Friday, May 29, 2009


What is the bravest thing you have ever done?

I personally don't know if I have ever done anything brave in my life. Definitely never as brave as what one of my twelfth graders did today.

For the past two weeks ago, the twelfth graders had been talking about staging a senior skip day. "Tell us when you're going to do it so we plan accordingly," we teachers would say. "We haven't decided anything," they would reply. Well today was the day. At morning assembly, the seniors were noted for their absence. They were simply gone. Where to, nobody knew.

One girl, though, was there, sitting and smiling when the school principal stood on stage and said, "I take a dim view of this action at this time of year."

"Why aren't you skipping?" I asked her after assembly. She was going to be the only student in my first class.

"Because I don't feel like it," she said. "I have nothing to rebel against." She said the same kind of thing to other teachers, with slight variations. "I know it sounds cheesy, but I want to go to my classes." This girl is not in the running for valedictorian, nor is she going for a perfect attendance award. She just didn't feel like skipping.

Turns out she took a lot of heat from her peers. Apparently, she got all sorts of nasty phone calls and text messages telling her how big of a bitch she was, how she had ruined skip day, how the whole class would suffer because of her actions. Thing is, the principal did drive up to the top of the hill, where the seniors were congregating, and told them they'd either come back to school and face minor consequences or stay away and face major consequences. Almost half of them came back.

"It was the scariest thing ever," one of the returnees said. "He came up, delivered one sentence, and got back in the car and left."

Meanwhile, the lone holdout was reeling from the attacks.

"Basically we were all blackmailed by the class governors to say we'd skip school today," she said. "I signed something saying I'd skip, but then I didn't feel like it."

At the end of a grueling semester, at the end of four long years of high school, the senior class isn't very united. Most of the kids just want to get out of here and get on with their lives. Today's failed attempt at unification won't make things better.

"The whole thing's so stupid," holdout girl said.

Finally, one of the returnees approached. "You're my hero. You really are," the returnee said to holdout girl. "I wish I had been smart enough to say 'screw it' and come to school like you did. But it was so hard."

The pressure was on. And one girl was brave enough to push back against the weight of all of her peers. It took guts.

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