Teaching gets tough when the weather warms.
I never had access to our grade school teachers' classified lesson plans, but I'm pretty sure that the spring curriculum included spending quite a bit of time keeping kids from staring out the windows.
The parochial school I attended as a boy provided each class with a bunch of windows — windows on top of windows. Children already eager to get out of school for the summer could look out of the windows above and see the blue sky, along with fluffy, white clouds that were like magnets for the attention of anybody going to an elementary school in the spring. And lower 1960s-vintage fold-out windows opened at an angle, providing great downward-slanting ramps for balls of rolled-up notebook paper that, when thrown as the teacher's back was turned, bounced off the glass and rolled down the panes toward the parking lot and any people who might be walking below.
Of course, sometimes the balls of paper could get stuck on the metal sash of the window, and a teacher could catch a glimpse of the projectiles — now just litter — sitting there when she turned back around. Then she would glare at us, who we hoped were appearing pretty innocent by that time. And the students who heaved the balls of paper, if stupid enough to raise their hands when the teacher asked who threw them, would be told to go get them — even the ones that fell to the pavement.
All of which would get those pupils outside, in the spring, into the sun, and out of the classroom. Which is exactly where we wanted to be during the final days of a school year. Sometimes life works out.
This is not to say that we students completely abandoned learning in the spring. We didn't — not even the tall ones of us who sat in the back of the classroom and tried to grasp concepts of English or mathematics by looking at the chalkboard over the heads of shorter students.
It's just that the warmth of spring somehow saps the energy of the back-of-the room crowd. We don't feel we have the strength or believe we have the need to look over heads or around shoulders, to focus our eyes on the front of the room to see the lessons being taught on the lower half of the chalkboard.
There were low-lying equations and diagrammed sentences written on the chalkboard in the spring that I never saw and to this day I still don't understand. I never got tested on some of the missing material, either. It was one of the weaknesses of the American educational system decades ago, when everybody sat in rows, and things got passed to the back and to the front. Sometimes you didn't have to take an exam because a teacher made a mistake and didn't put enough test papers on the front desk.
"Why didn't you raise your hand tell me you didn't get a test."
"There weren't enough so I just thought I wasn't supposed to get one."
"Whatever gave you that idea?"
"It was a math exam and I just figured you could count."
I should pause to add here that spring is the worst possible season to have to stay after school on detention. Don't ask me how I know.
You see, pupils in grade school have no time in the spring for dwelling on and learning lessons from past indiscretions. Spring is the season of great expectation, of looking forward in our lives toward our dreams and the pleasures awaiting us in summer, even at the exact moment we are sitting in a classroom reviewing events from decades and centuries in the past so we can actually pass a history final exam.
You would think that the threat of failing that test, and having to take summer school to catch up to our classmates, would be enough to make us concentrate. But, it wasn't, at least in my day. Not even words indicating how important the review work was to our grades — "Let me repeat, this question will be on the final exam ..." — could take our attention away from daydreaming about the days we soon would have off from school in June, July and August.
Then, suddenly, summer vacation was upon us. We were free. In the days before video games and cell phones and social media, we were outside, inventing games and playing them. Having fun. Developing friendships.
As I recall, it all was fun for a week or so. Then we started whining. And, we whined inside, where our mothers really didn't want to hear it because summer certainly wasn't a vacation for them.
"We don't have anything to do."
"Well, you'd better go outside and find something to do or I'll find something for you to do."
We're never satisfied. It's a lesson in life that you never learn in school.