It’s the time of year when teachers are emptying their classrooms for the summer. If you’ve taught, then you know what it feels like to sort through piles of student work, posters, pencils, and lost-and-found sweaters as you reflect on the past nine months and look forward to summer break.
As the classroom walls grow bare and the desks get stacked in the corners to clear the floor for its annual wash and wax, it’s hard to imagine a time when this space was filled with life. And then, as you peer in the last cabinet, you find something that brings back a flood of memories: the thing you forgot was there, or never knew was there, or couldn’t bring yourself to pack up yet.
We asked current and former teachers to tell us the most surprising, touching, or ridiculous things they found when they cleaned out their classrooms for the summer.
1. Sunflower Seeds
Ungodly amounts of chewed-up and spit-out sunflower seeds underneath a desk in the back of my classroom. - Colin Seale (D.C. Region ’04)
2. A Thoughtful Birthday Gift
I was the advisor for student council, and my students enlisted my co-worker to help celebrate my birthday. They brought her $4 in a bag and said that was all they could collect. My friend helped them get balloons, a cake, and more. When I came across that bag of four $1 bills while packing up my desk, I cried. - Ciara [Owens] Massey (Las Vegas ’13)
3. A Piece of History
An essay from 2008, written by then-executive director of Teach For America New Mexico Nate Morrison while he’d been a math teacher at my placement school. - Abigail Cooksey (New Mexico ’15)
4. A box full of confiscated fidget spinners.
- Hannah [Vishny] Curhan (Phoenix ‘14)
5. A Christmas-Themed Mug
One year my favorite mug that was always on my desk got knocked over and shattered. The next day, one of my students brought me a mug with a Christmas tree on it to replace the broken one. I use it all year round. - Krina Shah (N.Y. ’09)
6. An Accent Pillow to Brighten Any Room
A hand sewn, yellow fabric pillow in the shape of a fox, complete with magic-marker whiskers, that a student made in home ec class and gave to me. I thanked him for being so thoughtful because I love cats. He corrected me, telling me that it was a fox, that foxes were clever, and that my class made him feel clever. It is still one of my most prized possessions. - Sarah McKibben (Greater Delta ’15)
7. Unsolved Mysteries
In my classroom’s back closet, I found a euphonium, an adult-sized Barney costume, and a couple of old refrigerators. - Megan Macpherson (Bay Area ’09)
8. Blasts from the Past
Textbooks buried in a locker that were so old, I remembered them from when I was a student in first grade. - Kori [Mosakowski] Hamner (Memphis ’07)
9. Corroborating Evidence
Homework a student really did turn in and I really did lose. - Audrey Momoh (Bay Area ’16)
10. My Lost Hearing Aid
Nestled in a basket of math manipulatives. - Parisa Pilehvar (Greater Tulsa ’15)