High school dropouts have a bad reputation for being “the dumb kids” and they get voted “most likely to be denied parole” instead of “most likely to succeed”.  The common impression of the high school dropout is the child in the back of the classroom wearing a hoodie. In most minds, that child is on drugs and never does his or her homework or class work. Most would agree the child will have a baby before the time the child gets his or her driver’s license. The child sits in the back of the class with no school supplies and is dumb as dirt (baring in mind that dirt isn’t all that dumb and really does wonders for the things that need it). The child is a complete loser and doesn’t deserve a second glance.

All this is internalized by the student and guess what? In a morbid self-fulfilling prophecy, all of those things come true.

The really sad part is it all could have been avoided if the stereotypes of a high school dropout were overlooked.

In Daniel Rubin’s article called, “Budget’s impact on one student” printed on September 21st (http://www.philly.com/inquirer/columnists/daniel_rubin/20090921_Daniel_Rubin__Budget_s_impact_on_one_student.html) Rubin states in his piece he set off to just investigate how the impasse of the budget was hurting the people who needed funding the most. In his research he met Danielle Harris who was busy trying to get the words “high school dropout” erased from her forehead.

Teens fight battles that most adults would have trouble fighting. Sometimes, something has to give. No child should have to decide between an education and his or her life. But schools don’t always make it easy for the troubled youth. If a school has a child already pegged as a “bad kid” the school will be more inclined to focus on the negative situations then the positive ones involving that child. This impression is filterred to the child and one day the child will just drop out.

I am very sensitive to the drop out issue and for many reasons. I will share my deepest reason here.

When I was a senior in high school, I toyed with the idea of dropping out of school.

I was seventeen and my mother just died. My father had been dead for about eight years and I was used to being an outcast because I was the girl with the dead dad. I had a friend one time who told me she was amazed that I never did drugs or drank considering my dad was dead. To be honest, drinking and drugs were never an option for me because my mother (she was a big woman) would have beaten my ass from our home in NJ to my father’s grave in Pennsylvania. Then she would have left my battered body by my father’s grave and told his head stone to deal with me.

So when she died, I didn’t have the threat of being beaten close to death anymore. I also had a rough time dealing with how people looked at me. Everyone in school knew about my life and everyone looked at me with this sad, strange, and thankful it wasn’t them, look on his or her face. I was so sick of that; I just wanted to get done with high school and move on.  I entertained the idea of just dropping out. Luckily, I was just three months from graduation so I just pushed through until the end. I don’t know how it would have turned out if I wasn’t so close to the end.

I wasn’t a dumb kid. I didn’t even wear a hoodie. Yet, my life was rough and I wanted to drop out of high school so I wouldn’t have to deal with people knowing all about me. I wanted to hide from all the pain in my life and the people who knew what caused the pain.

I can understand the need to want to hide. These drop out kids…something is wrong. Whether it is a true or a perceived difference, something is making that child feel like an outcast and because of that feeling, they want to hide from it.

I will end with one of my favorite teaching stories.

There was a child who was feared by all teachers. I was even told to “watch out for that one” because this child was just so horrible.

One day, I met said child. The child was a few inches shorter than I am and was wearing a black hoodie and had the whole “hair in the eyes” look.  I shook my head knowing this child was nothing like what others described. I was not at all afraid of this child; I was more afraid for the child.

So, as the semester wore on, I had the child sitting right smack in the front of the room.  Of course the head was on the desk and the hoodie was up covering the child’s head.

I made the comment, “Oh well, Stan is asleep, guess he wouldn’t really care about the test.”

Then I heard, “Just because my head is down doesn’t mean I’m asleep” coming from Stan’s desk.

I felt like a big jerk. I amde the mistake of thinking Stan was asleep when he was really paying attention the whole time. How many other teachers and adults made this ame mistake with him? How many adults did he tell that he was really listening?

Children will see and hear more than we would ever think they do. Sometimes that is a good thing and other times not so much. Just because a hoodie is up and the child is hiding in the back doesn’t mean the child is tuning out. It’s really the opposite.

When a child drops out of school, you shouldn’t think it was becaus ethe child wasn’t smart enough to handle high school. You should wonder what school would allow such a thing to happen and what was going on in that child’s mind and world to make him or her want to give up on his or her education.

As for Danielle, I am rooting for her, too. I hope the money comes through and the school will open. I think it is wonderful that something as turned this child back into her education and I want all her hard work to be rewarded. She deserves nothing less.

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