Just like almost every single one of his classmates, my son has what we referred to when I was young as “spring fever.”
There is a restlessness that comes with spring fever. The weather is changing, the sun is so much brighter and inviting after the long, overcast and dreary winter that we had this year in İstanbul. Students feel a shift in their energy levels as they enter the final three months of school, trying to force themselves to pay attention in class and keep studying. For my son and his fellow students, they know that this year of seemingly endless practice tests for the TEOG, the national exam for high schools, will soon be over. They can almost taste the freedom of the summer as the sun beckons outside the classroom windows.
My son’s recent incident with his math teacher, who purposely emptied her glass of water on him in the classroom, has only made him more eager than ever to have middle school over with for good. To be honest, I too am looking forward to him finally being finished with this school so that we no longer have to deal with attacks by other students or bullying from the teachers. Since the day we complained to the school administration about the math teacher’s actions, I know that every call from the school will be a complaint about my son, his behavior, his clothing or some other little thing that they want to complain to me about. In the past week, I received a phone call informing me that his hair was now too long, although some of his friends have wilder, longer hair and their parents have not received any phone calls about it. I also received a call this past week because a month ago he wore trousers to school that were not a part of the official school uniform. I informed the counselor that I had given him permission to wear another pair of trousers that were the same color as the school uniform, but that did not have the school insignia on them. The reason I did so, I explained to her, was that his school uniforms were not completely dry in the morning and the choice was either that he missed a day of school because he did not have a dry pair of pants or he went to class in a non-regulation pair. I decided it was better to opt for the second choice. Apparently, the school disagreed with my decision, but did not think to mention it until after I had complained about the actions of the math teacher.
One of the main complaints from the school, though, is that my son’s concentration levels seem to be dropping. To me, this is not surprising news since he and his friends are all exhausted by the practice tests and the extra hours they have to devote to studying in preparation for them. While they all know that the real tests will determine what high schools they are eligible to attend, the constant badgering about their scores by the teachers as well as the school administration is causing them even more stress. Instead of motivating them, my son’s friends tell me they feel belittled by the criticism they receive after each of the exams when the results are posted. They dread looking at their scores because they know they will be pushed even harder to keep improving on their scores. Most of my son’s classmates attend dershanes, special study halls, after school and on weekends, so they do not have any time to relax, spend time with friends and just be kids. All their time is spent worrying about their test scores.
When my son complains about school being boring or stressful, all I can do is tell him that we all experience the same feelings from time to time. I encourage him to find something good about each day at school. He will, on occasion, come home with a funny story about something that happened at school or be excited about some random tidbit of information he learned in a class. However, for the most part, he finds himself bored with school, homework, classes and his teachers.
I remind my son that at this point in his life, school is the equivalent of a job for him and his friends. Almost everyone, I point out, will have a boss, which is the role his teachers play in his life at this point. Even the head of a business must answer to the company stockholders and employees and the head of a country must be responsible to all the citizens of the nation they rule over. We may not always agree with our boss or condone their actions, much like his situation with school and his math teacher. I tell my son that I suspect that everyone has moments when they do not completely love their jobs, when they find it boring, unchallenging or tedious. Like my son’s feelings about school, I remind him, there are time that I too am frustrated by my job or find a particular assignment less exciting than I had hoped it would be. There will always be good days and bad days, whether we are at school or at work.
Now that students are in that final stretch of classes and exams before the longed for summer break, they are all itching to break free from their cramped classrooms and endless studying. Spring fever seems to be affecting all of my son’s friends. They are already counting down the days until the final TEOG exam, which, for them, signals the end of the dreaded exams. They are making plans and comparing goals for their summer holidays during breaks between classes, trying to cram as much as they can into the summer months. In the meantime, I am trying to find creative ways to keep my son focused and motivated about school during these last three months. Unfortunately, I think that his attitude may not change too drastically and that he will continue to find his classes boring, his teachers overbearing and that his test scores will not be considered high enough by the school administration. In short, I think that he is facing a long three months until he can graduate from middle school and move on to high school. We both are looking forward to the summer break. Just three more months. Perhaps I am catching some of his spring fever.