Opelousas Students, Teachers Release Stress with May Day
Bouncing balls. Children running and screaming.
You’d expect to see this during recess at any school across Acadiana.
At Park Vista Elementary, it’s part of the curriculum on one of the last days of school.
“This is May Day, and it’s an evolution from our original Sports Day when you came to school here. We’ve been doing it right at 28 or 29 years,” Principal Ulysse Joubert said.
While the name may have changed, not much else about May Day is different.
“They have frisbee tosses, basketball shooting and that type of thing," Joubert said. They even have line dancing going on.”
These activities are all extensions of lessons taught in the school's physical education class throughout the school year. In fact, in the lead up to May Day, St. Landry Schools Superintendent Patrick Jenkins joined some of Park Vista's students in a line dance lesson on campus.
According to the students we spoke to, like fourth-graders Kaden and Martarion, basketball was the biggest hit. They say they've been waiting for May Day all year.
“It’s, like, fun to come outside once in a while,” Kaden said. “It’s very fun to have a time to be without friends,” Martarion added. “It’s good.”
It also gives teachers like fourth-grade French Immersion instructor Heba Elseginy a chance to teach their students in non-traditional ways.
“We have to let the kids be creative because it will help them with their problem solving,” Elseginy said. “That will help them in life afterward. That’s part of education, really. In my door, we have a mission, and the mission of the class is to be a better version of yourself. We learn that in a creative, fun, loving, respectful, educational place. One of the main purposes of education is to let them express themselves and be creative. It will help them in life. This is what school is about.”
And on May Day, the teachers learn a thing or two from the students.
“They’ve been teaching me how to dribble,” Elseginy said. “What do you call this?” she asked her students while gesturing a dribbling motion.
“A crossover!” they shouted back.
“Yes!” Elseginy replied. “It’s working!”
"This is a chance for the kids to see their teachers in a whole new light because the teachers are more relaxed in their dress and they're actually participating in the activities," Joubert said. "So you see them as more than just an authoritative educational person trying to motivate you to do math, science, and social studies, and ELA, but somebody who is also as a human being just like you."
Mr. Joubert’s sentiment about “being human” is one that resonates with his teachers.
Kindergarten and first-grade teacher Kaitlin Franchebois told me through all of the social distancing and virtual learning, these children want to be children and want to play with each other. That, for her, was the best part about May Day.
Speaking of social distancing: No parents were allowed on campus. Volunteers had to provide proof of vaccination, which Mr. Joubert said added some incentive for parents to get the vaccine.