There is one day of the school year that teachers dread above all others: April Fool’s Day. This is the day where students are given licence to wreak havoc on their poor teacher. I’ve seen a lot of destruction over the years on this day of treachery. Teachers’ cars covered with shaving cream, coffee sabotaged, clocks turned ahead, water balloons bursting, chalk turned into dust, saran wrapped doors, stick-it notes covering teacher’s desk, missing students, and general chaos.
I was dreading my first April Fool’s Day as a teacher. What would these students try to pull on their rookie teacher? As I lay in bed that night, terrible premonitions danced through my head of books on fire, water guns, fire extinguishers, paintballs and me screaming hysterically as I ran out of the school parking lot never to be seen again.
The dreaded doomsday dawned.
I was on guard the moment I pulled into the school parking lot. I looked around carefully before I got out. No kids were waiting in the trees with balloons filled with water or flour. Like a highly trained Navy Seal, I ran for the safety of my portable. With a flash, my keys were in the lock and I was in. I closed the door behind me and let out a sigh of relief. So far so good I thought; only seven more hours to go.
The buses rolled into the parking lot and delivered their deadly payload – children. They looked so innocent, but I knew better. I suddenly wished I had a metal detector and a sniffer dog at the door as the students began to pour through the door.
“Goodmorning Mr. S.!” the students said cheerfully. Too cheerfully, I thought.
“Is it a good morning?” I said suspiciously.
They looked bewildered and sat down at their desks. My eyes were like eagle eyes. I only allowed myself to blink every five minutes so as not to miss any movements. I made my way to the front of the room, careful not to turn my back to them at any time. I stood at the front and stared at the students and searched for any signs of impending mischief. There were no sideways glances or smirks. No notes or nudges. They are good, I thought.
We got started, and the morning wore on. Finally the recess bell rang and I dismissed the class. My nerves were starting to get a little frayed as I waited for the shoe to drop. I sat down heavily at my desk as the students went out for recess. I concluded that they must need the recess to plan their assault. At this point, I was almost wishing they would try pulling something, just to get it done and over with. I went into the staff room and had a coffee with the other teachers. They all had stories about what the students had done for April Fool’s day. I found myself laughing at the creativity and genius of some of the students. If they would only apply that same genius to some of their assignments, we would have a lot of Rhode Scholars on our hands.
One teacher asked me what my students had pulled off this morning.
“Nothing.” I said blandly. I should have been happy about this, but I found myself oddly dissatisfied.
Instead of racing to my classroom after recess to protect my castle, I lingered in the staff room for an extra minute. When I came into the classroom, the students were nicely getting ready for class. I heard laughter from other classrooms as the teachers walked into booby-trapped rooms.
Hmmm, I thought.
I then noticed a strange bag on my desk. They had done something! My heart raced as I walked towards my desk. What did they put in there? Was it a live rat? Was it horse manure? Was it going to explode as soon as I opened it? The bag was familiar – very familiar – it was exactly the same as the bag I used for my lunch that morning! Brilliant move! I was fully alert though and would not fall for such a fiendish ploy.
Clever as it was, they would have to step it up if they wanted to fool me! I opened the bag and looked inside. It was my lunch. Hmmm.
I looked around the classroom to see if they re-arranged anything. Nope. Everything was exactly where it was supposed to be. I walked to the front of the room. I picked up a piece of chalk expecting to see it painted with whiteout. Nope. I looked at the clock thinking that the student’s would have moved it ahead an hour. Nope.
A disturbing thought was fighting its way in my mind. I found myself hoping for something exciting to happen. I was longing for a good joke, but there was nothing.
At lunch time, I sat down at my desk despondently. It was April Fool’s Day, and no joke had been played. That wasn’t right. Then a rare thing happened – I had an idea! I will play a joke on them! As Francis Bacon once said “if the hill will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will go to the hill.” Ideas started flying in my mind like sparks from an arch-welder. In no time flat, I had planned a joke. I rubbed my hands together gleefully.
As the end of the school day approached, I handed out an official looking waiver to each student. At the end of every school year, the students look forward to going on a three day camping trip. I explained to the students that due to some incidents at this camp over the past year, they now required students to sign a waiver stating that they would follow all the rules on the paper I had just handed out. They would only be allowed to go on the trip if they had signed the waiver. I had carefully crafted the rules into the acrostic (first letter of every line) APRIL FOOLS. These were the rules:
All campers will wake up by 6:00am at the latest.
Permission must be obtained before getting out of bed.
Rules may not be broken, otherwise students will have to find their own way home.
I will not allow any student to open their eyes after 10pm
Lazy campers will be made to cut the grass, bring out the garbage and chop wood.
Forest hikes will only be permitted if one has a whistle, compass, life jacket, matches and a sense of direction.
Ontario’s wildlife must not be disturbed; this includes insects as well as small animals.
Oxford Reformed Christian School student’s luggage must not exceed 10lbs.
Loud talking will not be allowed.
Students should bring at least two books for the daily quiet reading time.
I watched with pure delight at the looks of total outrage on the students’ faces. I had to summon all of my strength to keep a straight face. One of the students, who had a strong dislike for reading, stared dejectedly and mournfully at the last rule about ‘daily quiet reading time.’ Other students were more vocal in their outrage.
“What!? We can’t have more than 10 pounds of luggage!”
“We have to be up by six am?”
“I’m not bringing any books!”
“I’m not going if I have to chop wood!”
“Why do we have to wear a life jacket in the woods?!”
After the uproar had died down to a dull roar, I asked if anyone knew what an acrostic was. No one knew what one was, or what an acrostic had to do with these rules. After I had explained that an acrostic spelled something using the first letter of each line, there was pin drop silence for a few moments. When the students caught on to the joke, they joyfully ripped their papers up and had a good laugh. The student who did not care for reading had tears of thanksgiving glisten in his eyes.
The students filed out of the room for the buses still talking about the ‘rules’.
I watched the buses roar off into the distance and reflected that it had been a pretty good day after all. I was suddenly looking forward to next year’s first day of April...