My writing from tonight...more real stuff tomorrow, I hope. You should know that this is "Sara's" story...just from the first person point of view...switched it up tonight.
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I should have known better. The far-end of my classroom is cluttered with boxes in various stages of paper mache and paint. Some stand 3 boxes tall, others are in pieces. All of them block the path to my desk--and to the lockers where my students store their backpacks and sweaters. There is a bin filled with newspaper and half-empty bottles of starch and another bin filled with paints, brushes and rags. I really should have known better.
Two months ago, Nancy--the 7th grade teacher, fellow coach of the middle school girls' basketball team and general partner-in-crime--approached me with an idea--a project our classes could work on together--totem poles. It would be an art project and a writing project combined. After all, totem poles were supposed to tell a stories. I hesitated from the get-go because art is far from my strong suit, but Nancy--B.A. in art in-hand--assured me that she would take care of that end--she would supervise the construction of the totem poles from boxes, through newspaper tearing, starching and paint. And, having temporary amnesia, I agreed.
I agreed even though just a few months earlier, we had been ear-deep in another of her crazy projects. Each year during Lent, classes were paired up and responsible for a dramatization of the Stations of the Cross. Most grades simply read through the stations while acting them out. The classes took a week to practice their renditions during religion time and in the half hour before dismissal. Nancy, of course, had a better idea for the 7th and 2nd grades. She took the images from my Stations of the Cross coloring book and, using overhead projectors, had her students trace the images onto 9' x 9' paper. All 14 stations were then painted cooperatively by the 2nd and 7th grades. This took the better part of a week and a half to complete. Once the painting finished, Nancy cut each 9'x9' rendering into 9 separate squares. Preparations moved from the gym floor to the church. As each station was read, my 2nd graders came out to re-enact the scene. As they did so, 9 of Nancy's 7th graders flipped up the squares--sports arena style--to reveal corresponding station. We rehearsed endlessly--Nancy was a perfectionist and this was going to be the best presentation ever. When her "flippers" complained that they were tired, Nancy shot back, "Jesus died on te Cross, you didn't hear him complaining. Suck it up!" She was a little too into it.
So, as I said, I should have known better. But I agreed to the totem pole project--now referred to as Totem Hell (by me, not the kids). The totem pole stories had been an adventure in themselves, having 7 year olds and 13 year olds as co-authors--genius! Now that the stories were complete, each animal in the story needed to be reflected on the totem pole. Boxes were stacked and taped together, beaks for eagles and snouts for bears were construced and taped into place. Nancy's promise to run this leg of the project is a distant memory. Every time we start to work on the totems, she's called into a meeting.
So it's me, 70 kids and 35 totem poles every day in the parking lot. I've never really paper mache'd before and bottles of starch are being knocked over on the blacktop at an alarming rate. One night, I actually bought out K-Mart's entire stock of liquid starch.
At the end of each day, Totem Hell gets returned to my classroom--I'm not sure who's decision that was. But the school year ends in 2 weeks and I'm determined to finish every one.