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It was a class of ten, so taking attendance was pretty simple. The class warned me that one of the absences, John (not his real name), would probably show up, albeit pretty late. John then became the topic of conversation.
They talked about how John was always late, how he slept in class, how he never did any work, and how the teacher reacted to this (not well). Then John arrived. The others were in the middle of a John story, and they continued telling it as John took his seat.
They turned to John. The story involved a test paper with no name on it, and so they asked John about it. John said the teacher told him not to put his name on it. It was a "waste of paper".
However, the conversation wasn't actually mean. The students weren't picking on John (if they had been, I would have put a stop to it). Apparently, John's lack of participation in the class is a frequent topic.
Before John arrived, the students all started comparing grades. The posted grades did not have names on them, but the students figured out whose was whose (primarily because each student identified his/her place on the list). John's grade was obvious. He had a 0.9%. No, that's not a typo. He had less than 1%.
Once John was in class, the others commented about his 0.9%. John was surprised. His grade had gone down. (From something like 0.92%, in case you're wondering.)
There is a reason all of this is noteworthy (or scary). John is a sophomore. To get into calculus, he had to have passed math analysis. Working the sequence backwards, then there's algebra 2, geometry, and algebra 1. So, John had to have taken algebra 2 in the 8th grade.
To put this into perspective, most 8th graders take pre-algebra or algebra 1. An 8th grader in algebra 2 is at least two years ahead of his peers.
My point is, a 10th grader taking calculus worked hard to get there. He was driven at some point. But something happened to change all of that.
I'm sure there's a story there. Of course, I don't know what it is. I may never know.