School has not been easy, nor has it been particularly enjoyable for my oldest son, who recently joined the Marines (though he will not actually enlist until he graduates from high school in a few months). There are reasons for this but they are his own private concern and not related to the point I wish to make here.
He signed on a Friday afternoon, my wife and I accompanying him to the recruitment center. They spoke to and about Evan with evident respect for him and his abilities, emphasizing what an asset he will be to the Marine Corps.
Saturday morning, a sergeant picked him up to take him to an all-day training session (called "PT") with his fellow recruits. He felt accepted, respected, understood for who he is and what he wants to be. They returned him home hours later, exhausted, happy, sweat-soaked, gritty with sand from the beaches along which they ran.
Sunday they picked him and took him to the recruitment center to help him prepare for his induction process and ASVAB exam, which determines the specialties he can choose once he finishes boot camp.
Monday, they retrieved him at 4:30 a.m.–was my son really getting up at 4:30 in the morning of his own choice?!–to take him to the induction center where he was tested for twelve hours. He got the highest score of everyone there on the ASVAB. He is in exemplary health and physical condition.
What's my point? This young man, for whom school has felt so often so uncomfortable or even a punishment–though that is not to say he has not had teachers who have made a great impact on him and whom he genuinely respects–experienced in the four days described above more respect, success, satisfaction, and general feeling of competence than he has experienced in four years of high school (and, if I really wanted to push it, could include middle school).
I'm not ready to draw any big conclusions from it as a teacher, but Evan's experiences lately give me a lot to think about when I see all the disturbing numbers and trends related to adolescent boys in our society, many of whom struggle to find a place and sense of purpose in (and outside of) school.