When I was principal of a rural high school we did an exercise to determine which students had connections with adults in our building. We had every student’s name on a list hanging on the wall in the library. Armed with colored dot stickers teachers were to go through the entire list and place a sticker next to every student in which they felt they had established a solid relationship. The stickers began to overlap for many children. These were the students that were social, popular, and active in extra curricular activities. These students that had multiple stickers liked school and liked their teachers. There was no doubt as to their graduation completion.
As the exercise continued we noticed that there were a few, 4 in all, that had not one sticker by the name. Who were these children? How had they managed to attend our school and yet not one teacher would say a relationship was established? The information was profound. These children were at the biggest risk for dropping out. They were disenfranchised.
A plan was put into place as we determined how we could get to know and engage these children in school. Various teachers would reach out and try to get to know these students. Perhaps they could invite them to participate in an extra curricular activity. Maybe just having a deliberate conversation routinely would make a difference. How had these children slipped through the cracks?
Did we save them all? Sadly, we did not. Honestly we were able to reach 1 of the 4 and engage him in school. The other 3 ended up dropping out. I take responsibility for these 3. Never again would this happen under my watch.
Who are the lost students in your school? Have you even looked? You need to do so for possibly identifying them, engaging them, and getting to know them might be the game changer they need in their lives. What is it they say about it only takes one teacher to make that lasting difference in a child’s life? Be that teacher. Look for the lost ones and take them under your wing. You have all of the power to change a life forever. Isn’t this the reason that we all became educators in the first place? Connect the dots!