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Chapter 4 William Allan Kritsonis, PhD

Discover Dropouts before They Cop Out

Children must look forward to attending school. Though seemingly improbable, this attitude can become a reality if challenging and rewarding school experiences are offered. Through personal achievement, a child becomes aware of his own self-worth and anticipates opportunities for contributing to society. A happy, contented child rarely chooses to drop out of school and is seldom a serious problem in the classroom. Inconsistent school attendance is the first indication of a students frustration with school. The teacher can identify these potential dropouts by taking daily attendance, then initiating corrective tactics before dropping out of school becomes copping out. Besides chronic absenteeism, low achievement (especially in the areas of reading or mathematics), family economic problems, lack of ability to make friends or influence them, disciplinary problems, and a generally apathetic view toward school also indicate problems. Identify those students who fall into any of these categories, then aggressively attempt to change their attitudes. Telephone absent children at their homes during the school day or after school to show support for the child and parent. The absentee must come to realize that when they are not in school, the teacher cares and is genuinely concerned about them. Each child is a unique person and therefore each absence must be treated individually. Considering each and every need of the child who is having problems is of prime importance in solving the total problem. Emphasize the value of school attendance to the childs parents by telephoning them or by sending them a friendly, informative letter. Encourage parents of children with chronic absentee problems to receive in-service training and become involved in the classroom as teacher assistants. As their involvement in the schools educational program increases, the importance of having their child attend school regularly is sharply accentuated. Another effective approach for reaching out to habitual absentees is to personally visit their homes and to encourage classmates to do likewise. 12 Dropout characteristics

in children at the elementary level often vanish completely when peers join teachers in home visitations. Teachers can help children having attendance problems by assigning supervised attendance. Extra- curricular activities also provide opportunities for children to assume attendance-taking responsibilities. Drama, sports, creative dramatics, music, computer clubs, and assemblies are excellent extra curricular activities for assigning responsibilities to problem children. Monthly contests often simulate children to want to attend school more regularly. Give recognition to those who show signs of attendance improvement. Assure children they will be allowed to make up schoolwork they missed due to an absence and provide opportunities for them to do so. Arrangements must be fair, consistent, and reasonable, emphasizing clearly to the child the importance of attending school regularly. In certain instances, the teacher must exercise professional judgment in making exceptions based on particular circumstances. Curriculum offerings must promote academic achievement. Unfortunately, present educational systems fail to meet the needs of many children and many are held back each school year. These children require special attention to dispel their feelings of failure. The responsibility of providing these children with interesting, challenging, stimulating, and newer materials becomes crystal clear. Constant evaluation of the depth and breadth of the curriculum helps to maintain a quality education program. Special provisions must be made for both the above average student and the slow learner. As the student enjoys the benefits of achievement in a strong curriculum, his personal growth will be evident. Oftentimes, appealing to a students sense of school pride will reverse his decision to drop out of school. Having children actively participate in keeping the classroom, school buildings, and the school grounds neat, clean, and attractive provides school spirit that spreads throughout the entire student body, and carries over into junior and senior high school. Another way of reaching those students having difficulties in school is to have 13

children in the class tutor them. Peer tutors can help by discussing school attendance with problem students or by assisting them with schoolwork or homework. Leaders from the community can often motivate students to become more interested in school and in their community. A way to seek the community support of schools is to locate afterschool tutoring programs. Such programs are beginning to increase in numbers because of the needs expressed in an effort to address academic performance of students in view of the parent's work schedule. After-school programs provide a safe environment, are well-structured, keep students engaged in various activities, and allow parents to feel a sense of relief knowing that their child has a place to complete homework and other assignments. Individualizing instruction falls on many shoulders, but it falls heaviest on the shoulders of those who teach daily in the classroom. Avoid criticizing a child who is having difficulties adjusting to or fitting into an individualized program. Remember that many children are not mature enough to be placed in such academic programs. Despite a teachers noblest efforts to help problem children, there will still be those who require additional attention. The child having problems in various subject areas must have the opportunity to experience success in the classroom. Set aside a block of time where this child can study one particular subject area. Counsel with him and offer guidance in handling personal difficulties and identifying goals. It is sometimes beneficial to have parents involved in the goal discussion and planning sessions. Parents want to participate in establishing long-range goals, concerns, and objectives for their child. In these sessions, encourage the parents and child to work together to develop habits that will guarantee success. The teacher, as the professional, will be expected to provide effective leadership and to monitor the situation closely. When the child is successful, praise him. Summer remedial programs provide excellent opportunities for primary grade students who are experiencing problems. If not dealt with properly and systematically, these problems may cause children to want to drop out and cop out in later years. Enthusiasm is a golden key to teaching, and teachers must strive to maintain a high level of honest enthusiasm throughout each teaching day. Be five-times more 14

enthusiastic than normal and watch how potential dropouts respond. Many times their response is to dispel all thought of copping out of school. A Thought in Words He is to be educated not because he is to make shoes, nails, and pins, but because he is a man. Channing