The "Highly Mobile"
After 25 years of playground basketball, I’m still amazed that every pickup game has kids who come from the same neighborhoods, but attend schools that are scattered so widely across the county. A few have relatively straightforward explanations for their mobility, like a family illness or transportation problems, but rarely is there a simple path to an inner city secondary school.
As with the rest of the nation, the saddest tales are of students who shuttle from one home to another, one neighborhood school to another, one alternative school to another, and one district to another. The most frustrating stories are of kids who simply mature more slowly and thus can’t fit into our lockstep system.
The greetings, goodbyes, and welcome backs are always poignant, but now it is harder to show proper respect to each individual as transfers occur almost daily. Twice, I have had long goodbyes and a couple of hours later my former student was dead. Twice, within a couple of hours of saying goodbye, my students had shot people. Plenty of times I have reunited with former students on the streets or living in parks, and been stunned that those sweet children now looked older than me.
Others come back from their journeys with new dedication, and return to show off their degree, their uniform, or their child. One vexing student came back as a principal. I wish I knew where he went wrong. - John Thompson