Students are counting down to summer vacation blast-off


It's that time of the year again.

In schools everywhere, students are mentally poised for the moment they can spring for the front door one last time, while teachers are fighting a good fight by trying to impart those final nuggets of knowledge.

These are the long, listless, last days of school, and everybody is counting down.

"We're physically here, but what we're really thinking about is summer," Jeff Brooks, 13, a Cockeysville Middle School student said yesterday -- days before school lets out tomorrow.

Students at the northern Baltimore County school are no different from their cohorts around the state.

They talk of friends who become rowdier at this time of year because they figure it's too late to get suspended. Or of students who try to be extra nice to teachers because they think it might influence their final grades.

But most of all, they talk about how hard it is to concentrate with visions of beaches, parties and great vacations dancing around inside their heads.

"We think of summer, camp, swimming and parties," said Julie Burk, 13.

In Susan Stewart's seventh-grade art class at Cockeysville, Chris and the other students were working on suggestions for improving the school's annual yearbook.

Mrs. Stewart, who has been a teacher for 18 years, said it's always hard keeping students motivated this time of year.

"For some reason, its been tougher this year," Mrs. Stewart said. "It might have to do with the weather."

Mrs. Stewart said she tries to keep the really fun projects, like the yearbook work, for the last days of school.

Still, there were moments yesterday when the energy level among the students in her class bubbled over.

"I'd like to get to all of you, but I need for you all to respect each other's comments," she told the class during one of those moments.

The students did eventually settle down, although they don't always listen to their teachers this time of year, several students said.

"At the end, everyone's behavior changes because they think they can't get suspended," said Alex Crujeiras, 12.

A few of the students, "yell at teachers and stuff," Alex said.

On the other end of the spectrum, however, are students who try to turn on the charm as the marking period draws to a close.

"You try to be nice to all of your teachers so you can get a good grade," said Jenny Nelson, 12.

Still, other students see this as the last chance to do good work and improve their grades.

"They may have bad grades and are trying to improve them at the end," said 13-year-old Jason Vaughn.

Things were a little more subdued in Charles Phillips' sixth-grade math class. Students dutifully and quietly went to work on the "challenge" for the day -- figuring out the amount of fat in a single oatmeal chocolate chip cookie.

The last days of school are generally spent on reviewing what has already been learned, Mr. Phillips said.

These days "are quite a bit more difficult" getting students to concentrate, he said.

Brooks Heckner, 12, said the material may be familiar but during this time of year, teachers still spend a lot of time urging the students to keep their minds on their school work.

"Toward the end of the year, teachers are always telling you to concentrate and work harder," Brooks said.

Katie Piper, 12, said she has noticed many students practicing that age-old, end-of-school-year custom.

"A lot of kids have their eyes glued on the clock . . . counting down," she said.

But it's not just the students, according to Mr. Phillips, who has been teaching for 26 years.

Asked if teachers were counting down, too, his answer was, "Yes."

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