Friday, February 20, 2009

Finding Jeff Spicoli

I went to high school in Southern California in the late 70's. Remember the 1982 movie classic, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High"? That, my friends, could have easily been my high school. We actually had surfing as a physical education elective and it wasn't unusual to see stoned out surfer dudes sitting in class like the character of Jeff Spicoli, played by Sean Penn. In fact, my best friend Diane and I were often selected (because we were smart, nice girls and weren't likely to get crushes on idiots) to help peer tutor some of these potheads in a feeble attempt to help them graduate.

So to say that I know a stoner when I see one is a pretty fair assessment.

I have had, since day one of school, Spicoli Boy sitting in a dazed stupor in my Fourth Period Class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself. He's not a problem behavior-wise outside of the fact that there are times I feel a need to check his pulse to see that he's alive and hasn't just passed away sitting upright with his eyes half-closed. He never has a pencil. He never has paper. He never has a book, a binder, and certainly not a clue. I'm stunned, quite honestly, that he can even remember his schedule.

So imagine my surprise when I pull his records and find out that this kid is (was) as smart as a whip and actually was advanced on his Big Deal Government Mandated State Tests in the past. He did manage to pass sixth grade, although he exhibited a slide academically. This year, however, it's not a slide, but an out and out free-fall.

Every single one of us on the team has tried to reach this kid, pulling him aside to ask what's up, getting guidance to talk to him, seeing if he needs help with his locker, you name it. We have all tried getting his dad in for a meeting (parents are divorced, he lives with dad) which was singularly unsuccessful. My first call was three weeks into the school year and Spicoli Dad, who didn't sound all that focused himself, said he'd "take care of it". I've lost track of the phone calls we've made home.

Finally, Spicoli Mom made contact with guidance and after a few false starts we managed to get her in for a meeting to discuss what, if anything, we could do for this kid...after all, he did announce to Coach Math and his entire class that he was going to take the year off and just cruise because he'd get passed on anyway.

(Well, he's right, and that burns my ass like you have no idea, but that's a topic for another post.)

Our big dilemma was how to tell Spicoli Mom, without coming right out and saying "hey, your kid is stoned in class all the time," that her kid is, well, stoned in class all the time. That's a pretty serious accusation to make (without a drug test to back it up) and that could get us into some hot water.

Spicoli Mom seemed pretty together, and with it, and expressed her concern about his drop in grades, performance, and all. She was particularly interested in the fact that her ex refused to meet with us, and told us that he feels that Spicoli Boy is old enough to be responsible for his own schooling and he wasn't going to "baby-sit" him. (Great parenting skills there, eh?) She mentioned being concerned about the kids he hangs around with in the neighborhood, including an 8th grader and some high school kids, and would like to see a change in his choice of friends.

We all expressed concern about his lack of performance, pencil, paper, book, you name it, mentioned how he was "zoned", "spaced out", "not with us", in class, how he jumped when you called his name, how he didn't seem to socialize with kids on the team, just the older kids after school, and they were trouble. We mentioned that if she was concerned about his friends, "who could, perhaps, be doing things that aren't appropriate, such as experimenting with drugs and alcohol," that perhaps she and her ex may want to consider a change of school (she lives in another zone).

She nodded, expressed more concern, and said she'd see what she could do. She called me the next morning and said that Spicoli Boy cried big crocodile tears and said he always did all his work and turned it in and we all lost it and never gave him credit.


So, wanna guess who got popped, finally, for having a bit of weed on him the other day?

Think Spicoli Mom gets it now?

I'm not gambling on that one. Perhaps the judge will make it a bit more clear for her.


Elizabeth said...

Goodness, it is like you are describing one of my students! My heart just breaks, because I know he is so smart, and has so much potential, but he is just throwing it all away and no one else seems to care.

HappyChyck said...

I'm pretty sure that my high schoolers have something in their systems at all times. I made a comment one night that I wasn't even sure I would know what a straight teenager would look like. Everyone looked at me like I was the one who was high.

The thing about wayward middle schoolers, though, is that maybe they can turn it around before they get like my high schoolers. With your kid, I hope he realizes that he's not any good at it. He did get caught, after all!

Linda Fox said...

Ya' know, I'm getting really pissed at the administrations that are more concerned about getting sued than in keeping kids from killing themselves with drugs. I have the same problem in my school, and, only recently has the principal (who is new) actually talked about it.

"We have a pot problem on campus" - no sh##, Sherlock. I've been talking about it for months.

R2P2 said...

Your story reminds me of a book I just read - Beautiful Boy - which is a father's memoir about his son's journey into meth addiction. Your Spicoli sounds a LOT like the young man in the novel.

It scares me how kids get involved in these things so young! I never knew where to find such things...but I guess I was just a goody two-shoes. There's so much I wish I could do for my students. It's so hard sometimes to watch them learn - or not learn - hard lessons.

Mrs. T said...

Unbelievable! Glad he finally got busted.

The Princess Mom said...

Is it possible that what he needs is harder work and a reason to do it? My gifted kids started to slide when they got to middle school and realized it was going to be three more years of waiting for the other kids to catch up. Just a thought.