When do you age out of high school?
Our school district has an alternative high school program, and recently added an alternative middle school program. I am not that familiar with the middle school program, but I know the gal who runs it, and if anyone can do it, she can. But I do know the high school program. Here's how it works: If one can't succeed in a traditional high school setting, one can apply for our alternative program, with shorter hours and adapted courseloads and no homework and tiny class sizes and the suspension of most rules mandated by the board of education. One can potentially earn two semesters of credit for each semester in our alternative program. Previously, freshmen were not allowed to enter our alternative program, but lately that requirement has been waived as well. At the end of this program, one receives a diploma from the main high school with no asterisks, no qualifiers, no differentiation whatsoever between a diploma earned here and a diploma earned in the much more rigorous high school setting.
It's kind of like Barry Bonds' homerun record: the numbers are there, but one wonders sometimes how legitimate the accomplishment is, and how deep the ignorance goes.
So, anyway, I was walking the hallway the other day when I rounded the corner, and almost ran smack dab into a former student of mine, whom I shall call Moon Pie*. I'd had Moon Pie after he had been kicked out of our alternative high school program. That's right. You can fail to do well in high school, and if you fail to do well in the alternative program, you get put back into the traditional program that you've already not done well in. Life is full of irony.
But I digress. I started thinking about how long ago I had had Moon Pie. I teach juniors, and that was four and a half years ago. There is no way he is less than twenty years old. Twenty! When I was twenty, I was finishing my junior year of college. I had just begun dating the fella who is now my husband. Seriously, Moon Pie has now officially become the Phil Niekro of our high school, except that Phil Niekro was successful.
Moon Pie's time in that class five years ago, known forever in memory as "The Island of Misfit Toys," was NOT academically triumphant. He did learn not to sleep through class, and he thought the Great Depression was really unfair. He was in class with the Slasher, of whom I have written previously also here.
But he has been on the verge of graduation for three years now. Last year he swore to me he was going to graduate. He wanted to be the first person in his large family to graduate. His younger brother beat him to it. But three of his brothers are in the alternative program with him to keep him company each day.
He is not stupid. He is so lazy that if breathing wasn't involuntary he would have suffocated long ago. He smokes too much, drinks too much, tokes too much, and has raised himself. He turns 21 in 9 weeks. So far he is not a father, as far as I know, and he would have told me about that, even knowing that I would disapprove.
There is only one explanation for his continued presence.
He obviously does not want to be on the outside.
We have become a cocoon for him where he can get two squares and some companionship each day, all without too much being demanded of him.
*- A Moon Pie is a snack of "Southren" origin consisting of two round graham crackers with about two inches of marshmallow filling; this sandwich is then dipped in chocolate. This kid, while probably crackers, nonetheless has a soft marshmallow center that is definitely not kosher. Sweet, but of no nutritional value whatsoever.