By: Mary Leadem Ticiu, Assistant Principal District 834, Guest Author
School has begun and questions arise related to “What should I wear, who will be my friends, how many notebooks do I need, who will they assign as my teacher, and why do I really need to go to school?” These questions reflect excitement and, for some, anxiety. The experiences of the child’s past often lead them to question what the school year will bring. Questions pose a wonderful opportunity for parents and guardians to talk about the choices we all make. I would like to consider what it means when students choose – or rather “refuse” – to go to school. If this happens, families and friends have the responsibility to listen, explain ramifications in a meaningful way, and support what is the underlying unmet need in a non-punitive manner.
As an assistant principal, you may think I am crazy letting a school-age child have an open dialogue about choosing attendance. However, there can be no choice without consequences. School is an educational pathway, like a golden ticket of greater value than a trip to Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. If we allow for the discussion of choice then we can hear what is intended by the child’s questioning, resistance, and outright refusal to attend.
Research provides us with reams of evidence of the need to attend school, learn for life and project a positive trajectory into a career of military service, mission work, technical school or college. Attendance is an early indicator of invaluable soft skills and the traits of success in the workplace. Choosing not to be a student will have a severe cause and effect in short term and long-term goals. The choice, in this case, may have negative consequences.
Why then do kids balk, refuse, resist and feel a compelling urge to skip or even quit? They know it is wrong, against the rules, not in their best interest and illegal. I believe many students simply want to make their own choices. And we as adults are obligated to get in the way of their potential failure and help them succeed. We must remember our own imperfections and trials and then lead them to a good place where they choose school each and every day.