, Derry, New Hampshire


June 12, 2014

Column: When classwork must compete with the allure of the lawn mower

While Mother Nature continues to suffer from acute schizophrenia -- cold one day, warm the next -- teachers and their students know full well that the end of another school year is fast approaching.

It’s a challenge to harness and then keep the attention of sixth-graders on a gray and blustery January day. When it’s the second week in June, I simply cannot compete with the Hampstead Middle School groundskeeper and his riding lawn mower. It’s a spectacle that engages all of the senses.

I could be leading a discussion on the pros and cons of the inconclusive ending of a particular short story, when suddenly, in the distance, the roar of that massive mower floats through my open classroom windows. Seconds later, that pungent mix of oil, gasoline, and freshly-cut grass becomes too strong to ignore. Then, as if on cue, all student heads turn to the left as I turn mine to the right to catch a glimpse of Lawnmower Man as he speeds by outside, spewing clumps of wet grass against the screen windows -- Thwack! Thwack!

If a couple of white-tailed deer, or a fox, perhaps, decide to prance through the adjacent field at the same time, all bets are off. Most of my students leave their seats to head for the windows. I provide the Animal Planet-like voice-over for the scene that’s being staged outside.

It’s the time of year when students can smell freedom. Their minds are mostly elsewhere -- probably in a swimming pool or at a fishing hole -- but their bodies are still in school. That dichotomy produces hilarious results.

Last week at midday, one of my students asked permission to go to the library. Permission was granted, and then I sat back and waited for the show to begin.

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