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How do you identify and best help an at risk student

A lot of times I will notice an at risk student because of attitude changes and attendance changes. When I notice this, I will take the student aside and ask them what is going on. 9 times out of 10 the student will open up, and on that 10th time I will remind them I have an open door policy, if they ever need me.

Do you have recurring problem students or are most of the problems once and done? Do your colleagues do the same thing, Bethany? If so, you have a very positive, student centered culture.

I think the academics speaks for itself, you know if a student is in danger of failing the course using all grades as a guideline, however, when attendance drops, or attitudes change, body language, facial expressions say otherwise, this definitely is a sign of a change and possible risk. We need to reach out, discuss and be open with our students to support them any way we can.
It could be personal, financial, or medical reasons for these changes. If we could get the students to feel they are not alone, maybe support groups, or providing hotlines to groups would help.

Maria, do you have any training in place to help staff and faculty to recognize the signs of disengagement? Do you have support groups at your school? If not, do you plan to develop some of these support systems?

Not officially, but, all departments, not just education is involved, for example if it is a financial issue, education talks to financial aid dept. If it's personal, the admissions rep lends a hand. I do think going foward a student advisory committee will be established.

I strongly agree. The signs are there, poor attendance, attitude changes, participation changes, body language etc... Usually it only takes someone to pull them aside and let them know they can tell something is wrong and the student will usually open up and let you in on the problem(s). If there is someone or an organization you can refer the student to, or give them a phone number or website, it is ususally greatly appreciated. And this enforces to the student that the institution does really care, and is willing to help. This goes al long way, and may save the student from dropping out, and may even get the institution a referral from the student.

Well said, Laura. Of course, this is easier said than done and although people may do lip service to the concepts not everyone will actually put the concepts to work. How do you motivate staff and faculty at your school to walk the talk?

I actually sit in each class each month and observe, and our school has monthlky student surveys. The results are shared with the instructors each month.

Sometimes it can be difficult dealing with an at risk student, especially when their outside stressors involve things like domestic violence, financial difficulty, medical problems, etc.

You're right, David. It can be difficult to work with at risk students who have outside stressors. An institutions willingness and ability to deal with these situations is what sets tham apart from others and establishes their reputation in the community.

When we tell our students that "we care", we assume a responsibility to walk the walk. How does your school address these type of student needs?

Sometimes all the need is a reassuring voice. I had a student that was a 1000 miles from home his wife and his two kids. His wife decided while he was gone that she wanted a divorce. All I did was ask him how everything was going when I saw him in the halls. He is still here after 1 year.

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