Thursday, October 18, 2007

Not to be confused with the video game

I taught this one kid two years ago--a big, slow kid who had a hard time showing up to class, an even harder time staying awake when he did. He failed.

Imagine my surprise when he showed up in my class again at the start of this school year. Same kid. Still big, still slow. But it seemed he was finally determined to do his work, to pass, to graduate. He had an agenda book, and he diligently wrote down assignments and due dates. Three weeks into school he asked me about a zero I had given him. I keep my gradebook online, and he was one of only a few kids to actually check it to see his grade. Anyway, he was working hard. He was on his way to succeeding.

Then he disappeared.

I tried to call his house, but the number was disconnected. I thought about talking to his football coach, but I couldn't track him down. Was this kid injured? Sick? Or finally sick of school?

He showed up today. Stuck around after class to find out what he was missing.

"So, where have you been?" I asked.
"Um, I was locked up."
"You were? Why? Oh wait, nevermind, it's probably none of my business. But is everything OK?"
"Yeah, I think so."

I tried to keep it professional. I tried not to be curious. But of course I broke down and asked why he had been locked up.

"Well, I was just hanging out with the wrong crowd," he said. "Wrong place at the wrong time."
"What happened? What did your friends do?"
"They picked me up. We were driving around," he said. "Then my friend got pulled over. Turns out the car was stolen."
"What were you charged with?"
"Grand theft auto."

As I pried and he filled me in on the details, I couldn't help thinking, yeah, it's not your fault. You had nothing to do with any of it. You're innocent, your friends are the bad ones. But then again, with him, maybe it's true.

"I've been trying to be good," he said.
"I know. You've been doing great this year."
"And these guys had drugs. But I don't even smoke anymore. Because I'm on the team."
"So, let me ask you this: Why did you guys get pulled over?"
"Because my friend can't even drive. And he was high."

We actually laughed, thinking about some stupid kid that can't drive, swerving around while stoned.

We chatted for a few more minutes. I learned this about my student:
  • he has no prior convictions.
  • he doesn't have a lawyer.
  • his court date is in a few weeks.
  • he has been charged as an adult.
  • he has no idea what might happen next.
Oh man. He had been doing so well. I'd like to believe him. I'd like to believe that he didn't know the car was stolen, that he was just sitting in the back seat, oblivious, sober. I'd also like to believe that he won't become just another statistic. But it really seems like he's heading in that direction. Straight to a dead end.

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