Friday, May 7, 2010

Salute to Smooth

I haven't written about Smooth much this year, and when I mentioned him briefly in my NYC Educator post yesterday, I had to ask myself why. Smooth is a very interesting kid. If you met him, you'd think he was your standard-issue popular kid: he's cute, well-dressed, and just smart-alecky enough to be funny without being disrespectful or disruptive. He gets good-enough grades; not great, and probably not as good as he could do if he really tried, but good enough. You probably have a kid or two like Smooth. You probably like him and don't give him much more thought.

I've known Smooth for as long as I've been at the Morton School. He's always been the way he is. Except for the first half of this school year. I talked to his mom a few weeks into the school year and commented that he seemed much more reserved, maybe even a little down, than I'd known him to be in the past. He wasn't jokey and fast-talking the way he always was before, and his grades, instead of being good enough, were just north of failing.

His mom sighed. "It's his brother," she said. "He's in jail. Smooth really looks up to his brother and he made some really foolish choices, and he got caught."

I felt terribly. Smooth's brother is considerably older than him and had been out of the house for a while, but Smooth's dad is not involved with him, so the brother was something of a father figure. Smooth was angry at his brother but also missed him. Smooth's mom promised to get him into counseling and work with him to get his grades up.

Well, fast forward to May. Against those lousy odds, Smooth turned the ship around. First his grades started ticking upward. Then he started dating a sweet girl in his class. Then his former personality started wiggling out again--a funny impression here, a sarcastic remark there--and I'd say he's back to his old self.

But it's not just that. Smooth grew a heart, too. He stays late after school every day--not because he gets AIS, but because his girlfriend does, and he waits for her to get out. The girlfriend was convinced, to the point of tears, that she bombed the math exam the other day, and he didn't want to leave her side. I mean, I know these kids are young and their relationships aren't *serious* per se, but I think that's sweet.

And you know what? I think Smooth is awesome. I just know so many kids who would give up in his situation. I love that he put himself back on the right path (with help from mom and a counselor). I love that he's kind to his young lady. I even love that he messes around in class, just a little, because I think he's finding school tolerable, even positive, again.

I've been wanting to write a note to his mom and tell her all this stuff, but I haven't been sure how to say it. Maybe I should just say what I said here.