If on Friday you expected to hear the proverbial bell announcing the cessation of classes and the kickoff of the summer at the Waverly-Shell Rock Middle School, you may have felt a letdown that no such formal ring marked the beginning of the much-anticipated summer break.
The bell rings twice at the end of the school day during the year — at 3:20 p.m., for fifth- and sixth-graders, and at 3:25 p.m. for seventh- and eighth-graders.
However, on Friday, much before 12:45 p.m., when the year formally ended without a ring, as the bell had been programmed to chime at the regular dismissal hours, there were plenty of signs that the rigor of the routine school year — all 1,080 hours of it, including the nine snow days — was just about to dissolve into a restful and playful 76-day-long adventure.
Put otherwise, summer break can be an uninterrupted 1,824 hours of pure fun and quality time with siblings, friends, and parents.
But on Friday at the school, the freedom that comes with a hard-earned vacation permeated the classrooms and the hallways.
There were plenty of hugs, high-fives and tears, as there was a finality to this shared experience of learning and growing together.
That was especially palpable among the eight-graders, who were reflectful of closing a page in their young adult lives, and somewhat apprehensive of what awaited them in high school in the fall.
A group of four, handpicked by Principal Jeremy Langner, now in his third year of the helm at the school, spoke to Waverly Newspapers about the changes in their lives in middle school. (Watch the interview on paper’s website and Facebook page).
The four students — Kennedy Frost, Ellah Cuvelier, Jaymis Weaver, and Jack Renn, who happened to have known each other since elementary school in Shell Rock — all said they loved middle school and would miss the teachers who had helped them so much.
Frost said this year was transformative for her as she took her studying seriously and success followed.
Cuvelier noted that she was thankful to Mr. Kent Prescott, the retiring language arts teacher, who opened her eyes to writing.
Weaver, who was excited about playing sports, said he has made up his mind on the goals he wishes to pursue.
Renn, who appreciated the sports climate in middle school, said he is looking forward to the higher intensity atmosphere in high school sports.
Asked what advice they would give the new fifth-graders, just walking into middle school in the fall, they unanimously emphasized identity and confidence.
“Don’t be afraid to stand up for you and for others,” Cuvelier said, summing up the group’s response. “Don’t be afraid to be yourself and make new friends. There’s a huge opportunity in middle school with a bunch of other kids and just because you were friends with this girl in fourth grade doesn’t mean that you cannot be friends with other people.”
Out on the field next to the middle school, a much louder end-of-the-year event unfolded with the unbridled joy of the kickball championship, the culminating activity for the sixth-graders.
With its mixture of baseball, soccer and dodgeball elements, the kickball tourney appears to have a long tradition at the middle school, as some parents recalled rejoicing in it when once they were in their children’s shoes.
For this writer, who didn’t have the faintest idea of how to report on the game, the championship was about relishing in the kinetic energy created by two teams of super excited kids and a big, red inflated rubber ball, which appeared to be the prized object of pursuit.
In the end, an unexpected twist brought about an unexpected victory and a reversal of fortune for a veteran winner.
On Friday, Mrs. Skinner’s students broke the six-year winning streak of Mr. Angell’s classes and claimed the trophy
On the field, it was hard to distinguish whether the kids or the teacher had more fun, but they were ecstatic with the elation that comes with the thrill of victory.
After the game, the champions had their picture taken with the trophy.
Asked if they were happy with the championship, all the kids answered, deafeningly:
Prompted by this writer, who wanted to know what they would miss the most, they said, “Everything!”
“The teachers!” some added, in the collective babble of a group interview.
In the meantime, the eighth-graders left the building without fanfare.
Mr. Langner, the principal, said this third crop of 190 eighth-grade students, since he took over as the administrator, has been quite distinctive.
“They are quiet and humble, quiet leaders, they are a very good group of kids,” he said.