HUNT COLUMN: The Sap is Rising

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, April 13, 2022

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By Cathy Hunt
Troup County School Board Chairperson

The late Ralph Johnson, principal extraordinaire and the man who hired me to teach at Troup High School some 40 years ago, would admonish his staff every year after Spring Break to be extra vigilant because, in his famous words, “The sap is rising!”

In other words, students can get kind of crazy and/or lazy with Spring Fever. And twelfth graders especially might succumb to “Senioritis.”

For seniors, the last few weeks of their secondary education offer a whirlwind of fun events including proms, field days, and honors ceremonies, all leading up to that greatest celebration of all, graduation.

Academically, while they have to work hard enough to pass their classes to obtain their diplomas, the other reality is that the college acceptances are coming in (or other post-high school plans are firming up) and graduation honors have already been calculated on the basis of the March grading period. Therefore, many seniors will make fun a priority.

Traditionally, a “senior prank” is also a focus for the graduating class. In many cases, the pranks are relatively harmless and easy to clean up, like toilet paper rolling or funny posters.

Sometimes they become problematic enough that disciplinary action has to follow for the culprits.

I remember two of those from my time. One was when a small group squirted Crazy Glue into as many door locks as they could get access to. The following school day did not go off without a hitch.

Another was when a couple of students brought nineteen live chickens into the building, each with a number hung round its neck, and stashed them in various places. The next day, personnel spent hours rounding up the birds.

The kicker was that though a chicken with the number 20 was found, one number between one and twenty had been purposely left out, so everyone thought there was still one chicken at large. Instruction was certainly interrupted that day, but I have to admit that the prank was rather … epic.

Regardless of what grade they’re in, many students lose a little focus during April and May. 

Warm weather and sunshine, the closeness of summer vacation, the completion of standardized tests, and simple burn-out after a long year make them either vibrate with excess energy or lapse into daydream.

It can become a challenge for teachers to keep them on track. And let’s not pretend that teachers aren’t affected by those same circumstances!

When people get a little feverish with the advent of spring, I am reminded of what Mr. Keating, the teacher played by Robin Williams in the film ‘Dead Poets Society,’ said to his students when they took the idea of “seizing the day” a little too far and got in trouble.

They reminded him that he had taught them Thoreau’s ambition to “suck out all the marrow of life.”

Yes, he said, but be careful not to “choke on the bone.”

Good advice when you’re tempted to throw caution to the wind. So, students, enjoy every day of this glorious time of year, but in such a way that you don’t bring trouble on yourself tomorrow.

Happy Spring!