“I also think there needs to be a shift in social attitudes supported by a change in the system, so that it is easier and more acceptable for students to leave school if they are unhappy and not learning, spend some time in the work force, and return to school whenever they are ready.”
When I was dating my husband, I heard many stories from him and his mother about the difficult times he had in school. He ended up joining the navy and getting his GED. I have taught many students who feel like staying in school is a waste of time.
My students were in the Occupational Diploma Program which was a district program and not a state recognized program. My students were students with disabilities that kept them from passing the state exit exam in order to receive a state high school diploma. This means that they walked at graduation and got their occupational diploma but the state still considered them drop outs on the AYP report. What a slap in the face this was for my students! They followed a rigorous curriculum in order to receive this but they still weren’t counted as being successful.
The local Career and Technology Center was focusing on college bound students who could pass licensure tests so my students were not really encouraged to attend. There were no programs like brick masonry, or building construction, or auto mechanics offered for my students. Of course, I heard that it was hard to find instructors but I also heard that they didn’t really seek anyone out for these types of programs. I’m worried about the future. We will still need our cars worked on, and houses built so who is going to do this if we are not training our youth in these occupations. I had students who were willing to learn this but no one willing to teach them. Some of my students didn’t see the value of staying in school when they wanted and needed to learn a trade. I tried to encourage them to stay in so they could show future employers that they were willing to hang in there and not quit on their commitments but that is the only reason I could really see them staying in school.
I did find information about Job Corps for my students and invited a speaker to my class. I was amazed how great the program sounded. I have had few students go through the program and was thrilled to hear that they were successful with the program.
I believe I needed to find out what options my students had besides school. I also needed to think about the realistic consequences of choosing these options. My students depended on me to be honest and they trusted my opinion. I couldn’t just be single minded and force my hopes and dreams on to them but had to think about what was in their best interests. I also communicated a lot with their parents as we looked at options too. By this time their parents were so frustrated and concerned that they didn’t know which way to turn. Many times I laid out the options for everyone to see so they could go home and discuss these options. Since everyone’s goal was for the student to find success, we were able to help the student make the best decision at that time.
Sometimes school isn’t for everyone and all I hope to do is help my students become successful in finding their way towards independence.
Original image: 'One Room School' http://www.flickr.com/photos/57038667@N00/2822293763 by: Cindy Seigle