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One Surprising Reason Students Quit

Today, we hear from Andrew McPeak. Andrew is a writer, curriculum designer, and speaker who has served with a number of non-profit organizations (and has spoken to thousands of Millennials) over the last 5 years. He now serves as Program Excellence Manager on our team at Growing Leaders.

I met two students recently who paint a perfect picture of the struggle we all face when cultivating leaders out of the next generation.

After I finished speaking at an event, a young woman came up to me, wanting to learn a little more about what I shared. She was poised, looked me in the eye when she spoke, and was very interested in continuing to learn and grow as a leader. She is near the top of her class in academics, but still she had time to start a new club at her school, and raise money for a cause that she believes in.

A few weeks later I met a young man whose life tells a different story. He’s 23 and dropped out of college after his first year. He said college can only take you so far, but it doesn’t appear life out of college is helping him much either. He has a couple of jobs, but he doesn’t seem to have much direction. He doesn’t know where he will be in five years, and frankly, I wonder if he cares that much.

Terms of Disengagement

photo credit: given up. via photopin (license)

photo credit: given up. via photopin (license)

We all could put a face on both of these students. I’m sure you know young people just like both of them. It’s not just in a classroom or on the practice field. One Gallup report showed that almost one in five American workers are actively disengaged in their daily work. These workers are not only ignoring responsibilities, they actually “roam the halls spreading discontent” among co-workers. Quitting, or “active disengagement,” is contagious.

Stop and ask yourself: Is active disengagement a problem in your classroom, locker room, or office? How so?

So how do we diagnose this problem, and what can we do about it? Some might assume that quitting is an issue of personality. While I’m sure personality is a factor, I’m equally sure it can’t be the ONLY factor. The problem is much deeper. Recent statistics show it may just be a factor you don’t expect.

To discover what makes students quit you might ask yourself one question:

Are my students emotionally intelligent?

Emotional Intelligence is something we talk about a lot. I bring it up again because of new data that’s connecting emotional intelligence with drive. Drive is what makes you engage with the daily tasks you even despise because you know it’s good for you. That intangible drive factor is rooted, as it turns out, in our emotional intelligence. Let me remind you that emotional intelligence is made up of four factors:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-management
  3. Social awareness
  4. Relationship management

Today, scientists are adding a 5th factor: motivation. In his “mixed model” of measuring emotional intelligence, psychologist Daniel Goleman has identified motivation as a key factor in emotional intelligence. What does this mean for our students? It means that if your students struggle with the other four factors of emotional intelligence, there is a good chance they struggle to find motivation as well.

In a recent meta-analysis of high level leaders in business, one report found that “people who are more adjusted, sociable, ambitious, and curious are much more likely to become leaders.” This means your students who lack basic social skills will also soon become your students who fade further and further back out of the spotlight. If you want your students to increase their motivation in your classroom, you might start by helping them develop their social skills.

This is a frequent result when schools begin to utilize our Habitudes® program school-wide. When students enter into regular discussion times with their teachers and peers, increasing their social skills, a drop in student detention rates almost always follows. We’d love to point to the words on the page as the incentive for the change, but we know the method (classroom discussions) is just as important as the message (character and leadership).

Three Simple Steps to Cultivate These Skills

So how are you providing opportunities for students to increase their social capacity? Let me offer a few suggestions.

  1. Consider turning your next assignment into a group project. Of course you want your students to learn what is necessary to pass your class, but turning their work into group work can be a great way to motivate them to begin to better listen to and work with their classmates.
  2. Have students listen and take notes from one another for a grade. One great way to teach students to listen is to have them take notes while another student is giving a presentation, and then grade them on how thorough they were while listening.
  3. Spend time moving your classroom from rows to circles. One of the reasons people love Habitudes is because it allows them to break up the monotony of sitting and listening to one person talk. Try transforming those rows into circles and watch as students engage with one another.

“Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul,” said Douglas MacArthur. What ideas do you have for increasing more intentional social time into your classroom? Leave a comment and share your methods for others to use!


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One Surprising Reason Students Quit