I so understand your concerns. I have taught kids from sixth grade up (except for sophomores) and I find that the level of apathy of students in general has increased dramatically since I started teaching in 1990. I appreciate your desire to grab this kid in some way; you have gone above and beyond to provide him with a personal advocate and instructor. You have tried to tailor your class work to fit his needs. And I cann't think of one more thing you should do that you have not done! That he is not encouraged at home or forced to do his work is indicative of the reason for his lack of concern for school work. In fact, I wonder if he is just not biding his time until he is old enough to be signed out of school. I expect he might believe his time is better spent working because he would see the value of a paycheck far beyond the value of knowledge or a high school diploma. I have struggled with these kinds of students, literally almost (and sometimes not just "almost") to do their homework. At a certain point I think we need to know that some kids cannot be saved. I know this seems so harsh, especially in that you obviously are "called" to teach—it's not just a job for you. But this young man has a choice. And he cannot at this time in his life appreciate what you know from experience. In fact, the only way he may ever appreciate it (if he ever does) is through the hard experience of getting out into the world and finding how hard that life is. THAT is harsh! It's much like parenting...as it has been with my children, sometimes I have to step back and let them try to fly. I hope they succeed, of course. But I know that I have done all I can with regard to specific concerns I may have (college, parenting their children, etc.), and I have learned sometimes I have to step away. My youngest reminds me of this every other day—with things I know I cannot control.
You cannot make this young man interested. You cannot make him forward-thinking. You cannot make him...
What you can do is show him respect, as you have done. Let him know you really care about him, as you have done. Let him know that you will continue to care no matter what. And then, if it were me, I'd kiss him up to God. The greatest lesson he may learn in life may not take place in the classroom. The greatest thing he may learn about is the capacity of one person to care for another—which will come from you. It's not giving up: I thought that for a long time. Its your survival so you can help other kids. I learned (and it was so hard!) that if I did not let go, it would destroy me.
You're doing a great job. You care, and how many kids can say this, how many wish they could say this...and how many can only say it because of a teacher who really cares, like you. This is based upon my experiences, of course. I wish you the best!