I found out in a meeting on Thursday afternoon with my principal and assistant principal that my school has started “withdrawing” kids.
“This is a learning institution. And if we’re not about learning, what are we doing? Kids with bad grades, attendance, behavior… they’re acting in a way that flies in the face of everything we stand for. We’ve done everything we can, given them every support we can, and now it’s time to back parents up against the wall and tell them that their kids don’t belong at this school.”
They had asked me to make a list of students in each period who caused me the most trouble, and my Wise Young Lesbian was the first name I mentioned from first period.
“Haha! Well, you won’t be having any trouble with her anymore.”
Like I was supposed to laugh and feel lucky or something. As if it should make me feel good that the kids who need our help the most are now being squeezed out.
Maybe they will be better served by some alternative school. Maybe they’ll move into a different district and be better off there. But I can’t help but think they’ll just fall through the cracks, absorb all of this and take it as even more evidence that they’re unwanted and don’t deserve an actual education.
If my principal noticed that my eyes were wet, he didn’t show it. My eyes have gotten pretty good at soaking tears back up, anyway.
This girl is probably the smartest 10th-grader I’ve met. She is so conscious of how she’s learning, and the few times I did introduce something she hadn’t seen yet, she always asked very articulate, pointed questions until she knew she had it. She had an A in my class and made sure it stayed that way. The first day I had a substitute, I had her teach the lesson I left (and I’ll always feel guilty for not recognizing her enough for it afterward). She has a knack for free-styling that I’ve never fully been able to hide my admiration for, even when it ends with “this teacher doesn’t give me the restroom pass/and that’s why I hate this motherf’king class!” Always the first to spot inconsistencies, always the first to point out when she felt something we were doing was pointless. And never afraid to say exactly what she thought needed to be said.
When I called the number she listed on her student survey at the beginning of the year, I reached her father—but I had to use his daughter’s last name before he realized who I was talking about. “Oh—her. Yeah, she and her mom, they’ve got somethin going on. I keep getting calls from that school, and I keep telling you guys, I don’t know nothing about that kid. You call her mom’s number—don’t call this number again.”
I just wish I’d made it clearer to her how much I respected her and her wisdom. I wish I could have kept her around long enough to earn her respect.