Ten school days and counting. 65 hours. 3,990 minutes. 234,000 seconds.
And then, at 3:10 p.m. on June 17, the bell's going to ring one last time for the current school year at Tuckahoe Elementary in Arlington. Plastic chairs are going to bang down on top of desks and children are going to bang down the halls, arms pumping, walking not running, but still rushing as fast as they can. Through cinderblock hallways, past low water fountains, the showcase with the autographed picture of Vice President Bush and the hot lunch menu, out the blue front door, out of school, out to freedom.
"I just can't wait," says Devon Rawson, age 9.
"I get chills just thinking about it," says Devon's best friend, Tera Nester, also 9.
Forget the talk of literacy tests, of mainstreaming and streamlining and over and underachievement, of letter grades and open classrooms and teacher-to-pupil ratios. Forget, too, curriculums and teaching effectiveness, and tests and getting into the right school. Those subjects concern adults, or those aspiring to become adults. What concerns children--then, now, and possibly forever--is summer vacation. Riding bikes, digging caves, romping through the sprinkler, hanging around the mall. Do whatever. Or don't. These are the days. Waste not a minute.
The first thing Devon and Tera are going to do when school is out is run the two blocks to Devon's house. They're going to eat a snack, maybe peanut butter with honey on a roll. They're going to put on their bathing suits. Then Devon's mom is going to take them to the swimming pool. They're not sure where the pool is, or what the name of it is, but they do know that it has two diving boards, and that they're not allowed to go on the high one. Tera will stick to the 5- and 6-foot-deep areas. But Devon goes to the "tall end," where it's 12 feet deep.
"I just can't wait," repeats Devon.
"I just can't wait, either," repeats Tera.
Devon and Tera plan to spend most of the summer at the pool. When they don't go to the pool, they will go to Devon's house and play with the new puppies, or play cards (War or Go Fish), or play house, or play maids, wherein they mess up Devon's bedroom and then clean it up. Sometimes.
Or they will go to Tera's house, where they will play with the Atari computer game, or play cards, or house, or maids, wherein they mess up Tera's bedroom and then clean it up. Sometimes.
It's not that they hate school, Devon and Tera say. It's just that, well, let them explain, fourth-grade style:
"We get to have a free world in the summer," says Tera.
"We don't have to do as much writing and stuff," says Devon.
"We get to play with boys," says Tera.
"And play football. . . . Or kickball on the blacktop, or at the playground at school anytime we want . . . "
"School is good for learning, though," Tera says.
"I'll miss the teachers," Devon says.
"They get on my nerves."
"They tell us what to do."
"I guess that's what they're supposed to do."
"But it's still a pain."
"Summer's good 'cause you don't have to listen to teachers . . . "
"I like summer 'cause kids change over the summer."
"Yeah," says Tera. "Like if I just met Devon, and I had a different attitude than she did, I would go back to school with her attitudes."
"Over the summer, some people grow their hair long."
"Or they grow beards and moustaches."
"In our class?" asks Devon.
"Well, maybe not in our class, but the older kids, in college and stuff."
"What does that have to do with us, dummy?"
"Well, some people get tall over the summer."
"I probably won't grow over the summer. I'm too tall now."
"Well, there's another good thing about summer. You can come home and eat anytime you want," says Tera.
"Anytime," says Devon.
"Yeah. We don't have to eat those awful school lunches."
"We hate their Egg McJeffersons."
"Also their pizza." "Yeah. It just has a glob of cheese on the top. Gross!"
Ten days and counting . . .