Friday, May 2, 2008


I realized today that it has been over two weeks since I've seen R. Last week, I was calling the answering machines and dead phone numbers that fill the majority of our students parental contact pages and I was surprised when R.'s mother's phone reported that it did not accept incoming phone calls, at the subscriber's request. She was our only link.

R.'s parents are first generation immigrants from Liberia and his family lives miles and miles out in the suburbs. He is not embedded in the usual neighborhood net that can locate a lost kid, or a least report if he's okay or not. He rides the city bus for over an hour to get to school and spends his out-of-school time working at a big, suburban technology store.

R. is a great kid to have around. He's smart, interested in what I teach, and enthusiastic about learning. He comes in at lunch and takes tutorials on the internet, learning things about the applications that I don't even know. For a while, he was a big part of my program, taking both screenwriting and video. Then he started to slip. First it was his attendance, some tardies, then a day or two here and there, then it was a week. Next, when he did show up, he was hanging with a different crowd of kids and he was not acting like himself.

My colleague and I talked it over and decided to call in his parents. The conference was interesting. Liberia is an extremely messed up country - no government, tribal warfare, anarchy - and when R. was very young, he and his parents traveled across the country, waited it out in a refugee camp, and eventually made it to the U.S. Needless to say, these folks are justifiably pissed off that their kid would squander away the advantages that they risked their lives to give him.

In that meeting, R. finally admitted that he had been skipping school and smoking dope again. He made a commitment to get back on track. We put together a plan for him, little things to keep him hanging with the good guys and away from the smoke-in-the-park crowd. Publish PostHe did really well for a while, he was back to the old R. that my colleague and I really liked.

But lately, it is the same thing all over again. When he went missing for a week last month, he claimed that he got confused and thought it was spring break. He convinced his mother, but we weren't so sure. A few weeks ago, he had trouble concentrating and understanding a fairly straightforward task in a computer program that he knows pretty well. So I guess I wasn't surprised when I realized that he hadn't been around for a while.

I talked to the staff member who is charge of truancy. I told him about R.'s mom's phone. He said he'd do a little digging. We know the name of the store he works at, just not the location. We'll try to get him on the phone. Maybe that will help. Maybe not.