The bittersweet end of school |

The bittersweet end of school

Mike Vidakovich
Special to the Post Independent
Mike Vidakovich
Staff Photo |

The end of each school year always comes with a mixed bag of emotions for me.

Everyone is excited about summer vacation, but it’s a bit sad to wave goodbye to the young people after spending so much time with them and making many good memories. Some I will never see again, but most will be back with the chill of September, answering the call of the school bells as they ring in another year.

It’s as sure as the sun rising each day in the east that the last day of school will be the most fun day of the year. The books remain closed, there’s a variety of sporting events and games, good food, and water balloons to throw at everyone, including teachers.

This means field day.

As a student at Glenwood Elementary in the early 1970s, field day meant competing against classmates in the softball throw, long jump and the quarter-mile run around the softball field. Our P.E. teacher, coach Chavez, encouraged us to have fun, do our best and compete hard. I did give it my best, but could never manage to slip by Boomie Bolitho in the softball throw, or Glenn Samuelson in the run around the field. Only the top five kids in each event got ribbons, so you had to be on the top of your game.

Competing was fun. Trying to win was even more fun. It still is.

As a P.E teacher for the Garden School in New Castle, the field day event that is my favorite is the annual Fenceline Run, an idea I borrowed years ago from Blake Risner and his excellent physical education program at the Glenwood Middle School.

I’ve learned to always observe and borrow ideas from good people. In my early years of teaching, I copied so many programs and methods from the marvelous educators around me that I could have been named Doris Jones, or Bette Hart, or Marilyn Anthony, or Fred Davidson, or Carmen Roy, or JoEllen White, or Thelma Ding or Shirley Darien.

I could keep going with the ors. There were many good teachers at GSES, and I was lucky to be with them.

I learned more from those people in one year than I did in my six years of college.

Yes, it took me that long, but I made it!

I like to see kids run, so I enjoyed watching fifth-grader Sam Otis give all that he had in the homestretch of the Fenceline Run, trying to break the school record. Completely exhausted at the end, little Sam still wore a grin as wide as the Mississippi River even though he missed the record by one second. I think he ran especially hard because right on his posterior was Carys Walter and Molly Hancock, a couple of fleet females who both broke the school record for ladies when they crossed the finish line in a dead heat.

I borrowed Sam’s Mississippi grin later in the day when I was watching another event that was being put on by eighth-grade teacher Jack Jabbour.

The contest was designed for two kids to try and knock each other off of a painted line in the grass by swinging small, soft, bean bags at each other. As one child covered up, hoping to let his opponent tire himself out before mounting his own attack, Jabbour stated to onlookers, “He’s using the old rope-a-dope!”

Following the contest, I had to ask Jack if he realized that he and I were the only two around that were old enough to remember the 1974 championship boxing match in Kinshasa, Africa, between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. Ali won the bout by covering up in the early rounds and letting Foreman slug himself into oblivion, a tactic later named the rope-a-dope by Ali’s trainer, Angelo Dundee.

Jack and I shared a good laugh about how old and dusty we were, but as we did, I looked around and realized that everyone was laughing and smiling.

Why not smile. It’s field day and the last day of school.


Mike Vidakovich is a freelance writer from Glenwood Springs. His column appears on the first Monday of each month.

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