Every year the last week of school at Pilot Mountain presented its own unofficial traditions. Focus might have been on the official tradition, Eighth Grade Graduation, but for the rest of the school, the focus was on getting through that last week.
There were no teacher workdays in the early years, maybe one or two by the mid fifties. So all the downshifting, the book collection, report cards, cleaning desks, all those were accomplished by the children and the teachers together so that when the last bell rang, school was over for everyone.
Cleaning wasn't everything. There were also picnics when the entire school went outside on the ballfield or up the hill to the front lawn of the farmhouse behind the school. Several years the end of year picnic was at a fish pond in the middle of one of the teacher's cow pasture. Oh, the stories I caught about those picnics...stepping in cow pies and washing in the pond...splashing, falling in the water...falling in love, friends who became sweethearts that day and still are after fifty years of marriage.
There was one more tradition the last week of school. A little background: In the days before kindergarten, you'd think the first graders came "cold turkey" in the fall, just walking in the front door the first day of school. No. They came to school for a trial run. Big sisters, big brothers, cousins, neighbors, anyone who knew an upcoming first grader would bring him/her to school school one day that last week in an early version of mentoring, so to speak. The soon-to-be first grader would shadow the older child, sit in the desks, eat in the cafeteria, play on the playground...playing school inside and out.
That's how things worked at Pilot Mountain School, except for one more thing. The chant.
School's out, school's out,
Teacher wore the rules out.
No more pencils, no more books,
No more teacher's dirty looks.
Catch of the day,