By March of freshman year, Koolaid was already failing classes. He stopped caring because his concern was geared more towards the money in his pockets than the education that he was receiving. The day that I heard his math teacher call him worthless was the day that I was done sitting idle so I grabbed him one day on his way to class for a conversation.
I remember like it was yesterday…clearing out my room, to speak to him. I needed to know why he was putting forth zero effort in his class…no, LIFE.
When you ask a student why they are not invested in themselves, you must be prepared for the response…no matter what that response is.
The biggest problem that Koolaid had in school was that teachers seemed to lack empathy. No one cared. I take that back. No one cared enough to care that he didn’t care. I then asked him what HE was doing to help himself. When you decide to be a grown man at 16, you can’t blame everyone else for your own actions. We all make choices. We choose to learn just like we choose not to.
The biggest complaint that Koolaid had was that he did not understand his math teacher. He needed help and did not feel as if he could get it. Pride kept him from coming to me for help along with the fact that he knew that I would get into the “out of school activities” conversation and that one was off limits. Our problem was that he failed one semester and needed to pass to have any shot at getting a credit. So, as the door to help him opened again, I gladly stepped into it because what I saw in him was a young man that really needed help and more importantly needed the familiarity of someone that cares…someone that he trusted.
When we have students who are in need of mentorship, we should make every effort possible to meet those needs. In a perfect world, we possess the ability to reach every student that walks through our doors. The reality is that there are some circumstances when a level of trust may be developed by that student and another adult. If that is the path to reaching that student, we must let our guards down and allow that student to receive what they need.
This is not what happened. The ego of his teacher got in the way. He was offended that this student, Koolaid, was not learning in his class but would come to me and understand. When Koolaid’s grades started improving, I was accused of helping him to cheat, which was interesting since I didn’t even teach the course. If Koolaid was failing, he was back to being worthless again. We couldn’t win.
My mother used to say to me, “When your head is in the lion’s mouth, be still”. I started saying this very line to Koolaid. My message to him was that he didn’t have to like his teachers and his teachers may or may not like him, but when you need to get what that teacher is giving, learn to suck it up and do what you need to do. The reality was that we were a minority student and teacher duo dealing with a hard-headed white male who did not understand his student.
I believe that Koolaid listened as the end of the year ended as quietly as it began.
End of Freshman Year