Chuck Brooks: The ode to June has a new tune
And then there was June. What a welcomed sight it was. Or is.
Summer doesn't officially begin for a few more weeks, but now that we're past Memorial Day, most would refer to these days as summer days. School is one week from shutting down again, and teachers are ready to plug themselves in to their summer rechargers. Parents are gearing up to be parents for more than several hours a day. And the weather forecast is for sunny days and beautiful nights. Life is good.
I remember during my career when we would arrive at June, the light at the end of that proverbial tunnel was shining brighter than ever. Teachers' thoughts were essentially, Just hang on. Only a few more days now.
However, since retiring, June is just another month. The excitement that once came with June is now definitely muted on some levels. That's not necessarily a bad thing.
Have I ever told you how it once was on the final days of school in my early years? It definitely was crazier than it was at the end of my tenure. On the final day of school, after the last test was taken and that final bell sounded, kids moved through the halls with great expediency and energy. Many, and I do mean many, literally emptied their folders of now-useless handouts, corrected papers and tests all over the hallway floors. They'd rip the remaining pages out of their notebooks and throw them in the air as they moved down the stairwells, heading for the front doors.
It was a sea of white as one would stand at one end of a floor looking down the hall to the other end. It was an amazing sight. The end of school was an event, but administrators and custodians weren't too happy about it.
That would evolve into a different phenomenon. Water balloons and water guns of all sizes. This began with about two weeks remaining in the year. Kids would fill their backpacks with small water balloons. When a class ended and the kids were squeezing their way through the stairwells, someone from higher up would take off his backpack (it was usually guys who did this) and begin to pelt students on the lower steps with water balloons; kids would to their next class sopping wet. And the water guns would rear their ugly heads at any time in the course of the day.
Eventually, that died down. Partly because administration got tough, partly because guns of any kind were taboo, and partly because it just seemed to lose it luster with the kids.
As for the paper tornado, that changed when "locker cleanout" occurred. It was effective for a while. On a late May afternoon, for about 20 minutes, we'd all go with our homerooms to their locker area and kids would be encouraged to clean out their locker with stuff that had acquired throughout the year. It was also a good time for kids to put library books they likely had all school year on carts in the halls. The library always regained some of its inventory.
Eventually kids saw lockers as unnecessary and chose to carry their locker's worth of materials in their backpacks. They opted for carrying the burden on their backs, so they could socialize more with friends as opposed to running to lockers.
I'd say for at least the final 10 years of my career, the last day of school was extremely subdued. It was as if the students were simply heading off for a weekend. Where once kids would stop by and wish us a happy summer vacation, it had evolved into a quiet march to the doors and on to whatever awaited them beyond.
"It came without ribbons, came without tags...it came without packages, boxes or bags . ..."
Frankly, I hated it. It was far too anticlimactic for me. I can remember returning to my room, looking at the finals I had to grade, sitting down in my chair and thinking, That's it? I liked it better when kids seemed excited about summer.
I was recently reminiscing with a friend who was teaching at Rosemount High School when I began. I asked him if he remembered a day on a boat in midsummer many years ago, probably the first summer after my first year of teaching. There were a handful of us enjoying a summer vacation day on the lake. I told him I could remember voicing a sentiment that was met with anything but agreement.
I said something to the effect, "I can't wait for school to start again. I really miss the kids."
I thought they were going to throw me in the lake and make me swim back to the shore. Over time, that sentiment changed. I still missed the kids, but was in no rush for August to arrive.
So it's June. Bring on the fairs, the picnics, the mosquitoes and the fireworks. Throw in some watermelon and corn on the cob eventually, and it's life at its best. Get out there and live it!