John R. Eggers: What can all teachers do to help their students graduate?
Many high school and college seniors are beginning to count the days until they hear those final sounds of Pomp and Circumstance.
Many parents are thinking about graduation parties and who they will invite and what they will serve. Many educators are beginning to look at the roster of potential graduates and discern who will and who will not make it. Unfortunately 15,000 Minnesotans will join 3 million other high school students in the United States that will not reap the pleasure of having a graduation party. They will drop out. Of the three million students that enrolled in college this year, 40 percent will not finish. There is no easy answer to improving the graduation rates for high school and college students. Lots of people are trying to improve the odds. One small thing that is overlooked is for each teacher, K through college to ask themselves, “What did I do today to help my students graduate?” Teachers and professors don’t just teach a grade or class, it’s much more than that. What they do is part of a plan and the plan leads to graduation. They need to see themselves as an integral part of that plan. Here are just a few things that can be done to improve the numbers of our high school and college graduates. 1. Because the No. 1 reason for high school students dropping out of school is lack of parental support, educators need to be relentless in their efforts to engage parents. 2. Another major reason for students dropping out of high school is teen pregnancy. Schools that have a high percentage of student pregnancies should offer teen parenting programs and encourage teen mothers to enroll. 3. K-12 teachers can post their high school diploma on the wall and college teachers can post their bachelor diploma on the wall and talk to students about their journey to graduation. 4. When students dedicate their class to someone they care about, they are more likely to feel the class has more meaning. 5. Remind students that someone who has a high school and college diploma is more likely to live longer. 6. Remind students that someone who has a high school and college diploma is more likely to have children who will graduate. 7. Remind students that a high school and college diploma will mean that they are likely to earn significantly more money over a lifetime than someone who drops out of school. 8. Identify the special gifts or talents of students. Often students who experience too much failure feel they do not have a special gift(s). If students do not know their gifts, help them to discover one. 9. Remind students that a high school and college diploma will mean that they are less likely to use drugs and alcohol. 10. All students need to be reminded about how to go to school. Remind them again and again what it takes to be successful in school. Don’t assume they know. 11. Tell students about your educational career including your mistakes and success stories. Some of you may even be thinking, “If I made it anyone can make it.” 12. If a student has few or no positive role models in his or her life, try to find a mentor for him or her. Maybe it could be you. 13. Make an effort to get to know the student and greet all students daily. You shouldn’t be surprised what an impact just being noticed can have on someone. 14. Talk about the relationship between culture and education. Knowing about one’s culture can be the foundation for success, it could be the X-Factor. 15. Remind your students that they have the same potential to succeed as any other student. We all have about the same number of brain cells. 16. When a student has a number of absences, find out why. Be the first one to intervene. 17. When students do fall behind in reading or math make sure that the student gets immediate help and is brought up to grade level as quickly as possible. 18. Do your best to keep parents informed of your students’ progress or lack of progress. 19. Relentlessly encourage students to participate in events outside of the classroom. 20. Find ways to engage students in your classroom and school. 21. When possible, find incentives for high school graduation. Yes, even dollars. 22. Offer college credit to at-risk high school kids for taking a class that helps them understand the importance of having a high school diploma. 23. Remind students that if they do have a college degree, they are more likely to get the kind of job they want and be happier with their life. 24. When students get their high school diploma they don’t have to think about when or if they should begin GED classes. 25. Tell students that when they have a high school or college diploma their dreams are more likely to come true. Every teacher has a role to play in helping every student graduate. When a student drops out, we all fail. When one student graduates, we all succeed. JOHN R. EGGERS of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.