We can’t forget about the students who aren’t in class
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First bell has rung, so has the second, and the third. At this time all students are supposed to be sitting in class to take in their education and listen to the teacher and do as they’re told. Students are constantly told that education is the path of success to your future. Some students believe that this is easier said than done.
Every human being has their struggles and some people struggle more than others. When it comes to school it may not always be a walk in the park.
Jean Torres is a freshman at South high this year. He could be in class but he says “I don’t like being at school [because] there are a lot of annoying people here. The teachers also gets me mad.” To avoid these stresses Torres may go to the mall to shop or munch on some popcorn at a movie instead. Sometimes he stays on school campus and just hangs out in the bathroom or the field.
This negative attitude towards teachers is a common reason why students skip class. Out of the nine students I spoke to, six of them explained how conflicts with teachers influences their attendance. These conflicts tend to be more emotional and typically come from issues outside of school. If a student is already stressed or having a bad day it’s easy to agitate them.
This can make the student feel unwelcome in the classroom. Torres is told that he’s “Not going to go anywhere.” or that he’s “Not going to graduate.” after hearing all of these statements repeatedly, he has begun to believe them himself. Even when going to get an interview I asked where he was one student said “He’s sick.” the teacher then replied with “Or he’s at the Y,” the whole class then giggled.
This sort of behavior is not okay. Students constantly skipping because of personal issues with the class shouldn’t be a class joke. All nine students that were skipping had a reason. It was always about the class of course, because that’s what they are trying to avoid. But why are students avoiding their classes? Besides the teachers another common response was that they believed what they were learning in class that day isn’t going to benefit them so instead they do something more fun.
These were the two reasons students skipped class. One, the students don’t feel welcome and two, the education is viewed as useless. Now South is unable to change the education system however South could improve on accepting and encouraging students to come to class. Schools will take the credit for how many students have graduated but they won’t take credit for how many students have skipped or worse dropped out, because for some reason that’s the student’s fault. Even though it’s easy to argue that the school didn’t help the student graduate it was all the students hard work.
According to US Department of Education every second a student in the United States drops out of school. That’s over 1.2 million students a year. Now skipping isn’t the same as dropping out however it could be a step towards that direction. When students don’t feel welcome in the classroom they may skip that class. If skipping class becomes a habit it creates a bad reputation which is then well known to other peers and staff. The cycle would then repeat itself. To stop this cycle from happening the school needs to take some responsibility for those students feeling unwanted.
The school tries to communicate and connect to these students. Security guard Douglas Herman says that “We try to make them understand, you know, that they aren’t benefiting anything from walking out of class or truancy or whatever. It’s all going to come back on you.” Teachers like Michelle Ockman also want students to connect and communicate with their teacher so they are able to help.
Ockman teaches ninth grade and tenth grade English with English teacher Ted Fable. When they met over the summer to discuss the next school year, Fable told Ockman of this fantastic idea to have something called the breather pass. The breather pass is different from a bathroom pass. It helps with a number of things such as getting a drink of water, taking a phone call, but also calming down without having to skip. Ockman said that the pass is “just to have a sort of pass for those moments when you don’t want to interrupt the class but you just need some time.”
With this breather pass it could help students feel safe and open in the classroom. Ockman also stated that “it’s not a teacher thing.” meaning the teacher can’t force you to take the pass it’s strictly a student’s decision for whether or not they need to leave class. If the teacher wanted a student to leave class they would ask them to step out, not take the pass. Ideas like these could help make South “the place to be” as stated on the South High website. If we want South to be a safe space then we need to start to recognize the students that are forgotten. It is time to notice all the empty seats.