If I had a nickel for every time a student told me that they wouldn't be coming back to our school for one reason or another, I would have a lot of nickels. I would also have a pretty empty school. Kids don't always know when they are actually leaving. Sometimes they hear their parents talking about moving and they come to school the next day announcing, to anyone who will listen, that they won't be coming back the next day, or the next week. There are also those students who, usually when they run into some sort of trouble with authority, explain that they don't care because they're not coming back to this school. They are convinced that their borderline ridiculous behavior will somehow be tolerated in some school down the road.
To which I nod and smile, since I know that it is not just our school, but schools around the country that are full of kids who are going to be leaving at any minute. That is, if the kids had anything to say about it. Which is why it was a surprise when Jessica just stopped coming right before Spring Break. There have been plenty of times when a kid was absent for a week or more, and then suddenly reappeared right before we were ready to drop them from our roll. I expected that to be the case with Jessica.
I thought this because Jessica is, for lack of a better term, a bit of a pill. A second grade girl who has been suspended more than once in a school year is going to be a handful. In Kindergarten she was cute as a button and rarely said a word. In first grade she started to show a bit of a precocious streak: elbows akimbo, exerting her will on the boys who would chase her. When she entered the second grade, the streak became much wider, to an extreme. She pinched and poked and stuck her tongue out. It stopped being cute. She also decided that no one could tell her what to do. That made teaching her more and more difficult. When she chewed through a cord on a pair of headphones in the computer lab, she shrugged her shoulders and waited for someone to come and replace the obviously defective headphones.
We got word this week that Jessica is gone. Sadly, no one seemed to notice. Her classmates were a notch calmer. The drama on the playground was stepped down a notch. And the wiring in the computer lab was safe. It was a relief. Maybe it was for her as well. Perhaps she found that school where kids really are encouraged to hit back, or to talk back to their teachers. Or maybe she's out there someplace pinching and gnawing all on her own. Aloha, Jessica.