The longest month |Mark’s Remarks


Every year around this time,  teachers start to repeat tired old sayings like “We still have a month of school left! May I remind you summer has not started yet? Homework is still important!”

Kids start to get spring fever when warm weather comes along. Let’s face it: so does everyone else.

The general public starts asking teachers the same old questions also. “Are you counting down the days? What are you going to do all summer? Are you ready to stop working for a while?”

Sure. I have a summer planned with next to nothing to do.  The Life of Riley, I tell you. Endless days of leisure with plenty of money to spend on lavish trips and frivolities. Notice I am being harshly sarcastic and purposely snarky; I particularly hate the “what are you going to do all summer?” question. I’m going to catch up on all the stuff I’ve put on the back burner during the school year.  

Good answer?

It seems like just a few days ago we were putting away Christmas decorations and putting on warm clothing to lounge around the house. Kids would come in from recess with rosy, freeze-dried cheeks; now replaced by volcanic swellings from heat and exertion during a recess with sunlight and warmer temps. 

The school year always seems to fly by. As I grow older, it goes even faster.  Life in general goes faster.  We start school. We turn around and its Halloween.  Once Halloween is over, the holidays are here and it’s time to start school again after break.  We have a little slow down in the dark, cold winter months, but March comes soon and before you know it, it’s May 1.  

Most teachers will agree with me that the May calendar is a special month; it has 60-80 days, depending on your group of students.

It’s this time of the year that we start to see some of the more compliant kids start to show us their more spirited side. Another thing teachers find themselves saying at this time of the year is “I haven’t had any trouble with you this year!”  

It usually doesn’t last long. But this is the time of year when some of those kids start to experiment a little with some spit and vinegar.

But I can’t say I don’t look forward to some of the things that come with warm weather and end-of-the-year procedures. We take some extra class time and go outside to read or do an experiment. We take a jog around the courtyard before taking a test, or go out for an exciting fire drill.  Some of the group projects I love are brought out during these last few weeks, and kids seem remarkably creative and more likely to work well with a group after they’ve had a little vitamin D and fresh air.

There are students excited about baseball and other spring sports. Kids start to look forward to vacations and summer activities and excitedly talk about what sixth grade will be like.  We start counting down days on the board, erasing the right number each day and replacing it with one less. We review concepts and check to see if students have retained things we’ve taught. Teachers wonder if they’ve done enough to prepare students for the next grade level.

Spring fever isn’t something easily treated.  It’s an ongoing disease in which symptoms can only be treated with small doses of reality and sometimes, hard-nosed activity. 

Some days, hours buzz by like lazy bees on a hot summer day. We daydream.  We think of sleeping late and staying up late. Our mind goes to screen doors being left open and lightning bugs.

But wait! Not yet. We still have a month left.

Mark Tullis is a veteran teacher in the Columbia School District. Originally from Fairfield, he is married with four children and has been involved in various aspects of professional and community theater for many years. Tullis has written his “slice of life” style column for this newspaper since 2007.

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