Coming down the home stretch of the school year, we are doing everything we can at our elementary school to try and keep the fifth graders on the hook. As opposed to off the hook. They have a pretty solid sense that we have reached the limits of our jurisdiction, and the leverage we might once have had in the midst of all our scholarly endeavors has all but disappeared. They have taken all the tests that we can think of, and the grades are pretty much in the book. That's when we send out the "two strikes" letter. It's the one that tells parents that, while we can't do a whole lot about whether their children are promoted, we can decide if they participate in the follies that celebrate that achievement. It's a unique gambit: We won't fail your kid, thereby bringing them back to us for another year, but we will keep them from being a part of the recognition of that fact. That hasn't kept them all in line, however. Two strikes seems to be at least one more than some of them are comfortable with. Where is the intimidation? Where is the fear?
When I was a senior in high school, the marching band was invited to perform in Mexico as part of a cultural exchange that never fully made sense to me. What did make sense to me was the threat that was held over my head by the band director and administration, as our trip was set to take place after commencement. If we misbehaved, we would be sent home at our expense, and we would not receive a diploma. I didn't question the validity of their claims. I knew something about running up against the man. In my world, there were those who toed the line and kept up appearances. These were the Band Goodies, or the BeeGees as we called them as an additional slam. I was not part of that group. I was a legacy in the other guys: The Band Baddies. We didn't call ourselves that, nor did we refer to ourselves as "BeeBees." That wouldn't have been cool. Having been kicked out of the Pep Band just a few months before, I didn't have the chutzpah to tempt fate one more time. I wanted to graduate. I didn't want to have to call my parents, long distance from another country, explaining how they had to send me a plane ticket because I decided to go off script one more time. While my girlfriend and I followed the rules and obeyed the curfew, we noticed the BeeGees, almost to a one, stayed out and drank and partied and canoodled in ways most unseemly. Didn't they want to graduate? Didn't they know they could be hitchhiking home form Mexico City at any moment?
Nope. But it worked on me. I behaved and came home without any of the ribald stories that so many of my bandmates did. I came home to my diploma and left behind all the adventures of my high school career. Not the ones from Mexico. Not that I'm recommending misbehavior of any sort, but to paraphrase Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, it always worked for me.