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As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Prevent Dropouts… Start in Kindergarten

Parents can take steps now to see that their child does not become a dropout either physically or mentally. Excited kindergartners can become mental dropouts by third grade if their program does not fit their needs. Students usually have to wait until they become teenagers to drop out physically.

Parents of young children can begin by taking advantage of the first parent-teacher conference coming up soon. A this conference be alert to sentences that indicate your child is not happy learning and the program does not seem to fit his needs. Work with the teacher so that changes can be made in order for your child to be successful as a learner. It is insufficient to say the child is not doing his work and needs to try harder. Steps should be taken to find the reason why the child is not succeeding. These steps may include diagnostic testing to pinpoint problem areas with a subsequent change in program. It might mean that hearing and vision tests should be done. Parents should make the assumption that the child would do well if he could.

Many things school systems do sometimes make it difficult for some children to succeed. Schools have time frames which are the same for everybody even though some children take longer to learn a particular concept than others. If they do not learn it when it is taught, they are given an unsatisfactory grade and never become proficient because the class goes on to the next concept. My son never learned to write in cursive because when that particular skill was taught, he small muscle coordination had not developed enough for him to hold the pencil. When a child becomes very much out-of-step he may become so discouraged that he sees no other option but to drop out.

Schools which feel that academic competition is the only way to motivate students to keep up are in danger of high drop out rates. If a child can never get his name on the coveted honor roll, he may give up. The Olympic games are an example. If the athlete does not come in first, the media treats him as if he were a failure.

Schools might be more helpful if instead of only having an honor roll for the names of the children who score the highest academically, they acknowledge other aspects of the child. Why not post the names of the children who were most empathetic to their peers, or the children who played well at recess by organizing their own softball game, or the children who won the relay race because they cooperated with each other, or the children who put on a wonderful school play, or the children who entertained with a concert at assembly? The possibilities are endless.

Schools need to remember that they should be concerned not only with the intellectual development of the child, but also with the physical, emotional and social development. A whole child comes to school. Schools cannot dissect the child and say we are only going to respond to one piece. When a child is not successful academically all the the other pieces are involved. When a child drops out, the whole child drops out.

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