The difference that City Year Seattle corps members make in the lives of students doesn’t occur at once. Changes in students’ attitudes happen with diligent effort as corps members continually show genuine support for their students. Each corps member demonstrates that education is a priority to everyone, and every effort, no matter how small is creating change.
Poor attendance is one of the three key indicators that a child is at risk of dropping out of school. In our City Year Diplomas Now schools, corps members use cell phones generously provided by T-Mobile, City Year’s National Leadership Sponsor, to call students who aren’t in class. In this Starfish Story, corps member Sona Thinakaran tackles attendance issues with one of her middle school students.
On Monday, one of my students who has been struggling in school did not show up to first period. I called her house and asked to speak with a parent or guardian, but they were not available. Instead, her grandmother asked me if I wanted to speak with the student.
“Hi Jayne*, it’s Miss Sona.”
“Hi…” she said. I could sense the reluctance in her voice.
“Your grandma said you’re at home. Is everything okay? Why aren’t you at school?”
“I have back aches,” she said.
“Oh, okay. Are you doing all right or are you in a lot of pain?” I was a little concerned.
“Do you think you’ll come to school later, then?”
“Well, let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you, okay? And I really want to see you at school! I hope I will see you later today.”
“Okay, Miss Sona,” she said.
Within the first/second period block of school, Jayne showed up to language arts. She later told me, “I was NOT going to come to school today, Miss Sona. But then you called my house.” The next day, Jayne did not show up to first period again. I called to have a very similar conversation with her. She told me that she would try to come in late. And again, she showed up within that first/second period block. The third day, however, was different: Jayne came to school and was on time to her first period class.
Since January, Jayne’s attendance has definitely improved. She knows I notice when she’s gone, and she’s aware that she’ll get a phone call from me if she’s not in school on time and prepared for the day. Now there have even been times when she comes into her language arts class earlier than most of her classmates and sets all of the other students’ notebooks on their tables, preparing her peers for an easier start to the day.
Currently, she does not have any unexcused absences, unexcused tardies, or unexcused early dismissals, meaning that she is in school ready to learn. Her improved attendance, one-on-one tutoring, and willing attitude to learn are all resulting in improved grades. Since taking the fall standardized test, she has increased from a 214 to a 217 in reading. It may not sound like much, but that’s almost an entire academic year’s worth of progress in approximately four months and it’s all progress that would be impossible if she weren’t in class each day.
*Names have been changed
Text by Sona Thinakaran, City Year Seattle/King County corps member