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By Julian Peeples

When school districts across the state suddenly shuttered in March to stem the COVID-19 pandemic, it was unknown how long the crisis would last and what the ensuing weeks and months would entail. Many educators and students left one afternoon unaware it would be the last time in their classroom for the school year.

Almost six weeks later, most of these classrooms are frozen in time—lessons written on white boards, projects waiting on drying tables, neglected lunches growing mold, and other evidence of the excitement and activity that should be taking place there. While some educators have been able to check on their rooms, most have not had the opportunity and are silently grieving the temporary loss of their second homes.

We asked CTA members what items they wished they had remembered when leaving school last, and we got a long list of forgotten items–some funny, some sad and all touching. The top of the list by far in this new era of online learning: Document cameras, which many said would help immensely with lessons during the age of COVID.

Here’s a selection of some of the other responses to “What’s the one thing you left in your classroom you wish you remembered and why?”

Jennifer Nanik, Bret Harte Teachers Association
Dirty coffee cup. But here is my board with the agenda for March 13. I just erased it yesterday.

Jayson Chang, East Side Teachers Association
My thunderbolt adapter. Now I can’t plug USBs into my MacBook and no, I don’t want to spend my own money to get one.

Shanon Romiti, Southside Educators Association
A brand new pack of soda.

Miranda Quinn Cook, Cajon Valley Education Association
The moldy bread experiment stapled to the wall.

Dara Rosen, Vista Teachers Association
I left my lunch from March 13 in my fridge. Didn’t eat it because math department hosted a Pi Day luncheon. It’s still there, rotting.

Shalome Hurley, Redding Teachers Association
An N95 mask in my desk.

Lauren Chambers, Atascadero District Teachers Association
I wish I had my mementos from students to hang in my home “office” and my document camera would be handy.

Jennifer Rogowski, Colusa Educators Association
My stuffed sloth from my calming corner. I’d love to include him in my weekly videos for my class.

Sammie Flanzbaum, Mt. Diablo Education Association
There’s a side room with practice rooms. And some students eat lunch in there every day and put up post it notes of their art. They keep asking if it’s still there.

Kayla Milam, Lodi Education Association
I left half a box of cereal in my room that I’ve been dreaming about.

Janeta Lau, Oakland Education Association
My two awesome ergonomic office chairs.

Glenda Bartell, Brea Olinda Teachers Association
My clarinet.

Kirstin Korte, Bass Lake Teachers
My fish! (I sneak in to feed him)

Hillary Gutierrez, Dixon Teachers Association
A fourth-grade class science project. I can only imagine how bad it must smell by now.

Marlene Vega, San Luis Coastal Teachers Association
So sad—our last project and kindness tree (each heart had a student’s good deed nominated from a classmate and parents).

Dave Rainey, Association of Colton Educators
HUGE bottle of sanitizer.

Pamela Tarango, Bakersfield Elementary Teachers Association
I have about four sets of watercolor pencils in my classroom. I have three different kinds of watercolor paper at home. I even have a set of paintbrushes, but all my color tubes and pencils are at school. I don’t want to buy any more.

Julie Chanter, Oakland Education Association
My heart.

Casey Schwenning, Rocklin Teachers Professional Association
A monitor to extend my laptop screen, pictures of my students and flair pens.

Jennifer Engel, Santa Maria Elementary Education Association
Their unit projects that were set up to dry. I wish I’d have brought them home to grade so I could’ve emailed them their grades. They worked so hard on them, I feel they deserve to know what their grades are.

Leah Nelsen, San Bernardino Teachers Association
My printer.

Amy Marquis, Redlands Teachers Association
My after-hours solitude. There are people everywhere in this house!

Dana Lee Bell, Fairfield-Suisun Unified Teachers Association
I have a signed poster of Rosie the Riveter. It was signed by the five remaining Richmond Rosies. I have no reason to worry but I would prefer it to be home with me.

Erika Kinney, Corona Norco Teachers Association
Green butcher paper for a green screen. Ended up gluing all my kids’ construction paper onto a black piece of butcher paper I brought home to paint on.

Stephanie Benton, San Jose Teachers Association
Four boxes of tissues, three cans of Clorox wipes, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.

Theresa K. Wicoff, Chula Vista Educators
My gel seat cushion. Who knew I’d be sitting in front of a computer all day?

Venetia Ricchio, Associated Chaffey Teachers
I left the triangle art projects out. Now I’m worried they are going to want to clean or wax and that the student projects will get damaged.

Mary Beth Abordo, Kelseyville Unified Teachers Association
My sea otter mug from Seattle.

Teresa Cimino, Corona Norco Teachers Association
My heart

Heather Fast, Anaheim Elementary Education Association
Leftover snacks from 100s day. There are pretzels, goldfish, and Cheerios. Oh and my giant stuffed unicorn!

Karen Spinks, United Teachers of Santa Clara
Math manipulatives (i.e. teaching clock, Base Ten Blocks, pattern blocks, solid/3D shapes, Unifix Cubes)

Megan Braia, Roseland Educators Association
A class set of books. I want to mail them. I want a real book in their hands to connect us.

Meredith Amori, San Bernardino Teachers Association
A beautiful plant my coworker gave me after my mother passed away.

Angie Velasquez, Fullerton Secondary Teachers Organization
My album with all my class composite pictures. Thankfully, my partner teacher brought this year’s picture home and sent me a pic so I could print and post it by my desk. I want to see my little ones’ faces while I’m recording videos for them.

Jose Bolivar Padilla Quijano, Oakland Education Association
This mask!

Aimee Petite, Yucaipa-Calimesa Educators
My kids. This was my toughest class in 20 years. I came home from work frustrated or crying for the first 135 days. Now all I wish for is just to be back in my classroom even with how rough the year had been for me.

Donna Hale, San Juan Teachers Association