Dropping Out of School: The Influences of Teachers, Families and Friends

Dropping Out of School: The Influences of Teachers, Families and Friends

The choice should be easy: finish high school, go to college, get a great job, and lead a better life than their parents. This should be the easiest decision for a student to make. And yet, for so many, even finishing high school poses too difficult a challenge. These students, even knowing that life has little to offer without a high school education, choose the hard road of struggle and strife when they choose to drop out of school and make their way without that high school diploma. This decision to drop out is many times the result of teachers who offer a detrimental education, families who need their children at home, and peers who offer the wrong kind of support.

Students rely on their teachers to support them through the learning process so they can acquire the knowledge they need to succeed, both at school and in life. Many teachers, however, start the school year off by subconsciously deciding which students are worth teaching and which ones are lost causes. This begins happening to students somewhere between 6th and 10th grade. These teachers repeatedly shut down their struggling students’ attempts to understand the material and pass their classes; sometimes by seemingly innocuous acts such as ignoring their raised hands and failing to give them praise, and other times but more overt acts like calling out their failures in front of the class. As a result, many of these students simply give up. They no longer try to do well and, instead, focus their attention on things besides that class. When enough teachers have then told them, perhaps not by words but by actions and attitudes, that their presence is unnecessary, these students begin internalizing this attitude and determine that school is no longer the right place for them. This is a common reason students drop out of school. Who wants to be somewhere where their presence is obviously unwelcome?

Families can also have a negative impact on a student’s likelihood of completing high school. When a family member becomes ill, dies, or is simply unable to work, many times it is the student who must take on the responsibilities of caring for the household. These children begin working and taking on duties like cooking, cleaning, and looking after younger siblings at home. Students often become overburdened when caring for their families while trying to maintain their studies and end up sacrificing their education when they cannot keep up with everything they are now responsible for. Many times this choice is made with a promise to return to school once things settle down; a promise that rarely gets fulfilled.

Sometimes students get lucky and have wonderful, caring teachers, and supportive, capable parents, but get caught up with peers who offer the wrong kind of guidance for them. Many students find it hard to resist the temptations of drugs, sex, and freedom offered to them by their peers. These peers, some of whom have already dropped out of school, present a world where there is little to care about and much to enjoy. This can be an inviting prospect to students who are diligently working towards their degree. The alternative to hard work, “zoning out” and leaving all their troubles behind them, can become a tempting option for some students. The students’ grades and behavior start to fall as their peers begin to introduce them to this other side. It then becomes even easier for them to choose to give up as they attempt to avoid dealing with the consequences of the choices they’ve already made. By this time the students’ peers have made the choice to drop out of school an easy one for the students to make.

Between teachers, families, and peers, dropping out is many times a much easier choice for students to make than finishing school. Unfortunately, as these students already know, the prospects for their future become quite limited when they make this choice. The choice should be easy: finish high school, go to college, get a great job, and lead a better life than their parents. If only every child could be lucky enough to get teachers, peers, and parents that would support their student’s need for a worthwhile and complete education.