I don’t like to brag, but I have a sports star in my class.
Sure, I don’t see him all that often, but his name is on my ledger and he does stop by once or twice a week. He sometimes, on leaving, reaches out to do a fist bump, you know, because we’re good buddies.
Except we really aren’t. I’m a teacher, and he’s a student. I kind of have different expectations, so I don’t respond to that anymore. I used to, but it didn’t help. I do other things, but they don’t much work either. He was in my class last year, and failed because he showed up 40% of the time, if that.
I have a bunch of students from China who are really tall and were trained, perhaps from birth, to be basketball stars. Some can’t be on our team, though, because they’re failing all their subjects. Perhaps in China, if you’re a basketball star, that’s what you are, The whole academic thing thing may not be a large issue.
When I first started teaching, I had a basketball star in one of my classes. I recall being called into a assistant principal’s office. She explained to me, that although the student had never actually shown up to my music class (I’ve taught many things.), that he had to pass. He was, you know, a basketball star. I was young and knew nothing, but everyone told me that was how it was done.
Things have changed, of course. I’ve changed, the system has changed, and I can’t imagine an AP even attempting to deliver a message like that. But I wondered why my basketball stars were benched, and this guy was not. I’ve visited various APs around the building making inquiries.
First, I asked why this student, who failed everything last year, was allowed to be on the team at all. Evidently, he attended a summer program where everything was translated into his first language. That makes things easier, of course, especially when one of the courses you need to pass is English. Once your English class is no longer in English, it becomes much easier to pass. Of course, the student didn’t learn any English at all. But he passed something or other, somehow or other.
This next one is my fault. I didn’t give grades for some time, since we didn’t have a grading system. We still don’t, though we’re hopeful. When the student started cutting class, I went to another supervisor. “What are his grades?” asked the supervisor. “He hasn’t got any yet.” “Then he’s not failing.” I couldn’t argue with that.
When the student got his report card, I noticed he was failing five classes. I thought that might make a difference. Yet another supervisor told me that the athletic association that runs the teams does not consider letter grades, you know, the five “U” grades, to be failing. So the kid failed five classes, and there is no consequence. Clearly, this kid is smarter than I am.
I finally spoke with one more AP. I told him the whole story, and he was surprised. He pointed out that you could get away with murder in the fall sports, but you couldn’t do it during any other season. That didn’t seem fair to him. It doesn’t seem fair to me either.
But hey, if you’re a failing student, take some summer program, learn nothing, go back and join a fall sports team. If you’re a good player, everyone will protect you and no one will give a golly gosh darn that you are learning nothing whatsoever.