Another by-product of writing with (for?) students . . .


Spring Fever, Teachers’ Version

Imagine how the term spring fever has different meanings to people in different vocations.  For example, farmers or professional baseball players likely believe spring fever is a desirable affliction, for their livelihoods are rooted in the excitement of spring.  But for many other vocations, spring fever has a much more distracting influence that’s anything but exciting.  Consider, for example, those who teach school.  For a teacher, spring fever is a disabling condition of the spirit that longs for the end of the tiresome school year and the exhilarating release of summer that follows May.

The disabling condition of spring fever is not so much physical as it is mental.  In fact, the physical vitality of the victim may actually prosper in the moderating weather, the lengthening days, and the green rebirth of nature.  But not so the mind!  The mind is crippled, debilitated, and tortured as the prisoner of his classroom looks outside the window to behold blooming Dogwoods and greening grass.  As much as he longs to throw down his lecture notes and marking pen and escape to the fragrant outdoors where his heart yearns, he is captive to the school bell’s hourly signal to file one class in and another one class out, the seven-period ebb and flow of disaffection.  The torture is exacerbated by the calendar’s short promise of June, the proverbial light of summer at the end of the school year’s nine-month long tunnel, the time countable now by weeks rather than months.

The earliest symptom of spring fever for the typical school teacher is a grumpy disposition that typically manifests itself at the end of the Mardi Gras break.  Those two day holidays in February or early March give way to resentment at having to return to work, furthermore prompting a longing for freedom from the school-day grind.  Students returning to school from the break should be aware that their teachers, especially on that first Wednesday, will be short-tempered and ill-humored.   Furthermore, additional symptoms will follow that early onset of grumpiness.

The next symptom of spring fever, teary eyes and a scratchy throat, usually shows up around mid-March during the height of the pollen and hay fever season.  This is the only spring fever symptom that has traits of physical illness, since it’s certainly related to the air-borne allergens that evoke sneezing and snorting.  But the allergy-related symptoms which weaken the bodily constitution also work to deflate the school-weary teacher’s spirit so that heightened lethargy, also known as don’t-give-a-damn-itis, intensifies.  Students find that teachers thus-afflicted will give fewer homework assignments and less demanding assignments in general, all because the teachers’ lethargy feeds the teachers’ growing disdain for having to do school work, which includes grading tests and papers.  (This spring fever symptom is students’ favorite!)

The final symptom of spring fever, giddiness, begins to show up in early May.  The teacher, now counting days rather than weeks till the end, is seized daily by fits of gleeful ecstasy, a sensation much like the endorphin high runners experience after a vigorous 5K race.  Sure, the runner feels tired, but the delightful prospect of the last day of school is so palpable that accomplishment overwhelms the numbing effect of weariness, not to mention the near-looming prospect of prolonged rest and recuperation.

Gratefully, for as much spring fever is debilitating and long-suffering during its course, it’s never fatal.  Over time, in fact, veteran educators accept, even embrace, its onset.  Considering other professions, which don’t offer prolonged summer seasons of daze off, teachers understand that this seasonal malaise is part of the rhythm of their work, one which must (and can be!) endured to get to the prize at the end of the school year.  For then comes healing by way of the three best reasons to teach—June, July, and August!