“You Want us to Pick up Trash?
A few weeks ago Shelly Blake-Plock or @TeachPaperless sent out a tweet on Twitter asking for teachers to pledge to run a paperless classroom on Earth Day. I decided to join him and 1,499 other educators in this venture. Then, I found out that I would be proctoring the standardized test for my English 3 students. We would be testing for about two hours and then run a shortened schedule for the rest of the day, leaving me about 30 minutes in real class time. Even though I couldn’t be completely paperless, I decided to make those 30 minutes paper free.
This mission to go paperless and recognize Earth Day couldn’t have come at a better time. We had tons of snow this year and the front of our school was looking pretty sad. The plows had dug up the lawn in the front and there was litter everywhere. I decided making our school look more presentable was the perfect way to celebrate Earth Day. No big deal, right? Ha, for my students it would be. I could just imagine their responses when I told them we were going to spend our class time cleaning up the school property. I decided to go ahead and plan it anyway. I got some trash bags and gloves from the head of our maintenance department. Believe me, he was thrilled when I told him what I was planning to do with them. I also went to the store and picked up some small boxes of grass seed for the bare spots on the lawn. I decided not to say a word to the kids about my plan because the forecast was calling for rain, and also, I didn’t want to give them too much time to protest.
This morning, we met for testing. It was raining lightly, so I still didn’t tell the kids about my plan. After testing, I checked outside and it was sunny and warm, a beautiful day for clean up. I went to class and we talked a little about earth day. Then I told the kids what I wanted to do. Here are some of the responses:
One of my boys, laughing out loud, “Ha, she wants us to pick up trash!”
Another of the boys, “I kinda like Earth Day and cleaning up.”
One of the girls, “Do you have gloves?”
Another boy grinning, “What has the earth done for me?”
Another, “Come on Leaness, let’s do it.”
I told the kids they didn’t have to participate and could stay inside with another teacher if they felt that strongly about not wanting to clean up, but only one decided to take that offer. Off we went to the front of the school. I distributed the trash bags and gloves. The kids were a little reluctant at first, but then, I started grabbing the nearest litter. I guess they figured if I was going to clean, they couldn’t just stand there and watch me. One of the maintenance staff came out and saw what we were doing. With a great big smile on her face, she thanked us for pitching in and helping. I repeated the process with my next class and got pretty much the same initial response. Even though at first they weren’t thrilled with my little scheme, the kids were really great once they got going. We cleaned all the litter, and a few of the boys spread the grass seed on the bare spots on the lawn. All in all it was a good day! I think the kids had fun once they got over the fact that it wasn’t so “cool” to pick up trash. As we were walking back to class, one of my girls noticed the electrician smoking a cigarette and whispered, “Please don’t throw your cigarette butt on the ground, we just cleaned a whole pile a few minutes ago.” She was respectful when she asked. He just looked and smiled. You know that butt was going in the rocks where the rest had been.
Our Earth day activity was really just a small contribution to recognizing Earth Day. I do hope my kids will think before throwing their trash on the ground, and that just maybe they have gained a little more pride in their school.
I have to say, the school looked much nicer on my way out of the building than it did on my way in.