He was always a little clingy. Clamoring for attention in class. Participating more than normal. Asking unnecessary questions so he would have my and the class’s attention.
But he was earning a B+. He was respectful. I didn’t mind him so much.
Then he got suspended. Caught with a glass weapon in his backpack. Nearly expelled. He was out of school for three weeks.
When he came back, he was quiet, withdrawn. He did not ask to make up work. He did not seem concerned with anything we were doing in class.
Soon his participatory demeanor came back, but his work ethic was still missing. Left behind at the expulsion hearing, maybe. He is still respectful, to me at least, though he regularly calls his math teacher a bitch. He is still clamoring for attention. He is not doing any work.
He is, however, wearing a lot of red. Not school spirit red, which is really more of a maroon, but gang red. Norteno red.
I called his mom. Set up a conference. She did not seem surprised nor concerned that a teacher was calling home to set up said conference. I organized a whole support team. Math teacher, science teacher, assistant principal, academic counselor, and mom. I’m his English teacher. Meeting time, date, place confirmed.
Day of the conference. No one shows up.
Conference is rescheduled for the following week. Mom promises to be there. Counselor calls to remind her. Teachers re-confirm.
Day of second conference. No one shows up. Not even the kid, whom the counselor and reminded at the beginning of the day, and whom I had reminded later in the day. Just an hour before the meeting.
What else can I do? He has already been jumped into the gang. His mom either can’t or doesn’t care. His other teachers have given up on him. Written him off as another gang kid.
And the thing is, I don’t teach in an urban area where there are many gang kids. This is a suburban, farming community. We don’t have a huge gang problem. He’s not just another gang kid.
He’s a freshman. There’s still hope for him.
I’m just afraid he’s already made his decision.
He might be OK with ending up dead or in prison in a few years if it means getting some consistent acceptance and attention right now. He’s clearly not getting it at home or in school.
So what else can I really do?