On Monday mornings, the most heard phrase is ‘I don’t want to go to school today!’. It is also often the cause of many stomach aches, headaches, and fevers that all magically disappear as soon as the decision to stay home is announced. Many grandparents have died and come back to life, only to die again when the kids run out of excuses for being absent from school. This magical phenomenon is most common on chilly winter mornings when getting out of the warm bed is a challenging task.
Children will always be children, and these antics are a part of their charm. However, as parents and teachers, we need to keep track of their school regularity. Research clearly shows that students who miss more than 10% of school days are at risk of falling behind in academics. It is also one reason students miss out on critical developmental milestones in primary schools, especially in math and reading.
The cause for student absenteeism, especially chronic absenteeism, differs vastly across gender, social conditions, financial situations, student tendencies, etc. While every problem cannot be solved at the school level, we can undoubtedly take a few steps to increase student attendance in school.
The first step would be to communicate the school’s objective and its students’ expectations. Having the right reasons and sharing them efficiently is the most effective way of ensuring that students follow school policies. The ‘because I said so’ attitude does not work and is not practical. Treating students as responsible young adults results in them behaving as young adults- in a reliable, mature manner.
It is equally important to communicate your expectations to families as well. Most children are enrolled in a host of extracurricular activities and are part of many social engagements. This often causes them to be absent from school. To prevent this from happening, parents need to realize the importance of children attending classes consistently from the get-go. Setting concise goals and monitoring progress is also an effective way of communicating what you expect from students vis a vis their attendance. Once you have data on absenteeism, reach out to the regular defaulters and have discussions with them to identify the problem’s cause. Once you zero in on the reason, it is easier to try to arrive at a solution together.
The classroom is the student’s second home, and their life mostly revolves around what happens in school. It is essential to create a welcoming and safe space for the child. Ensure that there is always a counselor available to talk to children who might need them and that all teachers are sensitized towards children’s problems. After these initial steps, the school becomes a safe and healthy learning environment.
Now, we need to make the classroom an engaging and enjoyable space. Create a positive environment through lots of incentives and positive feedback. Plan a fun activity for every lesson to break the monotony of regular classes. Children are very easily bored. At the same time, their minds are incredibly fertile and need stimuli of various kinds. There is no sure way to molding an engaging classroom, so do not be afraid to experiment every day on new ways to learn and grow.
Extracurriculars make up an essential part of development for the child. A bonus is that they are fun, stress busters, and every child can find one they are good at. A good hack for tackling absenteeism is introducing a wide variety of extracurriculars and setting time aside for them every day. Children will likely come to school to spend time on their favorite activity. It is highly beneficial for children to have positive associations with the school. By introducing activities that children love, the school becomes a happy learning environment for its students. Rather than finding excuses to stay away from school, children start to look forward to being in school every day. This enthusiasm itself plays a significant role in the child’s academic success. A willing, stress-free approach to learning always brings positive results on the academic front.
It is difficult for a school to educate a child who is not present in school. Similarly, as we emphasize student-teacher interaction and build better relationships, it is difficult for a teacher to get to know a student who is not present in class. As in most strategies for bettering education, tackling student absenteeism also requires a partnership between parents and teachers towards a common goal. Parents must understand the issues associated with student absenteeism and actively seek to be consistent and involved in their child’s school life.
It is high time schools stopped being a place of dread for students. We spend the majority of our waking hours in school. Let’s make it a safe, happy space conducive to learning and students want to be in.
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