Last week, the walls came tumbling down. As I stood at the demolition site of the crumpling, century-old school, my mind took me back. Hands clammy cold and heart pounding, I had walked through its columned doors and up a wide staircase to interview with the principal for a teaching job.

“Your kids got you the job,” he told me later. “They went through this school on auto-pilot.”

Noticing my raised eyebrow, he added, “That and your credentials.”

Computers first came to school while I was teaching in this building, and with them came word-processing and the internet.

“How can we teach kids to spell,” we wondered aloud during lunch in the teachers’ lounge, “when they have spell-check? How will we teach to them to research when they have the internet?”

In those first years of my teaching, I didn’t have much in my toolbox. To discipline students, for example, I relied on issuing demerits and sending kids to the office.

“Don’t make the office the authority in your classroom,” the assistant principal warned me. “Be your own authority.

In this now-collapsing building, I had discovered how to do this, one hard lesson at a time.

As the excavating machines rumbled on, grabbing at brick and mortar with their jaws, I stared at the empty sky where my old classroom had been. Of all my old classrooms, I had loved this one the most. It had high ceilings, generous windows, oiled, wide-plank floors, and miles of slate chalkboards that accepted chalk eagerly, making each marking so vivid it drew the eyes. And around the sides of the room was plenty of space for bookshelves and quiet nooks.

But no matter its charm, the school had to come down. Water had been freezing and thawing in the walls, bricks were falling off its exterior, plaster was bubbling up in the classrooms, and if you took a wrong step, your foot might go right through the floor.

It was an old, worn-out school, but still I felt sad.

I brought a brick home with me. I’d like to think it came from wall outside my classroom. I plan to chip the mortar off it and use it as a bookend for my how-to-teach books. But I don’t need a brick to remember the classroom where I learned more from my students than they learned from me.

5 Replies to “Demolition”

  1. Well written, Mrs. Schwartz! So many memories that fill my heart with joy. I believe it was an exceptional school where students did leave with an education. Outstanding teachers that knew their students, yes, their students were the first priority at LMS.


  2. I had no idea my old middle school was being torn down. It was one of the most beautiful schools I attended! A lovely tribute, Mom. Ann Marie


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