Just that one thing

Last Tuesday, I stopped by our school to see how things were going with revamping the modular classrooms for this fall. Last spring we’d been asked to check the space and create a list of items that needed to be repaired, added, removed, etc. It was a fairly extensive list, ranging from minor items to must-haves to wishful thinking. We left for the summer knowing materials (cubbies with storage, book shelves, etc.) had been ordered and should be installed over the summer.

Unfortunately,I found out Tuesday, the long and short of it is that no one really remembered the list (you know–summer break, retiring secretary, travel, oh and that pandemic thing). So, no one had followed up on this spring’s order. ..until this past Monday when they called the furniture company to be told, “Oh. Um. That order. Hold on a sec…….um… Yeah. That order. So. Um. That order is um…Oh, yeah! It’s shipping on Wednesday.”


After getting that news, I walked out to see the classroom to check things out. As noted, there are no cubbies. There is no classroom shelving of any kind, and no in-class storage. There is a closet though with plenty of shelves, and there are student desks. The path to the building has been paved and there’s a newly paved learning area outside the backdoor. All bright spots in a panicky sea of “OMG, how am I going to be ready for school on time!?”

I left, hoping for the best, and returned on Friday with a very simple plan. I headed out to my new classroom knowing that I wouldn’t be able to do too much.

I’ll just get my head in the space and get my desk organized. That will be a good start!

As I expected, nothing had changed in the intervening days. Chairs were stacked. Desks were double stacked in the corner. There was a left-over computer monitor on one table and some large mysterious objects that clearly were waiting to be mounted…somewhere.

Ok. Focus. You knew you couldn’t do much. Remember, your goal is just to get your desk organized. Just that one thing. So…Deep breath. Desk.

I looked around.

Where’s my desk?

I looked around again.

Ok. There has to be a desk here somewhere.

I slowly turned, scanning the room.

OMG! Where’s my desk? Where’s my desk? Where’s my desk?

I looked up, down, all over. To be honest, there weren’t many places to look, but I kept trying. Finally, I had to face facts.

There is no desk here.

I took a deep breath and then another. Then I went in search of our fabulous custodian, Nicole. I knew they’d been down one person all summer and were working all out to get the school ready. I tried to keep that in mind. Then I begged a little. Or maybe a lot.

“If you get a chance…”

“As soon as possible…”

“You’d be saving my life…”

Nicole assured me she’d do her best, and I walked back into my classroom, thinking hard.

Ok. So, you can’t organize your desk. But, hey! Look! There’s a file cabinet. You can get your files organized.

So, I pushed aside a big box labeled something along the lines of “Last box. Mish Mash. You’re going to regret this next fall!” and opened up a few smaller boxes labeled “Files.” I placed file by file into the top drawer, slowly regaining my equilibrium.

See. It’s all good. This has to happen, too. You’ll get a desk in the next day or so. (read this in the sing-song tone of a parent talking down a child who is on the brink of losing her s!%t!)

Then, I reached to open the bottom drawer. I pulled. Nothing happened. I pulled again. It didn’t budge.

Now what?!?

I looked closer.


Running out of the bottom drawer of the file cabinet were two thick electrical cords. They were wedged in the closed drawer and try though I might, I couldn’t get the drawer open.

What was in there, anyway!?

I pushed. I pulled. I maybe swore a little.

None of that worked.

Clearly I wasn’t going to be able to use this file cabinet.

So, I e-mailed Nicole.

After sending the e-mail, I took another deep breath. I looked around the room.
I opened a few boxes and moved them closer to possible future destinations.

Should I just leave and come back next week? Is there any point in being here? Maybe I could get the new schedule printed out…”

Rattle. Rattle. Rattle.

My head popped up.


The door slowly opened.

Nicole, haloed by backlight, entered the room pushing a large dolly…

And there, strapped down on the dolly, like an answer to a prayer, was an upended teacher desk!

(I may have hummed the “Hallelujah Chorus!” under my breath.)

“Oh, my Gosh! A desk! You are the best! Thank you, Nicole! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

I rushed over to help and together we manhandled the desk into the spot I desired. Nicole strapped up the dolly and got ready to leave.

“OMG, Nicole!” I gushed! “Thank you so much! You know what this is like?” The words spilled out of me in a rush. “It’s like when you’re moving to a new house and there are boxes everywhere and everything is in turmoil, but you get your bed put together and made and you know that no matter what, you’re going to be able to go to bed that night. So, everything will be ok. And that’s just how I feel right now. Just like that! ” I ran my hands along the top of the desk, practically dancing around it. “Oh!Thank you soooooo much!”

Nicole laughed and maybe stepped cautiously just a little bit farther away. But I didn’t notice for sure. Because I was already sitting down, pulling boxes closer, and getting ready to get my desk in order.

Everything is going to be all right. Just get your desk organized. Just that one thing.

Looking a bit sterile, but it’s getting there!

25 thoughts on “Just that one thing

  1. Just one first step and then… it all starts coming together. It makes me wonder what we can do to help the students and our colleagues make those initial steps as well. Have a glorious new year.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Janet F. says:

    I remember “this drill”…..our classrooms were emptied into the hall every summer. The rooms were beautifully cleaned and shiny but so much stuff to reposition and unearth. Then there were all the moves. I think maybe 14 in 40 years. And one year during renovations we were in a completely stripped space surrounded only by the concrete walls, floor and ceiling on fl 2. Plus our stuff in boxes. We tried to keep as much packed as we might not need immediately. Then in Jan. moved to our new beautiful home downstairs. Another time of organizing. Woe be the “collector” teacher in me. I know you will make your new space beautiful and inviting and as ready as you need it. I think your own “spot” like a tiny house could lead to some lovely learning, but then would happen in any spot with a teacher like you. I loved reading your post, but I feel for the strain of this time……it’s almost like the waiting and nesting before the baby arrives. Oh happy but hard day!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      It is a bit like nesting πŸ™‚ The unknowns are hardest for me–will the cubbies arrive in time or not? How big are they? Will the bookshelves be big enough to hold the bins I house my library in or not? It’s all good though and these are minor bumps in the road. Hopefully I’ll have some students drop in on Thursday for our casual “Meet and Greet.” That’s always motivating!


  3. Debbie Lynn says:

    Oh my gosh, I could feel you anxiety as I read your story…and it brought back SO many memories of things that could go wrong when trying to get ready for the first day of school! I hope that’s the worst of your worries and everything will fall into place for a smooth opening of school! Loved your voice in this piece! This would be a great piece of writing to share with your students! πŸ™‚ Happy First Day!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. margaretsmn says:

    As a gifted (itinerant) teacher, this has happened to me many, many times over the course of my teaching career. The custodians are a godsend in these situations. Gotta love them!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. humbleswede says:

    This is great. I love the “a journey of a thousand miles begins with…” feeling. I also really like all of your “I may have…” sentences. I may have chuckled each time. I hope this week is productive.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Amy Ellerman says:

    Ha–I love the way you labeled that last box: β€œLast box. Mish Mash. You’re going to regret this next fall!” Those final items when moving are always the hardest.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. gailaldousmsncom says:

    Great post, voice, and title, Molly! I could feel your anxiety and tension. I liked your onomatopoeia and “haloed backlight” after the name of your custodian. They are definite angels. I resonate with your piece because one year when I was a Special Education Resource teacher I didn’t have a classroom or a desk. It was a challenge, but the kids were great and I got a lot of exercise.

    It’s great that you have a window with a view of a field and woods. Maybe your class can have a bird feeder outside that window. Isn’t Dictionary For a Better World the best book to share with your students? I love that book and I wish I had a class of students to share it with. I am going to start substituting this year in October. I like the haikus on the poster, too and I love Out of Wonder, which I did get to share with my poetry students in the summer. Have a wonderful school year and great moments with your students. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      How did you know that I already put a bird feeder outside the window!? πŸ™‚ That was item #2 after the desk. “Dictionary for a Better World” is the BEST, and my colleague and I used it extensively with our fourth graders last year. Thanks for the good wishes. Ready or not, here we go!


  8. It can’t surprise you that I am totally fascinated about your life in the classroom. Why the portable classroom for MBH? You volunteered? I knew it. Team player. You must be once of those vaccinated folks who thinks of the common good. What a concept during a crises! Keep these slices coming.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. haitiruth says:

    Oh my, this is wonderful! I am in my second week with kids, so I’m past this stage this year, but I’ve been there soooo many times. Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      I think many teachers can relate, and you certainly have had to manage more ups and downs than I ever have. I hope that school is providing both you and your students with a piece of normal that feels comforting.


  10. Tim Gels says:

    So much of your slice resonated with me as you captured the beginning of the year so well! I laughed out loud, though, when you brought up having the bed made. My family and I have moved many times over a 20+ year military career, and making the bed was always my wife’s highest priority. She shares your thoughts: If the bed is made, everything else can wait. Best of luck with that filing cabinet!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Your wife is my kind of people πŸ™‚ Rest assured, the filing cabinet has been vanquished! Nicole came to the rescue with a crowbar! We still have no idea why there were cords involved, but we rescued two reams of paper.


  11. maryleehahn says:

    What an epic saga! Good thing you have an awesome janitor, and huzzah for the crowbar! I know the physical space seems like the most important part right now because it’s the only thing you can control. But as you said, on Thursday, when students come to visit, the most important thing will snap back into top priority: community. You’ve got this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks for the encouragement, Mary Lee! I figure if the environment is…well, let’s say fluid, and constantly evolving, we’ll have great memories to share!


  12. Anonymous says:

    I was rooting for you at every turn! Glad you got the desk- just 1 thing is a great mantra!


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