Monday, March 7, 2011

Cecil and the Missing Book

Today was my first day of teaching for the new semester. That meant new grade 1 students (grade 7, back home) and last year's grade 2s in their new lofty role as kings and queens of the school - solidly perched at middle school grade 3 until their separation and slide into renewed mediocrity when they begin high school in 2012.

This year will be an interesting one for me, in that this year's grade 3s were the babies of the school when I began. I will be able to see them (mostly) through their whole middle school career - certainly some of the most formative years in a young person's life. This is what I signed-up for.

One student I'll be sad to see go is Cecil - he's actually a complete delinquent - if I can assign such a term. Cecil has very curly hair, and absent stare, and a habit of being late for class every day, while coming in sporting a black eye or swollen ear and smelling like smoke - don't be surprised, the stats would put things in perspective.

Despite the fact that he doesn't try in my class and has not improved his English in a measurable way since I started as his native speaking English teacher two years ago, I can't help but like Cecil - at least, I do my best to make him comfortable in my class. I don't think I'm going out on a limb in saying that, at this point, I may be the only authority figure in his life who doesn't want to kick his ass on a regular basis. What would be the point? He's going to fail every subject in school, and that's just a fact. I'm not a nihilist on this, I'm just observing the truth from the perspective of someone who doesn't see him enough to have a real shot of pulling him out of his slide. If anything changes, I'll let you know.

However, that's unlikely. Cecil was late on this - the first day of classes with me. He had no book, and told the Korean teacher that he lost it. Truth is, he doesn't want it. Cecil just doesn't want to be here. I let him know as best I can that in some inexplicable way, I have a fondness for him, and I think he reacts positively to this in the best way he knows how - by staying in my class for the duration and not doing anything criminal enough to get kicked-out.

I wonder what will happen to kids like Cecil after middle school. I wonder where he'll go. Signs suggest that he'd get eaten-alive in High School, but you never know. I see kids that are going somewhere - even those who are loud and too misdirected and sassy for their own good have something to feed on.

Cecil seems content to just drift - I don't think a fluent understanding of Korean would illuminate anything different about him. Cecil makes me laugh, but he also makes me sad.

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