To hear adults tell it, high school is one of the greatest moments in a young person’s life. The whole world is in front of them. This is their opportunity to become whatever they want. High school prepares them academically and socially. Many students get involved in different programs and groups and learn more about who they are individually. Great friends made and adulthood is on the horizon. Yes, high school is a wonderful experience that parents and leaders encourage students to enjoy. But what about the ones who are dropping out every year?
What if as a student you don’t agree with this rosy picture? What if going back to school is the last thing you want to do? That is a miserable place for many students who struggle with returning for another year. Stress, pressure, academic failure and more is the last thing you want to get through for another year. The prospect of returning to school for many students is depressing. Their memories of earlier years are far from positive. Dropping out of school is more appealing, and in a weird way, these students view dropping out as a fresh start.
Life Changes and Dropping Out
Some drastic life events make students believe they should drop out of school. Many students find themselves facing the same challenges their parents are going through. The ability to cope with the pressures of the ‘real world’ overwhelms. It is unfortunate that some students battle real life challenges that are sometimes game changers. Such life altering events sometimes put going to school on the back burner. As young adults, students often feel the pressure to ‘grow up’ based on events such as:
- Unplanned pregnancy.
- Family problems.
- Financial problems at home.
- Being homeless.
- Poor academics.
- Being bullied in school.
One of the worst situations in the world is to not have a place to live. A place to call home offers stability and safety. Many students today live on couches, in cars, or at shelters. When you don’t know what you will eat or where you will sleep, going to school has less value. It is not a priority when compared to daily survival.
Difficult circumstances and situations leave entire families homeless and hungry. Students’ lack of focus is understandable. Although hanging in there and going to school will give some meals and temporary shelter, it is difficult to look on the bright side of such conditions.
Parental support and involvement
Students need support and love from their parents. Parental involvement means they care and the student matters. Parents must show a true interest in their child’s education. Students understand their parents aspirations for their future, and react by viewing school as something necessary and serious. Parents who show little to no interest in their child’s life create an atmosphere for children to devalue learning.
Educational support helps curb dropping out of school. Our children want to matter to our lives. Many turn around negative behaviors to please their parents. Learning is no longer avoided, but something students look forward to. With a little encouragement and attention, parents’ ability to get their student back on track is quite hopeful.
Many high school students feel the pressure to make financial contributions to the family and begin working 20 hours a week or more. This could lead to dropping out of school. Students who take on such early adult responsibilities underestimate the value of remaining in school. Working fewer than 20 hours allows the student to have minimal involvement in working. This means school remains a priority for them.
School grades and attitudes
How well students do academically plays a huge role in their decision to leave school. Poor grades and test scores are frustrating and depressing. Students rate themselves as failures especially if they have tried being a better student. Students remember their poor performance from year to year and entertain dropping out over another year of unsuccessful struggling.
Students with high absenteeism, low discipline and other out of control behavioral problems often drop out. Once a student reaches this level of behavior they are no longer engaged in student life. It is important to find ways to make school matter to young adults who believe school has nothing to offer them.
Prevention and second chances
Dropping out of school can happen for so many reasons. Research shows that most students regret leaving school and wish they did things differently. Feelings shared from students who wish they stayed in school believe the following preventative methods were most important:
- Alternative schooling.
- Career and technology education.
- Family engagement.
- Safe learning environments.
- Individualized instruction.
If the home and school environments are safe, students do not attend school with a survival mentality. Safe learning environments offer techniques and skills to help students deal with various forms of confrontation. Role-playing possible incidents teaches ways to manage such challenges, build positive school work habits, and maintain healthier social relationships.
Some students who decided to drop out of school believe that, even though they want to go back, it is difficult to return to the same school. Memories of struggles and emotional baggage makes it more challenging. For this reason, alternative schools and GED programs offer a way to move forward with their education and earn their diploma.
Alternative schools have some of the same characteristics as technical education. These programs offer a school-to-work program; what you learn in school prepares you to go to work. Many students relate to this concept and do well with such program. Students experience real training and skills they can use to care for themselves once school is over. They learn a hands-on skill they can use to make a living.
Individualized instruction puts focus on the student and their career dreams for themselves. Students should take a moment and find out exactly what they wish to gain from staying in school. This gives the student an opportunity to take control of their future. This empowering feeling builds confidence and hope in the student.
At the heart of helping students get back in school is family engagement. Students need to know that you care and that you expect better for them. This builds a relationship of self-worth and determination. Without someone wanting better for you, it is very hard to toe the line alone. Positive people in your life, supportive family members and mentors add value to your life. Students view things differently when they experience love, support, encouragement and belief in them from loved ones.
Although difficult and challenging at times, stay at school. It is a major key to help create a brighter future for everyone. It is a way out from challenging life struggles. Staying in school is worth the work and worth the effort.