. I saw books, games, and many things I had created in my first four years of teaching. I sifted through some of my best ideas, as well as some of my worst, and pored over all the good books I had acquired throughout my tenure in that school.
As I removed and sorted books from shelves, I laid my eyes upon all of the bookshelves, on which all of those books and memories have lived for quite some time now. In 2012, I spent the entire summer using old wooden siding from my parents’ mudroom to craft many sets of shelves, in an effort to house all of the great books I gained. In fact, the shelves became the focal point of my classroom, symbolic of both my love for my classroom and the importance of building a community around reading.
The lights were off in my room, and some of the ambient light that snuck through the shades of the classroom trickled onto the shelves. They looked lonely, and when I stared at them, I could feel the energy I had invested into those slabs of wood, and not just into the shelves themselves, but also the energy I had invested into building a community in Room 153–a community that had become a huge part of who I am today.
I called my friend Katy, because I found myself having a hard time walking out the door and taking the shelves with me. Clearly, it would be illogical to bring them, but I needed someone else to tell me that. She told me just what I needed to hear–that I had left a legacy there, like all teachers do, and that now someone else could use what I had built to help more students in the future. She was right, in a way, and in so many more ways than just the shelves.
I’m not really sure why we invest so much meaning into material possessions, but we do, even though having the possession does nothing to help us hold on to the memory. Perhaps, in a way, I was trying to bring them with so that I could replicate the experience I had in my first job, similar to how I tried to replicate my first loop of students with my second. However, I soon found, that it was not only impossible to replicate an experience, but that replicating an experience denies the new one of the opportunity to change your life.
Clearly, the universe knew that I needed this reminder, and when driving that enormous moving truck through the City of Chicago, I stopped at a red light behind a small, silver car. My eyes wandered around its tired, old bumper, to the right side where a rectangular white sticker lay, with plain black print, staring me right in the face.
“If nothing changes, nothing changes,” it said.