Year after year the scene is replayed:
There's a kid in my class, who "gets it". He gets the concept, has the right answers, gets the joke. The sarcastic comment that flew over the rest of the class like a 747, elicits a quiet chuckle. Assignments that take most of the students a whole class period to complete, this student will finish in a few minutes. He's always ahead of everyone else, until...until he starts missing class. At first it's a day here and there, then it's a few days at a time. I call home, leave a message, maybe a parent will call back, more likely I hear nothing. I check in with the school office.
"What ever happened to... (Mike/Ryan/Josh)..?" I inquire.
"He was withdrawn."
Hopefully, I ask. "Did he transfer to another school?"
"No, he was withdrawn for nonattendance."
"Oh!" I grimace. "Damn!" I think..."Another one bites the dust."
Last month during open house, a former student, who had joined the ranks of high school drop-outs two years ago, stopped by my room to visit. He'd brought his girlfriend along, eager to introduce us, and to let me know he'd finally decided to take the GED so he could apply to Community College. Affable and extremely smart, when he was a student at Max Hayes, he stood out like a halogen torch in a procession of candles.
"What ever made you quit school? I asked.
"It was boring. I hated it. Everyday seemed like I was just wasting time in my classes. Art was the only reason to come to school, but eventually I couldn't even motivate for your class, so I stayed home and stayed high. I was high half the time I was at school."
That was pretty much my suspicion, but I was surprised he admitted it to me.
"Now I'm a roofer. It's funny, I'm the youngest one on the crew, but the owner put me in charge. Everyone keeps telling me I should go to college, so I signed up for the GED class.
"Do you regret not getting your diploma?"
"Not really, but I guess that will depend on how I do on the GED"
Today I asked my students, "Who knows someone who dropped out of high school?" Not surprisingly, all hands go up.
"Who do you know?"
The answers were readily volunteered.They mostly responded with family members; parents, siblings, cousins; some close friends; some former classmates. One boy smiled shyly and told us that he quit going to school last year, but re-enrolled this year...he needed a drivers license, and couldn't get one if he was under 18 and not going to school.
"Why did the people you know quit school?"
By far, the reason given most for female drop-outs was pregnancy. Their male counterparts stopped going to school for many different reasons, including boredom, drugs, frustration, fighting, problems with teachers or principals, and the need to support a family.
"You know, school is not for everybody." a thoughtful 12th grade girl spoke up. "People learn in different ways. Some people need to get out and do things, not just sit in a room and listen...blah, blah, blah."
"Hey, Ms Matthews!" I could hear the smile in the voice on the other end of the phone line. "I scored a 12/9 ( 12th grade 9th month) on the GED. I'm going to college! I thought you would like to know."
I hope he calls me again when he gets his degree.