It’s midnight and we still have a mountain of work left to do. We tell ourselves that finishing everything is possible and we begin working with a new sense of urgency. Slowly, the words on the computer screen begin to blur, and our mind starts to wander. Fatigue starts to conquer us. As the minutes become hours, it becomes evident that completing all our assignments and being prepared for another grueling day at school is impossible. There just isn’t enough time. So, we may resort to what should be our last option — ditching.
We see it as the teachers’ fault. They’re the ones who burdened us with piles of work that could keep us busy for weeks. They’re the ones who scheduled all these tests for the same day. They’re the ones who don’t care about our stressful and sleepless nights.
The teachers see it as our fault. We’re the ones who mismanaged our time. We’re the ones who overestimated our own capabilities. We’re the ones who took on more than we could handle and made no effort to reach out to them, or communicate before the last minute.
At MVHS, ditching school to catch up on work is not uncommon. In a survey of 375 students, thirty-six percent responded that they have ditched school due to academic reasons. It isn’t unusual to hear whispers of a student being “sick” because they had three tests that day or an essay to turn in, sometimes absent for that specific period, other times for the entire day. Sixty-three percent of the students who admitted they have ditched school agreed that stress played a role in their decision to ditch.
Some students view ditching as a last resort. They weigh their options — go to school unprepared, unlikely to succeed, or stay at home to catch up on the never-ending flow of work. Others use it as a way to stay ahead of the curve and not fall behind. Why attend school and get burdened with more work when you already have work piled on your desk at home? To many of us, the choice is clear. Why take responsibility for our mistakes if we can get more time to fix them and avoid all the repercussions?
Our unwillingness to face the consequences reveals our unattainably high standards for ourselves. We forget that we are human and that it’s alright to not be completely ready for a test or have all our homework completed. We usually have already done everything in our power to succeed and yet, rather than accept failure and recognize that it’s our own fault, we often choose to feign sickness to buy ourselves more time or more resources. We’re teaching ourselves that failure is not an option and success is imperative. We are willing to sacrifice morality, honesty and integrity just to secure success. Ditching teaches us that success must be attained at all costs, despite the repercussions.
Students have forgotten that ditching is not a good solution and will only result in more stress and work. They ditch so often that they don’t even think twice about it. Out of 159 students, 33 percent ditch school at least once a semester. Out of 315 students, 69 percent believe that ditching is justified. The most troubling aspect of the issue is that many students have become heavily reliant on ditching, often times unable to succeed without it. This habit will backfire on students when they face college and the real world, where they will not have the opportunity to freeze time for a day.
Students and teachers often play an eternal blame game with each other when it comes to ditching. We may see the teachers as uncompromising and overly demanding. They may see us as lacking time management and unable to face consequences. But if a student’s situation has become so dire that missing school is their only viable option to succeed, there is a deeper issue at hand.
Missing school to succeed in school indicates that our entire focus is not on the learning experience, but rather on the grades. We no longer care about using our opportunities to learn, but only the end result: the grades.
While the natural thing to do is point the finger at someone else, every situation is different, and often times it’s much more complicated than having a “bad” teacher or being a disorganized student. At times, the blame may rest with an uncompromising teacher, and other times the guilty party may be the procrastinating student. It may be attributed to a student’s packed schedule or conflicting tests. The focus should not be pointing fingers, but instead, to find and execute a solution.
Rather than bad mouthing a teacher for denying an extension the day before the test, we should be using the experience as a lesson to communicate with teachers well in advance. No matter whose fault it is, there is always something more than we can do to improve our situation and make things better.
Teachers also need to contribute to solving this issue. Students resorting to ditching implies that the demands made by teachers and classes are sometimes unattainable. After all, there is only a certain amount of work students can juggle, a reality teachers could be more sympathetic to. They need to realize that students are human and cannot be held to unattainable academic standards. The same student who ditched school may have studied the entire night for another, more challenging test. Students are encountering every situation for the first time, so teachers should demonstrate patience. To begin to attack the ditching issue, teachers need to be willing to be flexible.
Teachers shouldn’t dismiss ditched school days as a lapse in the student’s work ethic or time management, but rather as a signal that students are struggling and overwhelmed. Willingness to be flexible about testing dates can be extremely stress-relieving for students. Again, whoever’s fault that may be, there is always something that they can do to make students feel more secure.
With planning, communication and being aware of our own weaknesses, both students and teachers can collaborate so that a sleep-deprived student won’t be forced to ditch class and work all day. After all, it isn’t a blame game.