Waste

The last week of school always brings locker clean-out day. Our middle school has it officially planned for the last day of school, but having seen many of my students’ lockers, I knew an additional day would be helpful for a lot of them.

I was astounded at the level of waste these students are comfortable with.

No fewer than four students had ten or twelve water bottles in their lockers, many of which were still half full of water. Instead of finishing the first bottle before buying another, they would just get new ones. (Heaven forbid they drink water from the drinking fountain. No, bottled spring water it must be.) And what happened to these half-full bottles? Dropped into the gigantic black trash bags I had available.

I also pulled books out of the trash. Actual novels in good shape. Some of them had been on my book giveaway cart that I have had yearly the last several years. (I buy books at the public library’s used book sale, and then let my students take their pick.) At least four of the books one girl took from my cart she just tossed in the trash simply because she didn’t want them after all.

I was apoplectic.

Students also had lockers full of unused index cards, unopened packages of notebook paper, barely used notebooks, new composition books, and three-ring binders in good condition. If I hadn’t told them ahead of time to give me anything in decent condition that they didn’t want, I have no doubt that they’d have disposed of these items as well. In addition to these supplies, I acquired several folders, a stapler, a clipboard, a scientific calculator, a huge bottle of hand sanitizer, three boxes of facial tissue, two packages of baby wipes, and innumerable new or barely used pencils.

Not to mention the seven huge bags of things they did throw away.

At the end of the day as I watched students pack up to go home, a boy dropped a small handful of coins right in front of my room. “Oooo, money!” I teased.

He told me he didn’t care; he was just going to leave it there. Somebody else could have it.

“Shoot, I’ll pick it up,” I said. “It saddens me that you don’t understand the value of these coins.”

“Oh, I have lots more at home,” he replied.

“Well, you don’t have these,” I answered, pocketing twenty-seven cents.

And next year, when my kids come to class without supplies, I suppose I’ll just give back to them all the stuff they bequeathed to me today.

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