If you’re a school teacher, I hope you get an extra measure of patience this week.
Depending on your school system, the final days of school are approaching. Unfortunately, all of the students in your classroom also know this.
Most of the schools I attended were 1950s-era construction with a wall full of windows at the top and a row of radiators at the bottom. When the big boiler was shut off for the year and the teacher began allowing us to open the windows, you knew the end of school was near.
Other end-of-the-school-year events included field day. I’m the first to admit that I was usually in the bottom 10 percent of my class in terms of athletic prowess, so I was never highly sought after for field day events. I did make my obligatory appearances in three-legged races and the like.
I also believe field day was a chance for the school lunch room to shed some of its excess government–issued peanut butter and flour. The lunchroom ladies prepared sack lunches on field day that included the biggest peanut butter sandwich I’ve ever seen, made on a giant yeast roll. I guess that stuff would spoil over the summer.
My early years were in Atlanta and took place during a time that white families were fleeing to the suburbs because black families were moving to the city. The end of school could also mean the end of friendships. Some kid who was your buddy in first and second grade was gone by the start of third grade.
But there were also new kids who moved in. There was a boy in third grade named Blake. He was born without one of his legs and had a wooden prosthesis. He used to let us knock on that leg. When you’re in third grade, knocking on a kid’s wooden leg was a big deal. One year at field day, he broke his wooden leg playing kickball. I think it scared me more than it did Blake.
Inside, we played a lot of paper football. We folded a sheet of notebook paper into a triangle and would "kick" the "ball" by thumping it with our fingers. If you scored by reaching the edge of the desk, you would attempt a point after by kicking it through the uprights made from your opponent’s fingers.
Something also happened in the warmth of spring. The boys would start noticing the girls and vice versa. It seemed to be a great season for passing notes. I remember writing some profound notes to girls. Usually they consisted of "How are you? I am fine. Do you like me? Check one: Yes or No."
Spring and the final days of school also resulted in an outbreak of cooties. This meant bringing out your trusty ballpoint pen to "immunize" you from this imaginary disease. Sometimes, those immunizing you would recite the cootie shot motto: "Circle circle, dot dot, now you’ve got the cootie shot."
I’m sure there is some secret lab at the Centers for Disease Control where they study such things.
There is no doubt in my mind that those final days of school we tried the patience of many a teacher. I hope this is a good week for teachers and students alike.
Go faster clock, go faster!
Harris Blackwood is a columnist for The Times. His column appears every week in Sunday Life.