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Spring Fever and the Dog Days of Winter

Written by Marlin Detweiler

I hope spring is just around the corner. Not only has spring been slow to arrive in the Northeast, but the delay fuels the ever-present problem this time of year—the end-of-the-third-quarter drag. You know, when the curriculum seems toughest and students are least engaged. I've got the answer and it's quite timely—April Fools!

Now I know what some of you are thinking. Why should I want to play a practical joke? Shouldn't we let this languishing celebration die of natural causes? Absolutely not. Christians among all peoples should enjoy the fellowship of a good joke now and then. Remember Ecclesiastes? There's a time to sow and a time to reap, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to mourn and a time to dance. So, I ask, when is the time to play practical jokes? No time like the present.

I've got to tell you of the best practical joke in which I've participated. It was three years ago. Jameson, my oldest son, was in tenth grade at Veritas Academy in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He's quite a computer whiz and through some family friends in Idaho acquired a floppy disk that made computers on which it is installed do funny things—really funny things. It didn't take him very long to target the recipient—Ty Fischer, Headmaster!

When to do it was a piece of cake. April 1st was a Monday. The school would, of course, be empty Sunday night. Getting in was no problem: Dad's got the key 'cause he's on the board. Mom's got one, too—she's the curriculum coordinator.

At this point, I should pause and tell you that our family has always had a rule. If you've got several young boys you might be well-served with this rule, too. It was simply this: if you are going to play a practical joke, Dad's got to be a part of it. Laurie and I figured this would keep practical joking from going too far. We also thought going to see the headmaster might be best if Dad was implicated, too.

So, back to the story. 

No stealth necessary. There is no quieter, lonelier place on a Sunday night than a Christian school. This night was no exception. Jameson and I walked right in, turned on the hall lights and opened Mr. Fischer's door. And right there sitting on his typing return it was—the computer to be affected. He'd even left it on for us so we didn't have to wait for it to boot up.

Jameson installed the disk. He put it back in his pocket. A brief high five was enjoyed between father and son, and homeward bound we went. Five minutes and done.

Breakfast was livelier than normal Monday morning and getting the car loaded to get to school on time was less a problem than normal.

Then it happened. Mr. Fischer sat down to do some work. He clicked on a Window's desktop icon but something was different—the icon moved, avoiding the cursor. He tried again. The icon moved again. Weird.

All of a sudden, a screen appeared. It showed the entire subdirectory structure of files on his hard drive with a question at the top: "Are you sure you want to delete these files? Yes or No." Easy question…panic building. He clicks No. The program responds with the message: "Deleting files." The subdirectories of all his hard drive are flashing before his eyes. Mr. Fischer clicks No again and again and again. Even poor Job never felt like this. He's in a cold sweat.

The files seemingly erased, he contemplates his next move. And, all of a sudden, the CD drive opens, then it closes and opens and closes again. He's now catching on. He checks for the files and finds them. Panic now subsides, and he heads down the hall with strategic patience to do other work. He's a patient man and knows a teenage culprit will check for his reaction. Yet these are classically educated culprits. They might show great poise. The waiting game is on.

But the computer isn't finished. It has one last hurrah—belching. Now I know belching is uncivilized, and it is certainly a punishable offense in our home. Yet, you've got to admit a belching computer is worth appreciating for the moment, right? Well, not for the Omnibus teacher. This belching is loud. It can easily be heard in the class across the hall. Students are laughing; the teacher is not. He wants to know who did this. He demands decorum and an answer. He presses the point further. Decorum arrives. And guess who's in the class. That's right, Jameson. Well, Jameson raises his hand and says, "My dad and I did it." Now we've got a problem, or should I say the teacher does. You see, he's ranted a bit telling the students how rude and immature this prank was. His disappointment and disgust register some pretty high notes before he finds out that one of his students and that student's dad—the one that signs his paycheck—are the culprits. 

Godly people are wonderful, and this teacher was no exception. He quickly called me and explained what happened, offering a very sincere apology. Maybe I should have apologized to him…nah. It was all in good fun.

Practical jokes may not be your shtick. Not every computer should have digestive issues. No problem. The point is this. Now's the time of year to spice it up a bit. Help your students see the goal is near and encourage them to finish strong. Maybe a field trip you've been putting off is in order. Maybe a chocolate bar for a job well-done. Hard work is good work, and it's worth rewarding. As a former pastor of ours was known to say when he finished his sermon, "You think about that."