Wake Up Call

After a rocky beginning to his high school career, Andy finds himself standing at a fork in the road.

Andy’s ninth-grade classes are a mixed bag.

I felt my head drop right when the bell rang. I didn’t know what woke me up, but it didn’t really matter. I picked up my pencil, shoved it into my back pocket, rubbed my eyes, stretched, and shuffled to my next class: algebra. Algebra? Who were they kidding?

My math teacher, Mr. Hayword, was used to me. He usually dissed me by shakin’ his head, “Here comes trouble.” Then, he pretty much ignored me and taught his boring old math class in the same boring old way. Get out your homework, check your homework, watch Mr. Hayword do math problems, open your book, do some math problems, check your math problems, write down your homework. Man, why don’t you try staying awake through that?

Mrs. Clanton tried every trick in the book to reach her English students.

I could finally head home to my couch – and my TV – after my last class of the day: English. Mrs. Clanton, now she was aight. I mean, she made learning pretty fun. We got to listen to music and discuss the lyrics and stuff. And we wrote about real stuff that was happening, you know, like stuff that’s in the news. The real deal. One day, I remember, we were talking about hurricane Katrina and New Orleans. Or, what was left of it. I had a lot to say, because my uncle and cousins stayed there, and they wound up in the Superdome. After class, Mrs. Clanton told me I was smart. Yeah, right, that’s why I’m in this class, I thought.

Andy begins to gain confidence and find himself.

I started going to Mrs. Clanton’s class every day. I even wrote a paper about my uncle and cousins in the Superdome. Mrs. Clanton got them to put it in the school newspaper. I didn’t know anyone even read that thing. But, they did. People started talkin’ to me about it. Coach Anderson said he sent money to the Katrina relief fund because of what I wrote. Mrs. Clanton said she liked my writing, that I had a strong voice. I’m not exactly sure what that meant, but I knew I had some things to say.

My mom always called me Motor Mouth, MM for short. She says I came out talkin’. She’s worked a second job at night ever since I can remember. After school I would usually heat up some dinner, maybe some Ragu, and save a bowl full for Mom. When she got home, I’d heat hers in the microwave, and we’d talk at the kitchen table while she ate. And then I’d go to bed.

One day, Mrs. Clanton got on this kick she called Know Thy Self. She said it would help us make choices if we understood ourselves better. She said it was about building a foundation, or something like that. No one ever asked me to think about that stuff before.

See samples of the “Understanding Myself and Others” assignment from Mrs. Clanton’s class below:

Andy meets Coach Anderson, starts playing football, and rethinks his plans.

Andy is looking at making a lot of big decisions during his last year of high school

After a while, my grades got better. By eleventh grade, I was passing most of my classes, going to school every day, and playing football. I’d never been so busy in my whole life, and I knew I couldn’t have done it if it wasn’t for Coach Anderson. He’s the best. He’s not just a great coach, but, well, it’s like he really cares. He’s not just all about football, either. He even helps us study, tutors us after school and stuff.

Well, now I’m a senior, and I got a new problem. One door opens, and the other one just stays there, banging on its hinges.

Click here to see Andy reflect on what to do with his life.