Schools fight restlessness as classes end

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Restless and distracted students in May are as predictable as the rising temperature, teachers say.

With state tests administered, grades duly recorded and lockers cleaned, the allure of summer break can be too much for some. Discipline referrals, tardies and absences all rise.

"It's really hard to keep the kids engaged. It seems like after Play Day everyone's done," said Franklin Elementary principal Rhonda Dunham.

School ends this week in Cape Girardeau and Jackson, but many students mentally checked out days ago, teachers say. They are left with a problem: how to motivate students so the last week of school isn't a waste.

Schools are combating the problem in different ways. Some are organizing field trips, taking class outside or staging ceremonies, like at Franklin.

Central Junior High math teacher Julie Gray switched to conducting more hands-on activities.

"Really any kind of game or activity to get them out of their seat. They're tired of sitting there. It's pretty outside. They're ready to get out," Gray said.

On Tuesday, she held her new puppy and watched other faculty members play students in a game of powder puff football. Seventh- and eighth-graders with good attendance and behavior got to attend the post-finals event, which featured sports, a snack and time to socialize.

Today, the last day of school, students will attend an awards assembly and watch and end-of-the-year video, according to principal Roy Merideth.

In Jackson, students will be giddily running the halls Friday, their last scheduled day.

Restlessness is particularly bad this year, teachers say, because of the large number of bad weather days. School was initially planned to end May 22 in both Cape Girardeau and Jackson. Dunham said there are "a lot of students out" because parents made late-May vacation plans before the bad weather struck in February.

At Franklin, teachers have been teaching, taking grades and giving assessments up until the last minute, Dunham said. New teachers have been coming to the school this week to see their room, pick up curricula and meet students. Five new teachers and a new counselor will begin next school year.

There has also been commotion with moving furniture, printing out report cards, collecting overdue lunch money or library books and cleaning classrooms and desks.

At Alma Schrader Elementary, there have been "lot and lots of ceremonies," principal Ruth Ann Orr said. Activities included a fourth-grade graduation; kindergarten orientation; a party in celebration of reaching reading goals, which included a dunking booth; and the burying of time capsules. Today, the school will hold a talent show.

Students are the first to admit they are ready for summer. "It's really hard to focus, which has been hard because we've had to take finals," said Chris Marsyla, an eighth-grader at Central Junior High. But while he's eager for a break, he's not so sure about the transition to high school next year. "It's sad we've got to leave everyone," he said.

lbavolek@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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