“Once I am your teacher I never let go.”
That is one of the first things I tell my students at the beginning of the school year.
I started saying that in my third year of teaching when I finally got my own class. They were twelve sixth-grade special education students and they didn’t believe me.
Those kids are freshmen in high school now. I still have the phone
numbers of their parents or guardians in my cell phone’s directory.
Every now and then I call one of them to see how the boy or girl I taught is doing.
Some are thriving, some having a harder time.
One has dropped out and joined a gang.
I ran into him the other day after school.
He was wearing his colors so I didn’t have to ask him what was going on in his life.
We made small talk for a while before I asked him what happened, why had he given up on school.
He is a smart boy who has raging hormones and is easily distracted. He is also a very good basketball player.
He told me that his school doesn’t let freshmen play on the varsity and that students must maintain passing grades to be on a team.
He is capable of it, but he didn’t have to work too hard in middle school because, as a special education student, he had modified requirements for passing from grade to grade.
Those modifications disappear in high school
In high school all students are required to meet the same standard.
We warn them, but it still comes as a shock when it happens.
This boy realized around midterm, right around the time this HS basketball season ended, that he would not become a tenth grade student. He would not be on the varsity next year.
He has always had problems at home and those problems had worsened.
That’s why the gang is so attractive. It is a new family.
They don’t let go easily either.
This is where the corollary to I Never Let Go comes in.
I also never give up on a kid.
I reminded the boy of what I had told him four years ago and he laughed.
“I didn’t believe you then, but you tracked me in 7th and 8th grade and always checked in with me and my teachers.”
“I thought that was over when I graduated.”
“I never let go, and I never give up on a kid,” I told him.
“And the best thing about never is that never never comes.”