Monday, August 13, 2007


The Manic Monday word for today is Drop. Visit Mo to see other Manic Monday participants.

One of my old students was officially dropped from her new program today. It was a great opportunity, a paid training program in landscaping with internships with the city parks. She loved it. She came into what can only be called a series of unfortunate events which ultimately culminated in her termination. However, as she had been doing so well, her program director called a meeting of people in her network so we could see what her next steps would be. I went to the meeting, her counselor was there, we were supposed to conference in her case manager, but no student. She had officially dropped out. The meeting was short. Her chance to get back into the program was over.

When I was working with Wards of the State, I was constantly confronted with students who had been dropped from one thing or another. The biggest drop they experienced was that from their families. In some cases, families really tried to hold on to the students that ultimately ended up in front of me. In others, their families simply didn’t care. Either way, it set up a mentality in many of them that there was very little in life that they could control. They then were dropped from various educational institutions. Even though some of those drops were self-selected I think, in many cases, they could have been prevented by the use of better support networks. By the time I met them, they were jaded and distrustful of authority.

When we would schedule meetings to discuss their futures, goals, problems, etc., they would often fail to show up. Sometimes, when we would see changes in behavior the student would drop off the face of the earth before we could even schedule an intervention. While frustrating, I have come to see two things that I think contribute to the students dropping their obligations. The first is that if a student has a problem and a meeting is scheduled to fix that problem the student perceives that the adults will be making a decision as to their future for them. They don’t believe that they will have a true voice in the discussion. Therefore, they see the meeting as a waste of time and drop it. Secondly, dropping out of activities becomes a sort of self-assertion. They are finally in control of something that impacts their future and they want their decision to be heard. The sad thing is, not too many people are going to listen to a dropout, with obvious exceptions of course.

When I think of all the young men and women who are out there, who are not in school nor are they working I wonder what they are doing. What are their reasons and what is their motivation? Are they asserting their independence, albeit in a misguided and detrimental way or are they merely under the impression that their actions are inconsequential and therefore action itself is worthless? What can we do to fix this problem? How do we get them to drop back in?

The unguessed songs from last week are below.

2. And I tell you everything/ And hope that you won’t tell on me/ Not give you anything/ And know that you won’t tell on me. Softer, Softest. Hole

3. So here it is/ Fuck it/ Friends or no friends/ I’ve had enough bullshit to last me clear to the end. On The Down Low, Pharcyde


Kiyotoe said...

i hate to make such a broad and general assessment of an entire generation but to my knowledge, these damn kids are just lazy as hell.

my own younger brother included who attends a somewhat prestigious college in Morehouse, but acts like it's a hindrance or a nuisance.

a lot of these kids need to realize that in order to have ANYTHING in this world, you're gonna have to work for it, put in some effort. Unless of course they're complacent and happy with what they have.

Complacency - an entirely different issue altogether. good post Nat.

Katrina said...

I'm sorry to hear that she was dropped, for both of you.

Good questions, I wish I had an answer or two for you but I don't. Sorrry 'bout that.

Mrs. Loquacious said...

Frankly, I think the problem begins with these young people failing to see the value in working within hierarchies or structured environments. An appreciation for structure, for rules and for "the establishment" often forms from positive educational and familial experiences. Without this, young people have a hard time seeing the value in punctuality, in working hard and following instructions, and in doing it someone else's way. They would, IMHO, rather be their own bosses and set their own hours and work conditions; I think this is why certain jobs appeal more to young people of this demographic (e.g. subcontracted painting jobs, independent sales - drugs, cell phones, etc).

Great topic, Nat. Very thought-provoking!

Jamie said...

Too many families keep their children in a dependent state for way too long rather than teaching them responsibility and independence. They arrive at college with little idea that you might have to work and earn everything in life.

It doesn't help that our media lionizes the rich and useless rather than the talented and committed.

Lizza said...

Good post, Natalie.

A bit sad though, to think that so many other kids, especially in third world countries, want nothing more than to go to school but can't.

Lakeiya said...

i think that i've realized that it seems that almost everyone's at fault. some people blame the kids, some blame the parents, some people blame society and really there is enough blame to go around, b/c really, so many people have contributed to the problem. we have a generation of kids that seem to have even more problems than the one before them. why is that? i'm not sure but i know it didn't just happen. if the youth are lazy, if they don't value hard work, where did that come from? they learned it from somewhere.

it just seems really frustrating b/c there seem to be so many questions and so few answers. and what's even more frustrating is that there seems to be so few people out there asking the questions or looking for answers. but i'm glad that you are, natalie, and it reminds me that even though it can be frustrating, i should keep asking questions and looking for answers too.

notfearingchange said...

nice post....

i'm currently reading "kids are worth it!" by Barbara is all about ensuring children have dignity.

thethinker said...

"The first is that if a student has a problem and a meeting is scheduled to fix that problem the student perceives that the adults will be making a decision as to their future for them. They don’t believe that they will have a true voice in the discussion."

Very true.

This is kind of similar (but not really) --

I tried to switch out of an AP class last year and was immediately called into a meeting with my counselor. My first thought was, "oh no. she's going to tell me what to do, how to do it, and why". And that's exactly what she did. She didn't think to ask why I wanted to drop the class.

I wanted to do more of the talking and less of the listening. Most adults don't realize that teenagers have something to say most of the time.

CSG said...

I guess there is also an immaturity problem. And that's to blame the rest of us around them, family, etc. What I mean is that even though the only thing we see is selfish teenagers, we should still try to help them become less selfish and more mature, or they will become the worst of adults.

Natalie said...

Kiyotoe- In many cases I would agree with that. Sometimes having to put forth anything other than the minimal effort can be a stretch.

Katrina- I am too, she really has made many gains since I have known her and it is tough to see a setback.

Mrs. L- It's hard to appreciate structure when you have never had it. When you have been bounced from family to family as a child and never had a stable home you could rely on. I think, in many cases, the sytem sets people up for failure. Having worked with low-income youth on job searches I don't think many of them want the types of jobs you describe. Most want to work an entry-level 9-5 schedule; banking, mailroom, general office, telephone work, etc but they are generally hired for jobs that don't have that foundation. Most of them have lofty goals and dreams but there are other circumstances making those very hard to realize.

Jamie- That is one flaw I see with the state. When they have aged out of foster care and shown they don't need the constant supervision of a group home they are given apartments and food money. They become, not at all surprisingly, reliant. Then, on their 21st birthday, it's all gone. Their entire support network can no longer work with them at all. They are unprepared.

Lizza- You are certainly right. However, I will argue that want to and capable of aren't really the same things. Many of my students want a good education as well but things happen that render that education unattainable.

Lakeiya- You know the feeling, a client who has struggles finally gets it together and then suddenly derails. What causes that? I don't think it is always them being lazy, although that can play a part in it. There is something in the way that society works with young people today that is just fundamentally off.

Notfearing- I always think dignity and self-assertion are important. However, I think there can be too much and then you get the self-important kids who think they are great at everything they touch. Those are the worst.

Thinker- It's nice to get a young person's take on the topic. I agree with you completely. I got some things the other way when I was in school like my counselor wondering why I would want to retake the SAT and ACT when I knew I could get a better score (my original was fine just not what I wanted) then was shocked when I went up 4pts on the ACT and almost 100 on the SAT. They really need to listen.

CSG- I agree there is a maturity issue. The question is, how do you become more mature when no one lets you have a say in your own life?

kim said...

I've got to agree with a lot of these comments. I have seven neices and nephews, and not one of them is a college graduate. My daughter will hopefully not fall into that realm. I love these kids, but they honestly feel like working a part time job and taking two classes a semester is hard work.

Sad Sad sad. Good for you for plugging along and making things a little better for folks. Keep your eye on the prize.

Mom said...

Natalie, on the topic of gradual removal of supports.. that is really the key, isn't it? Here's a link to one of the best things I've ever read about the needs of adolescents: /konopka.html
Gisela Konopka was a world-renowned expert on youth development. She did her work at the University of Minnesota. This piece was published in 1973 -- ironically, the same year I moved to Minnesota as an older youth trying to make her way in the adult world. But it all still rings true today.

Anyone who is "in charge" of youth -- parents, guardians, the government, etc. -- should provide support and should gradually reduce the amount of support while helping the young person learn the skills needed to deal with adult life. It's a hard job and no one does it to perfection. But to abruptly cut off support is cruel and sets kids up for huge problems.

Christopher Chambers said...

You know me. The "tough love" approach is always the best. Yes, provide a support structure and possible safety net, but the best tonic is "What the f** do you think you're doing? Don't you know there's more at stake here than your brooding about how the world's unfair? Re-assess and get back to it!" LOL We have to stop thinking of the notion of "bettering ourselves" as elitist. Its how we survived slavery.

Anonymous said...

wow...if only there was an easy answer...if only...

CS said...

It's complicated, as most issues are. I think you have to encourage kids to have a say, and also provide support and guidance. The Quaker youth have a great model of self-governance - they run the show at retreats, etc and there are "friendly adult presences" to be there as back-up and rare reining-in. It fosters the kind of self-relaince you want to see in kids.

But don't you think Wards of the State would be a great name for a band?