As I write this, there are 19 days of school left. As my students' mothers drop their darlings off each morning, they pat my shoulder in sympathy and solidarity.
And then they run.
Just kidding. Actually, they skip quickly. Away from my room toward their last 19 childless days before Summer Vacation. Because the children will be on their side of the classroom door until late August.
What is life like in a first grade classroom in the waning days of the school year? Well, here are a few of my observations gathered over 20 years in the trenches of May.
*Even six year-olds know May signals the end of school. It's my fault. I taught them the months of the year. Next year I'm thinking about introducing a new "extra" month after April. By the time they realize it's fake, school will be out and the craziness will have been avoided. In my dreams.
*This time of year brings on a phenomenon known in the teaching profession as "pillbugging". You look on the floor and a child or ten is spinning on their heads. Literally. If you call their names and break the spell, they stare blankly at you. I think it must be an out-of-body experience. Needless to say, listening is not at an optimal level.
*Any rule that is broken now has been a rule for 156 days. We count the days in my room. Daily. So, when a rule like "We don't jump off the top of the jungle gym" is broken, the offender has heard it about, oh, 156 times. In his defense, maybe the information fell out of his brain while he was pillbugging.
*There is talk every year at this time about May salaries becoming "Hazardous Duty" pay. You know: like in the military when the troops are sent to the front lines. More May, more pay.
*I have a little game I like to play in May. I look in any direction and shake my head "no". At least five kids will stop the rule-breaking thing they are doing. This is especially fun in crowded school assemblies. You can stop 20 kids with each shake of the head.
*Recess seems to get a little longer each day. In spite of the Texas heat that is already at a record high. I'm thinking of opening a lemonaid stand under that big tree. I think it would stretch out recess a wee bit longer if I keep them hydrated.
*The question I am asked most often these days is, "Do we HAVE to (fill in the blank)?" I have learned to tilt my head, put on my most winning smile and say, "No, you lucky duck! You GET to (fill in the blank)!!!" They stare at me blankly, and return to pillbugging.
19 more days. Full of assemblies, cleaning out, taking down, sending home.
One thing I know for sure? In August, I'll be counting down the days until they are back.