Three former students came to visit this week. They all have standardized testing this week also, so they got out of school early.
"Michael" is, as his mother says with some misplaced pride, a lead poisoning baby. Not all there, not too bright, not too well taken care of at home. I don't know what is going to happen to him, but I'm willing to bet he doesn't stay in school much past sixth grade, where he is now.
"Harry," also in sixth grade, is a very intelligent boy with severe learning problems. He can carry on a very high-level conversation, but has serious difficulty reading and writing. Unlike Michael, he is with it enough to understand that he's really behind and it makes him really sad. His mom came through last year when he told her that he wanted to kill himself because he was stupid. She found him a counselor, started taking him to family counseling also, and got him through this. She's been fighting with the district for years to try to get him the special services he needs. He's been written off a lot as being stupid - nothing could be further from the truth. He's almost as tall as I am now, and only twelve years old!
"Shawna" was the most exciting one, because she's about to turn 16, and was one of my first third graders. She moved away shortly after third grade, and I didn't know she had moved back. She's tall, confident, and beautiful in an athletic, always-on-the-move way. She didn't think I would remember her, but she walked in the door and I turned around and took a picture I had of her down from the wall. She just looked at it and said, "That's me? I was really a tomboy!" She's got her own special set of circumstances - her dad is 76, and has about thirty children from various women. No, I'm not exaggerating. THIRTY children. I think the youngest is around four and the oldest passed away a few years ago at fifty-some years old.
Shawna lives with two brothers and her dad, who is very overprotective of her, probably because she's a girl. Her brothers - 13 and 17 years old - are failing school, staying out all night, getting in trouble with the law. Shawna has a 4.0 and has had this for several years. I'm really proud of her because she's not the kind of girl you think of as being on the honor roll - she's intelligent enough, but ready to fight, argue, kick, and scream. I think she still does all that, but obviously she finds some time to study too! I asked her how she was doing so well and she said she wasn't going to be a crackhead like her brothers; she was going to get out of there.