The last month of school before summer is the best time to observe students.
The weather begins its transition from an Alaskan tundra to a Midwestern spring. The sun no longer creeps out of the sky at 4:30 but instead floats in the sea of blue for an additional three hours, tempting those of us with homework to put the pencil down and breathe some fresh air. The idea of an uninterrupted slumber until midmorning appeals to us more than waking up and commuting to the same building that we have been trapped in for the last eight months. The month of May brings an infectious case of ‘Senioritis’ to every soul longing for a school-free day and a homework-free night.
And this is why the last month of school before summer is the best time to observe students.
If you have never sat back and examined a classroom in the middle of May, you are missing out. Everything is in reverse. White walls and ceilings draw more attention than chemistry lessons. The valleys engraved in our hands seize the spotlight, rather than our math teachers describing arithmetic relationships. We spend our time decorating notebooks with doodles instead of notes, if anything at all. While we are supposed to be watching educational videos, the feature being presented on the inside of our eyelids has teachers raving, instead of critics. Our minds are everywhere but where they need to be, all due to an educational burnout and a temperature change.
The students who sit by windows suffer the most. Only an inch of glass separates them and the outside world, full of sunshine, happiness, and freedom. Not only can they see the newly photosynthesized world, but all the activity happening in it. How could one possibly focus if squirrels and birds are frolicking together on a sugar maple ten feet away? And that tree is budding? And the ground the budding tree stands upon is green? These are sights we can see for only six months at most! Thanks, South Dakota.
While studying a late-in-the-year classroom, one has to look even deeper, past the things that are visible to the naked eye. One must look for the things that can’t be seen, particularly certain students who have decided to take a second spring break and do not attend class for consecutive days. One cannot be too hostile towards toward these people. Maybe disappointed, maybe envious, maybe amused, but never sour. These people have chosen to bypass the last weeks of work, where grades are most vulnerable and the chance to compensate for slip-ups is slim to none. It’s in these final weeks where a teacher’s given workload is slightly more tedious, not to annoy students, but to help give a boost in percentages for the ones who need it. It’s both a blessing and a curse. With the exception of finals week, this time during the year is the riskiest to miss, and the daredevils who do choose to eschew it are flirting with danger.
Imagine a perfect July summer evening. The temperature sits at a comfortable 80 degrees. A sunset painted by the hand of God stretches across a canvas above the Earth. A slight breeze rolls through the atmosphere, not the type that bites at the nose and numbs the fingers. It’s a warm breeze, the kind that gently ruffles the trees and glides silently over the grass. With every inhalation, an essence of freshly-cut lawns and burgers sizzling on the grill fill the nostrils. In the distance a bat cracks as it collides with a ball, watching fans scream and shout, and one voice rises above it all, that mom who takes her 12-year old’s softball games too seriously.
This is peace. This is bliss.
Now, imagine spending this perfect evening inside at your kitchen table, surrounded by chemistry worksheets and history notes that must be studied for the final. You can hear the neighbor-children outside playing, and you have to pass up the chance to sit on the front porch with a glass of iced tea, observing this friendly game of street hockey. This is what the last weeks of school feel like.
So, what are teachers to do? Do they assign work and make students grind it out in the classroom and at home until the final bell of the year rings? Or do they sit back and let socializing and laziness replace lesson plans? Everyone has different answers, and I can guarantee the student preference is much different from the faculty’s.
I should sit here and keep typing for you, maybe answer the rhetorical questions I just asked, maybe talk about a metaphorical connection with the spring classroom and some part of nature, maybe point out other observations of students and adults in our educational establishment. Maybe give a long message of motivation to keep going until the last day.
But it’s 68 degrees outside, the sky is a mixture of purple and orange, iced tea sits inside of my refrigerator, and the softball fields are full of games. It’s a perfect (almost) summer evening, and I’m going to go enjoy it.