Not many people would imagine failing high school to be an important opportunity for personal growth, but it is hardly (as feared by many) ‘the beginning of the end.’
Failing anything can be an opportunity to take a step back, figure out what happened and the best next step. The best next step may very well be a return to high school with a very different outlook on how to succeed. In order to do it better, it is important to be honest with oneself about what went wrong.
Ask yourself if any, or all, of the following factors, may have contributed to the failure:
1) The Wrong Program.
Quite often parents and students feel pressure to enroll in the most highly academic programs available. In reality, many highly intelligent students are very successful in more vocational programs and can earn a very respectable income after graduating from community college or an apprenticeship program. Given that college students acquire substantially less debt than their university counterparts and are often hired on through co-operative education placements their financial picture looks much rosier indeed.
2) Substance Abuse Issues.
Amazingly, many parents and students don’t make the connection between substance use and failure. Parents are often unaware of their teen’s use of alcohol or drugs or they fail to connect what they imagine to be “social use” with failure. Likewise, many teens who use alcohol or drugs believe themselves to be merely using socially and do not see how regular use can trigger depression or sap motivation.
3) Peer Influences.
Who a person chooses to associate himself or herself with says more than many young people think. Over time the wrong crowd can significantly change a student’s choices about the best use of free time, the desirability of a high school diploma, or even how to interact with authority figures.
4) Safety Issues.
Bullying in schools is as prevalent as it ever was. A student who develops an attendance problem or illness that keeps him or her home may be trying to avoid someone. For many students, there is such an overwhelming feeling of failure associated with being a victim that they are unwilling to talk to parents, even though they are regularly communicative.
It is difficult to do many things well. Some students try to work full-time hours outside of school and still find time for family and friends. This can be a recipe for disaster. It is far better to pare down one’s responsibilities to a manageable number in order to do fewer things well.
6) Inadequate rest and nutrition.
Many of us have been known to “burn the candle at both ends” in cases of necessity, but it is shocking how many students routinely deprive themselves of a good night’s sleep in order to get some extra time video-gaming, talking on the phone or using the Internet. In fact, a surprising number of parents don’t even know about the two most popular activities in cyberspace: Snapchat and Facebook Messenger.
Students who routinely cheat themselves out of a good night’s sleep are too tired to function at school or develop attendance issues.
7) Learning Differences.
There are many high school drop outs with better than average intelligence. In many cases, these individuals can succeed when information is presented to them differently or they are allowed different ways of demonstrating their knowledge about the material they are learning.
Parents of students who are trying their hardest to learn in a regular classroom but not succeeding should inquire about the availability of alternate programs. Some school boards are moving toward different ways for students to get credits including self-directed studies and distance (or computer) education.
The good news about all the issues listed above is that there are ways of addressing them.
In all instances, there are people or agencies who can provide support. High school guidance staff or administrators can suggest programs which may be better suited to struggling students’ needs or accommodate their learning differences.
A doctor or school nurse can help students access programs to eliminate alcohol or drug use and develop a plan for healthy living. Encouraging a teen to pursue a new interest or join a community organization can help him or her to find a more desirable peer group.
Perhaps the most important way for teen and parent to move forward is for them to engage in a constructive dialog where the focus is “What do we do now?” rather than “Who’s fault is it?”