Social problems affecting students and schools in the U.S.
Caring and coaching are two methodologies that can be used by teachers in classrooms comprised of students with problems ranging from teen pregnancy to violence.
Four other social problems, including drug use, alcohol use, suicide and delinquency, are among the top causes for student disengagement, and socioeconomic and race issues also contribute to the problems at hand.
In order for a teacher to overcome these deterrents to learning, he or she must show genuine caring for the student and get the student to become an active learner, rather than a passive observer who watches the teacher recite a lesson.
There is much room for change in our school system, according to Lawrence Steinberg, author of Beyond the Classroom: Why School Reform Has Failed and What Parents Need to Do. In this work, Steinberg claims disengagement kicks in as early as 7th grade, when the possibility of the six critical problems taking hold of students becomes a reality.
In Beyond the Classroom, Steinberg claims that only 30% of parents were adequately involved in their middle school to high school-aged student's life. He also writes that most teenagers are holding down a paying job of at least 21 hours a week, which is a major deterrent to achievement in school. The lack of parental involvement combined with the employment hours students log contribute to a potentially volatile cocktail on and off school grounds.
Alcohol use and drug use are two social issues that go hand-in-hand in high school, with both substances often being used for the same reasons: to fit in with a particular group, to boost lagging self-esteem and to counteract depression.
In the absence of parental involvement, a teacher or coach can help detect and prevent drug or alcohol use from evolving into a serious problem for a student. According to one article in the Facts for Families articles posted on the Web site of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, substance abuse warning "signs" may include physical attributes such as fatigue, repeated health complaints, red and glazed eyes and a lasting cough. If a student exhibits sudden mood changes, irritability, depression or irresponsible behavior it may be an emotional red flag to a teacher that drugs or alcohol are being abused. In addition, a drop in grades and new friends with different interests also may indicate a problem.
A teacher's involvement may also help prevent teen suicide. Lack of parental interest could be a contributing factor to teen suicide. A large portion of U.S. children grow up in a single-parent household due to the growing divorce rate. Also many families consist of two working parents and in these types of families there is a lack of quality family time.
Teen-agers with suicidal tendencies generally say their families do not understand them. Students also voice another complaint that is equally common: When they try to talk about their negative experiences or sad feelings with their parents, their feelings are most often dismissed or belittled.
Traits that are common in teens thinking of suicide include, but are not limited to, change in personality, drug or alcohol abuse, rebellious behavior, talk of suicide (even joking) or withdrawal from family and friends.
In the absence of parental involvement, a caring teacher can often head things off at the pass by showing interest in the student on some level. Even an effort as small a smile or brief chat can often work wonders.
Teen pregnancy is another issue that has a great impact on students and their ability to learn. It is not only limited to the female students because often the fathers of these children shoulder some burden, if even only the blame of other students and parental figures. It is a complex issue, and while teen pregnancy is on the decline across the nation, the problem lingers mostly in the urban-area schools.
According to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, "Young women of color and young women of low income are disproportionately affected by teenage childbearing. There is a great deal of information that focuses on identifying teens at risk and preventing behaviors that lead to unintended pregnancy."…