Small Talk

Spring has arrived in North County

I don’t remember what Punxsutawney Phil had to say on Groundhog Day, but there is no doubt that spring has arrived in North County.

I know this simply by watching the youngsters around the schoolyard. It doesn’t really matter if it’s sunny or gray. There are certain undeniable signs at every age level.

If you notice the kindergarteners, you find that they have begun looking like first-graders and hardly ever wander through the library anymore with that “Where the heck is my classroom and what was my teacher’s name again?” look in their eyes.

Those with the most obvious symptoms are the sixth-graders, of course. With the arrival of spring, you find small knots of girls either giggling wildly or crying desperately. This can change in the time it takes you to blink. Should you get close enough to hear what is causing all this drama, it will be sixth-grade boys. The sixth-grade boys are suddenly sporting very hip hairdos and the occasional men’s cologne and can often be seen circling the aforementioned knot of girls.

At almost every grade level there is a rise in frequency of one chasing the other, usually at a speed they are not supposed to go, in places they are not supposed to be, with accompanying shrieks that will shatter your phone screen.

The first graders are generally feeling pretty darned smug at this point, as most have learned to read. The library is their oyster, baby. I have to keep sending them back to the primary section after they lug the biggest book they can find up to the check-out desk. It doesn’t matter that it is the “Trilogy of the Rings” or “The Complete Encyclopedia of Human Knowledge.” They figure if they can read, then they want to read big.

A sure sign of spring for the second- and third-graders is that they require twice as much P.E. time to burn off their energy. They seem to skip faster, jump higher, and think they can stop on a dime and give you nine cents change. They have to be told not to test this theory in the library, at least once a day.

The seasonal sign for fourth-graders is measured in fingerprints on the library doorframe. Spring is the time the fourth-graders have grown just enough that they can finally leap up and touch the top. It is a rite of passage and making a good smudge is a badge of honor.

The true growth spurts, however, are reserved for the fifth graders, who every spring begin looking eye to eye with me. I knew them all by sight and name last year. Then they shoot up, lose the baby fat around their faces, shoulders get wider, waists get smaller and suddenly, I don’t recognize two-thirds of them. And they love that.

My challenge now is to get the books returned from Mission and general book reports, before Almost Summeritis completely clouds their brains (and possibly mine).

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who finds school springtime adorable. Contact her at