DESCRIPTION OF THE SUCCESS STORY
This is the success story of a female adolescent who was at risk of leaving school and also exhibited violent behaviour. When she enrolled in this Portuguese high secondary professional school in Castelo Branco, Portugal, she had already accummulated a series of episodes of lack of academic success. This young female had a drug addicted mother and a father who was absent abroad. Her parents were divorced. Probably as a consequence of this difficult broken household, the young girl had a difficult temper and frequently created conflicts with her classmates and with the school personnel. She was in conflict against the school establishment also. She had difficulty in accepting her familial situation as it was, she argued often with her mother, she played truant from school and she could find no meaning in school. Neither the teachers nor the headteacher managed at first to change the way she felt and the way she acted. After two years in school she eventually dropped off. For two years the only news about this student was that she had managed to find a job with a multinational company and that she was performing the job of a receptionist, in contact with the public. She eventually came back to school after this two year intermission. She enrolled in a different course and started from scratch. Initially she went back to her old ways of instigating quarrels among her colleagues, but with time and with a continued contact with her teachers and the headmaster, who she sought out regularly, she became more mature and with maturity came new attitudes: she learned how to accomplish tasks, how to be courteous and attentitve to others and how to proceed carefully. This growth was evident in the talks maintained by all school actors. She eventually commented herself, during her final project assignment, how she changed her path and her ways and how important this high secondary professional school she had attended had been important for her life course.
This success story has essentially to do with allowing a young person to mature by careful monitoring of her anger and despair at her familial situation. It also shows that students may drop off from school to eventually return to it because they know instinctively that they will find there the support they need to grow into maturity.
The lack of a stable home environment stands at the origin of the conflicts created by this young girl among her peers and at the origin of her distaste for school where she does not feel equal to others.
The perseverance of teachers and of the headmaster to follow up the situation of the student when she drops off after the first two unsuccessful academic years and then to maintain regular talks with her when she comes back to school are key factors for the gradual change into acceptance, discipline and correct behaviour of this young girl.
Changes of heart and of behaviour are determined by maturing experiences and probably the two years of work also played an important part in the girl’s reapreciation of the role of school in her life and for her professional future.
The transferability potential of this experience resides in a correct assessment of what may trigger violent and conflicting behaviour in school, such as anger and maladjustment, as well as a refusal to grow up into acceptance of the conditions of living that are one’s own. It also resides in the strategy used by the headteacher and other teachers of following up the student after she dropped off from school and not giving up on allowing her to grow into maturity the second time she came back to school.