Apparently I’m like the Angel of (Figurative) Death because I’ve had two 10th grade students and one 11th grade advisee leave the school in the last couple weeks, and I have another 10th grade advisee who looks like it’s only a matter of time before he gets the boot as well.
This is one thing that never gets easier, no matter where you teach. Students will think I’m making this up, but there really is a little hole left in your life when they leave, especially when they leave with no closure. Students at my old school left for various reasons – moved, dropped out, expelled, got pregnant, GED, etc – while my kids here generally leave for academic reasons (either the school doesn’t accept them back because their GPA is too low, or the parents pull the kids because they don’t want to pay that much tuition for what they consider substandard grades), but it’s still really hard to let go of them, no matter what you personally thought about them or how much of a pain in the ass they might have been. It’s like Pilate says in Song of Solomon, “You can’t just fly off and leave a body.” Even though it’s often the kids who think they’ve been punished, I do feel a bit abandoned, every time.
At my old school, because of the reasons behind their departures, kids often left without any warning or notice at all. One day they’d be in your class, the next they’d be gone forever and you’d never know what happened to them. Sometimes you wouldn’t even know they’d officially left the school; you’d eventually just have to surmise what happened to them, or do your own investigation (do not even get me STARTED on the worst of these for me – I’m still LIVID). Strangely, though, even though my Bulgarian school is smaller and in many ways more organized and more put-together, with a less transient student population, the same phenomenon occurs.
I knew in advance about one of my 10th graders leaving (failed to meet GPA requirements), but he still never signed out with me personally or said goodbye; I can understand why he didn’t want to have to face down each of his 14 or so teachers one last time given the circumstances of his departure, but I still wish I’d been able to see him. My 11th grade advisee basically left during the flu vacation, with no warning at all – I’d seen him in advisory a few days earlier and we’d discussed final exams and there was absolutely no mention of any impending withdrawal. And then if I hadn’t picked up on rumors and some threadbare info from other teachers that same day, I wouldn’t have known about my latest 10th grader’s transfer at all. I asked him about it during a quiet moment in class, but I think if I hadn’t spoken to him about it, he was never planning on telling me directly, even though his whole section knew and his mother had come to parent conferences TWO DAYS previously and not uttered a word.
In some ways, it’s comforting to know that it is this way worldwide. American, immigrant, Bulgarian, it doesn’t matter – it’s not like my Boston city kids are especially remiss in notifying people of their general whereabouts. But in another sense, it’s even more insulting and hurtful that it’s so widespread. I mean, when I moved to Cambridge and then to Bulgaria, I informed my weekly yoga instructors both times because I didn’t want them just wondering where I’d suddenly disappeared to. No, it’s not like the news rocked their world, but it just seemed like common courtesy. It doesn’t seem so much to ask that schoolteachers, who see kids every day, get the same kind of consideration. Do students and parents think we just don’t care? That we don’t notice? Give us some credit! Good teachers truly love their kids, even the “bad” ones. It is in many ways very much akin to parenting. And, like with family, you don’t just get to fly off and leave a body, without saying goodbye.