Two and a half months. That’s all the time it took for Jonathan to “transform” from a nearly straight-A student with ambitions of becoming a scientist to a quiet and discontent young man who didn’t even want to be at school.
School leaders figured it was a phase. They’d seen it before. Teen years are full of periods of change, after all. But they’d also seen students like Jonathan completely fall off the map.
Which situation were they dealing with?
In just about every community in the nation, when students return from school this fall, there be a “Jonathan” in the mix. And the question teachers and school leaders will face is: “What do we do?”
When students begin to show signs of disillusionment during the school year, a “sit back and see how it goes” approach can be understandable. After all, teachers and school leaders get a daily glimpse of these students. As long as these young men and women stay on the radar, giving them time to figure things out for themselves can be just the right approach, at least at first.
When these changes happen over a summer, though, a more immediate and proactive response is warranted. These students, after all, may have already suffered from months of negative slides in their attitude about school and their future.
In the seminal paper “Reinventing Alternative Education,” researchers noted that the availability of early interventions for off-track students is tremendously important. Every day matters.
When it comes to what happens during summer, though, all of those days may have already added up. That’s why school leaders should have a range of options for helping students like Jonathan – available at a moment’s notice.
With a program that leverages the power of flexibility, support and accountability — and a plan that they could implement quickly for just this sort of situation — leaders from Jonathan’s school were able to help him get back on track.
That doesn’t mean he’s back to being the person he was before the summer. He’s still a much more sullen person, and being a scientist is the last thing on his mind. But because the people who care about him acted fast, he’s no longer at risk of not graduating, and that means his options will remain wide open.