A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

So long! Farewell! Auf Wiedersehen! Good-bye!

My geography class is supposed to have X number of kids. Instead, my class habitually sits at X-1.

This is a real bummer, because our school randomly distributes doughnuts to classes with perfect attendance. There is a sullen smog that has settled over my kids every time one of these days is announced, a brow-lowered, teeth-gritted, bellicosity that I am having ever more trouble holding in check.

See, Casper was enrolled in this class because it's open to all ages, and I was fine with this. Except that Casper showed for exactly half of one day. On this day, he had been here since the beginning of school but had talked the counselor into a bull session, and then he didn't want to draw attention to himself by walking into the middle of a class, so the counselor walked in WHILE WE WERE HAVING A GREAT DISCUSSION on the predictions of Thomas Robert Malthus and she walks right up to me mid-sentence, 'pon my honor, and asks me when we are taking a break. Now, I didn't look at her with my mouth agape, because my students did it for me, and with a face like mine, you don't do mouth agape unless you want someone throwing fishhooks your way. When I said something to the effect of "Maybe never, we're kind of in the middle of something here," she began whispering in my ear that there was a new student but he didn't want to draw attention to himself and so he was hoping to slide into a seat while the other kids were off on a break. Then I replied, "Oh, like you walking into class isn't going to get their attention and they're not going to notice a new body occupying a seat in the class like he's been beamed down from the Starship Enterprise?" but she didn't get the sarcasm. So since she'd broken the flow, and frankly, I actually needed to go see a guy about something, we had our break, Casper shimmered into the room like Jeeves bearing a silver platter of his secret hangover recipe, and we sailed on through the rest of the period.

I don't know; maybe all the talk about carrying capacity and J-curves scared the daylights out of him, because he has not darkened our door since, and it's been over two months. He certainly made sure to reduce the population of our little world by one.

Yes, you heard that right, friends. We're coming up on 42 days of absence, and nothing. Now officially, I am wondering just what it takes to be declared truant around this neck of the woods, because I've seen kids avoid school before, but this case has reached a new low.

Now, I personally am a doughnut agnostic, which you wouldn't believe if you saw the breadth of my beam, but it really bugs the kids when they haven't completely blotted Casper's existence from their minds-- which they do until we hear the doughnut trolley screeching down the hallway. I am more bothered by carrying this kid on the rolls for lo these many weeks with no concern or perhaps consequences whatsoever for whomever is in charge-- kid, mom, dad, grandma, Great Aunt Tessie, I don't really care at this point. Every time I mention this to the counselor, I hear that his mom called in claiming he had scurvy or consumption or an imbalance of the humors and so on. But I've seen him hanging out at the nearby pizza joint three times since his vanishing act.

Let's just leave aside the law for a second, because we all know what that's all about. Let's just forget that, ten years from now, Casper will claim he was "never given a good education" and that he's a victim of public schools and we should all just keep him full of McMuffins and pork rinds and cartons of cigarettes on the public dime. Let's forget that somehow, we're supposed to make him read and do math on grade level, and his absence on test day will be held against us in the court of Spellings. I am sure our class is probably better without an unwilling someone taking up space. But, at the risk of sounding like a Pollyanna, I do care that this kid isn't being educated, and at his age, he really didn't seem to have the judgment to make life-altering decisions for himself and maybe, just maybe, we should send someone over there to make sure he's okay.

I am conflicted. And you know, I think that counselor owes my kids some doughnuts.

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At 11/21/07, 9:07 AM, Blogger andrea said...

In our neck o' the woods, Stuff Happens at 15 absences, excused or otherwise. I'm surprised that the bureaucratic wheels haven't run your ghost over by now!

And yes, your students should get their doughnuts. I'm not keen on that system, because it's penalizing the wrong students.

At 11/21/07, 1:10 PM, Blogger Mrs. Bluebird said...

Good gracious, I'd buy them doughnuts myself. Our kids get a visit from our Full Time District Truant Person after ten days...they get an automatic phone call after 3, 5, and 8 as well. If nothing else, we've been known to send our SRO over to make sure everyone is alive.

I'm surprised nothing has happened at all in your district. How sad.

At 11/22/07, 12:23 AM, Blogger Mrs. T said...

We have the same problem. Our huge district has exactly one truant officer, so I don't blame him personally. We used to have an attendance policy where the kid automatically failed after 20 absences in a quarter. For some reason, we no longer have such a policy.

At 11/23/07, 11:13 PM, Blogger EdWonk said...

The "punch-line" of course is that under NCLB, the school (and that usually means the classroom teacher) will be held accountable for "Casper's" lack of academic progress.

At 11/25/07, 8:39 AM, Blogger Oyun indir said...

Good gracious, I'd buy them doughnuts myself. Our kids get a visit from our Full Time District Truant Person after ten days...they get an automatic phone call after 3, 5, and 8 as well. If nothing else, we've been known to send our SRO over to make sure everyone is alive.


At 11/25/07, 12:51 PM, Blogger graycie said...

Didn't you get the word? You're responsible for Casper's attendance. That's what our principal told us at the last faculty meeting -- it's the teacher's responsibility.

Our kids are also supposed to all earn As on summative (or was that normative or formative?) tests. Also our responsibility. (Don't ask me what those words may mean. I'm only an English teacher. What do I know about language?)

At 11/25/07, 7:13 PM, Blogger Blair said...

This makes me sad. Something does need to happen... an F in your class, a visit from Social Services, or a home visit by that same counselor who brought him to you. I hope that he is OK... and please, do buy the rest of your class some doughnuts...or maybe Casper can pick up some pizza for the rest of the class???

At 11/25/07, 7:36 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

I really should get the the doughbutts-- I mean doughnuts, if I didn't get the willies smelling them in my car on the way to school.

Apparently, as long as the parent claims the kid is sick, they are excused. I kid you not.


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