Wednesday, April 3, 2013

To the Thawing Wind

Spring comes slow to New Hampshire. It visits for a day only to retreat in a huff, leaving mud and frost heaves and fallen limbs behind. A sunny day may end in flurries, and frigid nights give way to gentle spring breezes by noon. 

As the snow melts away and the lower school children dig their drainage ditches in the Crossroads Academy playground in order to hasten the flow of winter into spring, it can become difficult for all of us to keep our minds and hearts inside the classroom. The sunshine beckons us outdoors with its promise of warmth and renewal. If we can’t hold class outdoors, I bring the outdoors to my students. I give in to our yearning for spring by teaching British romantic poetry and scheduling the annual seventh grade “Poetry on the Playground” event. My seventh graders memorize poetry and recite it during the lower school recess. They shout, gesticulate, and pander to the audience of wiggly, giggly children. They expound on Wordsworth's primrose tufts and dramatize the moment when the vorpal sword goes snicker-snack and then they go galumphing back.

Spring also marks the advent of graduation season, so my eighth graders improve their vocal projection by reciting speeches over the swollen roar of Hewes Brook. They stand on the bridge, and we sit about twenty feet away on soft pine needles and raise our hands when their words disappear amidst the the wind and water. By the time they stand in front of their proud, weepy families this June, their words will be have been tempered by that wind and water, ringing out clear, loud, and strong.

No matter how often I give into their urge to muck about in the mud, water and warm air, everyone seems to hit their spring fever limit, the moment when it seems impossible, unfathomable to pay attention to the mundane details of grammar, geometry or geography for one more second. It even happens to me, and I love teaching grammar. When the fever hits hard, I try to remember that I’m teaching my students one of the most important lessons I impart: the virtue of self-control. I take a deep breath, give one last, wistful look out the window, and turn my attention back to the subtle difference between a gerund and a participle.

Self-control may be scarce in the last months of school, but when I get the urge to ditch my grammar book and run out into the woods to commune with the spirits of the trees, I dig deep into my well of temperance, and hope that my students will find the strength to do the same. 

"To the Thawing Wind"Robert Frost 
Come with rain, O loud Southwester!
Bring the singer, bring the nester;
Give the buried flower a dream;
Make the settled snowbank steam;
Find the brown beneath the white;
But whate'er you do tonight,
Bathe my window, make it flow,
Melt it as the ice will go;
Melt the glass and leave the sticks
Like a hermit's crucifix;
Burst into my narrow stall;
Swing the picture on the wall;
Run the rattling pages o'er;
Scatter poems on the floor;
Turn the poet out of door. 


  1. your spring fever post couldn't come at a more appropriate time, jess. my own wiggly, giggly 10-year-old can hardly keep his eyes pointing in the same direction and it can be almost more work than i am capable of to keep him focused on these last six weeks of school. it is good to be reminded that 'the virtue of self-control' might be lesson enough for him as winter breaks away all around us. thanks for this.

  2. We have had a slow spring... and I hate it. We still haven't strung more than 2 days in a row that are in the 50s, and there is snow in the forecast for the weekend.

    But, since we are an extended year school, and won't get out until June 20, when the rest of the schools are out on the first, the slow spring helps keep my middle school minds in the room instead of outside.