I didn’t really need to mark March 20 as the beginning of spring. I work at a school. All I had to do was walk by a bunch of sixth-graders. There is no more accurate bellwether of the rising sap.
This time of year, you will find squirrely behavior at every grade level, but among the 11 and 12-year-olds, all kinds of heck is breaking loose. I am actually a little sorry for them; because it’s really not something they have a lot of say about. Puberty has handed out a smack down like a tsunami and they are just learning to dog paddle. I expect, however, the surge of springtime hormones is as much a part of preparing for junior high as mastering multi-digit decimal multiplication.
The boys can be suddenly dumbfounded by the sight of the girl in the desk next to them. Poor guys. It’s a wonder they get anything accomplished from April through June. Oh wait. They don’t. But they get really funny and goofy. It’s the ultimate test of their sense of humor.
Sixth-grade teachers clearly have developed, or were born with, many special skills. Foremost would be selective hearing because I believe the ever-more-shrill giggling of the girls actually cracked the lens in my reading glasses. I don’t think the teachers have resorted to tranquilizer darts yet, but they must have some secret method of getting both sexes to settle down and focus, for short bursts of time.
Teachers are certainly able to find a way to speak louder than 30 revved up kids, which must require the breathing discipline of an opera tenor. And I believe they have mastered a look that has the same affect as a bucket of cold water. The best of them find ways to channel the upwelling of giddiness into creative learning. Those are the true masters.
Other sure signs are harder to spot in California, as girls here wear teeny, tiny shorts all year long. They may have a parka on top, but their legs seem weatherproof. I imagine in Minnesota, the sixth-grade boys must get whiplash the first week of warm weather, when the girls lose the heavy coats and break out the minimal wardrobe.
To add insult to injury, this is the year of “health class.” It’s time to learn about all those body parts that have suddenly leapt into action. Most kids would rather stab themselves in the eye with a pencil. Upon returning the final test, the teacher intones, “Please take these home and share them with your parents.”
If you listen very closely, you can almost hear the unanimous student response — “Yeah. About the same time I give up my phone, eat a scorpion and then take a dip in the nearest volcano.”
Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who is always happy she is not headed for junior high. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.