Lifelong Learning Programme

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Teachers Experiences

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School dropout
Alzira Reis
Child Health
Higher Secondary
Identification of students’ at risk
The story took place 5 years ago (school year 2009-2010) at Escola Secundária Nuno Álvares, Castelo Branco, Portugal.
The main actors involved were the Child Health teacher and Class Director of the higher secondary vocational Child Studies course, a 19-year-old girl student at risk of school leaving and her mother. The Class Director is in charge of establishing links between the school and the students’ families.
This particular girl was in year 11 and had been my student since year 9. When she arrived at this school she had already failed several years and had left school in 2006. She had good cognitive skills, but she lacked punctuality, especially in the morning. She was obviously very unstable emotionally and ceated many conflicts with her peers. Her motivation to attend classes was very low and most of the times she came to school because I had phoned her.
During my conversations with her, I realized that she slept in a windowless room and that her mother did not wake her up. The mother didn’t care either that her daughter missed classes. The mother daughter relationship became worse every year and this reflected in the girls’ marks at school. It all became worse when the student started her professional internship, because she started not going to work and hardly justified why. This was a place she had already worked in and therefore her supervisor knew her as diligent and dedicated to the children.

The actions carried out to identify the causes of the students difficulties
1 -On being told that the student was not going to work, I managed to talk to the student after many frustrated attempts to cal her. She was utterly in despair and cried compulsively. She had kept to her room the last three days
2- I realized through our talk that she did not have enough money to eat and that there was no food in the house.
3- I phoned her mother several times in order to solve the problem, but it was useless. The mother either did not do what we agreed or she told me she had to concentrate on her own life.
3- The students’ workplace offered to buy the girl lunch while she was doing her internship.
4- After meeting with the school director, it was decided that it would be best for the student to leave home for a while and occupy a vacant room I had in a flat.
5- The mother was informed of this decision and she did not show any concern.

Support received by fellow students, colleagues, school management and parents:
1- The student’s colleagues showed solidarity and brought her food and clothes.
2- The Class Director allowed the student to fetch an afternoon meal from the school.
3- The student’s father, who was an alcoholic and was unemployed at the time, invited his daughter to live with him after she had finished her internship.

Results achieved
The student finished her internship successfully and moved on to year 12. Emotionally she had re-achieved balance.
Strengths and weaknesses of the experience
It is good to know that our effort was worth something. As the student grew up she was able to deal with unpredictable situations better. By moving in with the father, she could have a diferente perspective on her mother and gain some understanding on why she did things the way she did. The following year she managed to live with her mother again and to finish her professional training.
She now works in London.

Comments on this Teachers Experience

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Date: 2014.05.31

Posted by Maria Soledad Vicente (Spain)

Message: I'm glad the girl has obtained a new job in London , and that despite the problems it has suffered, everything went well .
Regarding the case of dropouts, it is true that these cases are usually backed by a multitude of problems. These problems are usually: family problems, alcoholic parents, low socioeconomic status , abuse, carelessness of parents, lack of motivation, among others, so it is very important to investigate each case taking into account their specific characteristics and not generalize. The girl was going wrong , and in this case is good to know the history to act correctly.
In this case, the student had no money to eat , which slowed their good development practices . It's good to know the context of each student, although that is very difficult, because few teachers are to adequately address each situation . In my opinion , it is very useful as teachers, will be near the students , so we will make parartícipes their problems and concerns , and we can help .

Date: 2014.05.21

Posted by Luciano Luongo E-MAIL ADDRESS: [email protected] (Istituto " Datini " Prato Italy)

Message: The experience of the Portoguese dropout teaches us that even in the most extreme and difficult situations it is possible to intervene on students in several directions and acting on various aspects of their lives. Understanding family situations, which are the basis of the student's daily life, helps us to know the student' s past and his experiences and it can also help us finding the best solution. The student's family, although it can often seem absent, inadequate or negative, is always a key to understanding the pupil himself. The family is a reference needed to promote and raise the student's motivation, as well as to stimulate and encourage him/her to achieve new objectives and targets or re-evaluate those now abandoned.

 If you had a similar experience, please describe:
• background of student involved
• behaviour of other students
• behaviour of parents
• cooperation received from the other teachers
• your behaviour
• results achieved

Date: 2014.05.19

Posted by ANA ISABEL MATEUS SILVA (Portugal)

Message: I agree with the colleague that the director should have visited earlier the house of the young girl, but in Portugal it is unusual for the school director to visit students at home.

Date: 2014.04.30

Posted by Fotini Stavropoulou (Greece)

Message: I am very glad to read that the girl after all these difficulties now is in a very good mood and had found a job in London.
I think that the director should have visited earlier the house of the young girl and taken earlier all these actions.
I am really glad for this girl.

20 December 2014

Final Partners’ meeting

The fourth partners’ meeting took place in Florence (IT) on 15 December 2014. The meeting had the objective to check the activities carried out since the third meeting of the project and share and assess the in progress results. A special focus has been dedicated to the presentation of the strategies to solve the case scenarios.