Today was not a good day. It is the one day of the school year I could definitely do without. I enjoy nearly all aspects of my job except for what I had to do today. This morning I had the somber task of notifying parents that their child would not be graduating with their class this Thursday night. God I hate making those phone calls. This is my fifteenth year of making the dreaded contacts and believe me, it hasn’t gotten any easier.
In all eleven of my seniors are non-grads. Nine of them will not be taking part in the graduation ceremony Thursday. They will not be part of the magic that is graduation and will not march into that auditorium with their friends, feel the energy and excitement nor proudly walk across the stage to receive their high school diploma, the holy grail, the grand reward for their thirteen years of reading writing and arithmetic, and for successfully jumping through all the academic hoops education has held up for them.
A few of them were well within reach of the prize. Three of my students failed just one class and were each just 5 credits short of earning a diploma. Two failed two or more required classes and four failed to pass one or both of the Exit Exams The remaining two non-grads were so far behind in credits that they never had a chance. For these nine students the journey to a diploma is not over. Summer school is in their future and for a few of them another semester in high school as a “super senior.”
Two of the nine earned all their credits but failed to pass one or both of the California High School Exit Exams required for a diploma. They will get to take part in the magic but when they cross the stage they will receive a Certificate of Completion instead of a diploma. They will not get their diploma until both Exit Exam’s are passed. They will continue their quest to pass at the Azusa Adult Education Center.
For some parents the news of their child’s failing comes as a complete surprise. They are shocked that their child has failed one or more classes and will not be walking. For the most part I just hang on to the phone and listen as they go through a series of emotions beginning with surprise, sadness and finally anger. You don’t know how many times I’ve heard about the relatives coming in from out of town, all the arrangements that have been made, the notices that have been mailed and the planned parties that must now be cancelled. For other parents the news came as no surprise as they were mailed notices several weeks ago informing them that their student might not be graduating. My call only confirmed things. Still making these calls is not a pleasant experience.
By the time I was finished making the calls I was drained. I felt sorry for the parents, less sorry for the students. These kids held the key to their graduation the entire time, they got it into the lock but just couldn’t turn the key. For most of them it was a lack of focus, a lack of effort and a whole bunch of absences and tardies. They just didn’t want it badly enough. A few did see the light but not until a few weeks ago. They tried to turn it around, but it was just too little too late. I can’t make it happen. I can only put them in the proper classes, encourage and support them to the best of my ability. Parents can’t make it happen either. They too can only encourage and support. We can’t attend the classes or do the work, that’s on them. The prize is still there for them and with summer school, Adult Ed and some serious effort, it can still be theirs, but they have to earn it.
My congratulations to the Azusa High School graduates! To a job well done… You did it Aztecs!!!