This is a particularly bad time of the year for the transfer school population. It will be immediately followed by the best time if the year, but the final weeks before graduation always involve the worst heartache for struggling students and the heavy burden of high standards.
The reality of our population is that they were most likely unsuccessful at their previous school, often for academic reasons. If students were successful academically, then they probably wouldn’t have looked to transfer. We know this but we are confident that the students who begin with us will be able to overcome. We make promises to families and potential admits about the success they will have in late June, knowing we will have to support kids through the stress of late May.
The problem is each kid deals with the stress of late May in different ways. Many kids stay up late. Perhaps they are watching Netflix and procrastinating, or trying to finish big complicated project completely on their own because they are too embarrassed to ask for help . Either way, this doesn’t leave students able to come to school on time and be successful, putting them behind and leading to more stress. Without some kind of intervention, these kids will spend these crucial weeks in bed, and look to try again in the fall with a clean slate.
Obviously, Netflix is probably not the most unhealthy thing that students could use to escape stress. There a number of students who use drugs, self-harm, or other damaging behavior as a coping mechanism. Others have no choice but to watch their bodies fail them, as they succumb to migraines, panic attacks, insomnia and countless other issues. Being healthy is more important than making sure they can get to college in June, and it is important for these kids to take the proper perspective on their bodies, and perhaps realize that maybe graduating in the fall is the best option.
Teaching at this time of the year makes a walk around the classroom fell like an episode of ice road truckers as we try to understand how solid each student is emotionally, and what flavor of motivation they need to block out the stress and make that day’s progress. Each student has a different mental and emotional state ahead of class, so each child needs to be handled individually. As kids get this close to what they believe is the end of their childhood, the supposed need to decide the rest of their life, and potentially dramatic shifts in responsibilities and relationships at home, it’s actually quite hard for them to show up and do work with so many undecided things in their life.
Sometimes you can figure it out. You see what a kid is doing, intervene appropriately, and get them on track. These appropriate interventions involve pulling kids aside, or calling them out in class. Buying them lunch or calling their mom. Going across the street and getting them out of the park, or letting them go for a walk to collect their thoughts. And sometimes, after all that, the kid still fails. Often spectacularly. They turn in a blatantly plagiarized paper, they get in a fight, they start some crazy new independent study/job/art project and all of a sudden everything falls through the cracks. Regardless of the shape it takes, these situations are heartbreaking.
Yesterday one of my favorite kids got kicked out of his internship. She needed that to graduate, and she will turn 21 at the end of the school year so she is going to have leave school immediately to get into a GED program while before the end of the year. It is rough having to deal with her empty chair, but hopefully I can find a way to motivate the live body who sits their next period.