This week we’re giving yet another standardized test, one of many.

Kevin can’t stay awake. He’s angry when I force him awake again and again. Finally, he gets rude, disrespectful. So I keep him after class.

I want to talk with him, because this rudeness, this disrespect, this sleepiness is becoming more frequent. Indeed, there’s a disturbing pattern from nice quiet kid last semester to irritating brat now.

So after class, I set him down and say, “We have to talk.” He’s resistant. Finally I say, ‘Kevin, I don’t understand why you’re pushing me away. You know I like you and I know you like me.’

“Yea, you’re OK, I guess,” he says.

‘So, let’s forget the rudeness for a second. And I’m not mad at you. I just want to know why are you so tired?’

“Noise, I guess.”

‘Like stuff from outside or the TV or what?’

“Nah, my parents.”

‘What, they stay up late?’

“Yea, they fight all night”, Kevin says.


“Last night till five in the morning?” I just let him talk about it, and, when he was done, told him to come back anytime he wanted to talk again.

The next day, he’s OK.

There are students who just need to leave information with me. ‘Leave things on my desk,’ I like to say. They expect nothing in return, nothing other than an uncritical ear from someone they know to have standards and limits.

In truth, the needs of my students are much more clinical than educational. And this is what standardized tests don’t examine.

Filed under: Prose, Publius