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Christmas vacation is long over. You've been back in school two whole months, but time is at a standstill. There's still months to go before summer vacation. Basketball and volleyball season are over. It's getting harder and harder to concentrate and study, and the only excitement comes from watching other kids who have suddenly forgotten how to behave in human society get referrals from the teacher. You're stuck in the Mid-year Doldrums.

Spring Fever, Finish-line Syndrome, Malaise, Doldrums...

Call it what you want. It's a well-know phenomenon that occurs during the last deadly semester of school when there's nothing to look forward to except lots of tests before a summer vacation that seems eons away.

"You're back from vacation and just not ready to study," says Nikki Allison, 14, of Safety Harbor. "School goes by slower, but the weekends go by faster," says the Countryside High ninth-grader. "You just grin and bear it."

Wild animals!

"Kids are real rambunctious this time of year," says Tori Meyerson, 12, of Clearwater. "It's real easy to get a referral," says the Safety Harbor Middle School sixth-grader, though she's never gotten one herself.

To get herself safely through, "I just think of summer vacation," says Tori.

"It's harder to study," says Billy Todd, 11, of Clearwater. Also a sixth-grader at Safety Harbor, Billy has observed lots of "running in the hallways," during this time of year and "more kids acting up in class."

Is everybody affected?

"I'm not really worried about it," says Shaun Messiner, 15, of Dunedin. Shaun is on the Dean's List at Dunedin Middle School despite the current chaos around him. "There's no fights, just a lot of playing around," says Shaun about this time of year. But he ignores it. "I just do my work."

No known cure

Of course, school faculty have been dealing with the Doldrums since forever. Sometimes they try to head it off with peppy morning intercom announcements or cryptic warnings for the rowdier bunch. Does it work?

Billy Todd doesn't think the announcements really work. "Sometimes it makes it worse," he says.

Tori Meyerson has noticed that the weeks with an assembly aren't nearly as tedious as weeks without something fun going on. Tori says more diversions would get the clock moving faster. "More dances toward the end of the year," she says. "Something to get us out of school earlier."

Symptoms of the mid-year doldrums

Sore neck muscles from staring up at the clock or out the window.

Inability to stifle snotty remarks to authority figures.

Irresistible urge to run in the halls.

Uncontrolled horseplay.

One of the largest collections of referral slips in school board history.

Perpetual poetry writing during algebra class.

No homework inside your folder _ but plenty of sketches of cars, superheroes, or your sweetie's name outside.

Take a load off

The mid-year doldrums can affect everyone, including adults _ that means your teachers and even your parents. Cut yourself and everyone else some slack, but give your brain some creative exercise at the same time.

Tick...tick...tick...Quit watching that clock! It's not going anywhere!

Get that homework out of the way so you don't have to deal with the authority figures later on. Then goof off! It'll be fun!

Don't waste your weekend _ it's time you have off now! Do what you want to do! If you want to "waste time" in front of the TV, do it! If you want to play video games all day at the mall, then OKAY! Or spend the day frying at the beach, even if Mom and Dad have to give you a ride.