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Moving Day Dilemma

Bronx Classroom Tales

Moving Day DilemmaTo pitch or not to pitch... that is the question?

When I moved into my classroom, I was forced to answer this difficult question. My dilemma began with a great triumph in New York City public schools!

After tirelessly toiling away through ten weeks of paid vacation, we teachers received two extra days off after the union battled for a contract only requiring us to arrive in the building September 8, one day before students return back. This means that many teachers did not step foot in their classrooms until the absolute minute this year’s contract mandates them to do so.

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Now maybe this is not a problem for a teacher returning to a classroom set up from the year before, where the bulletin board paper is protected with plastic and the desks have been buffed twice over by the custodial staff. However, for a younger school moving into a new space or for a new teacher to the building, setting up a left over room in a day already packed in with mandatory meetings, can be as unrealistic a task as bringing 30 students’ reading levels up three years in four months. Some teachers in my building will have the privilege of both this year.


Like many new small public high schools in New York City, we gain a new class of students each year necessitating about six new staff members and four new classrooms. This year we got just that and the school bequeathing their rooms and moving out, was not so kind as to throw out anything at the end of the year.

Our gifts included:

  • 30-year-old beakers
  • tired looking chicken fetuses sealed in strange yellow liquid filled flasks
  • those old metal compasses with golf pencils
  • 50 moldy copies of Romeo and Juliet
  • half the pieces of a bicycle
  • AND a bag of M&M’s

All left to our school’s judgment.


A group of us were in the building late the other night sorting and cleaning. It came to me to decide the fate of most literature left behind – by the way, no copies of Kirk Cameron’s Left Behind* were in fact, left behind.

Among the derelict texts were mostly middle school level novels but most in great condition. There was no way they would all fit in my room, and from my experience, not many of my students read independently. When they do, most are either reading the Twilight books or novels you buy from the guy outside the Duane Reade.** So, forced to do something, pitch them or save them, I decided to pitch them.

It’s the old school’s fault for leaving them, I thought. But it wasn’t as easy as that. As I tossed copy after copy of such neglected classics as A Family Apart and Red Scarf Girl, I realized there was easily a class set there and perhaps a teacher in New York would like to teach with these or at least give them away. After ten titles had hit the bottom of the can, I couldn’t go further. I took the bag out and filled it with the rest, then dragged it – way too heavy to lift – down the hall to my room.

By 8 pm, I had too huge bags full of books and no where to put them. At least they weren’t in the trash I thought. Earlier in the day I saw a box of Catcher in the Rye in the hallway and when I asked a custodian later where it went, he said, “TRASH!” My knees got weak.

I’m making it my mission to get the abandoned books a home in the next month.

This experience left me with a few realizations:

1.  Way way way too much is wasted in this world. Public schools are not innocent of this and spend a lot of money on books that they discard years later when the curriculum changes again. I’ve seen the horror with my own eyes.


2. Teachers thinking they will be ready for the first day of school by only putting in an 8 to 3 the day before are sadly, sadly mistaken. More sadly, many won’t mind when they realize it.


3. Finally, if anyone in the New York City area wants a lot of free books, contact me.


Did you find anything interesting when moving in to your classroom? Share in the comments section!

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