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What is the meaning of disengagement as lived by students who left school without graduating Loncaric, Mladen A 1998

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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF DISENGAGEMENT AS LIVED BY STUDENTS WHO LEFT SCHOOL WITHOUT GRADUATING by Mladen A. L o n c a r i c B.A. M.A.  Simon F r a s e r U n i v e r s i t y , 1978  ( C o u n s e l l i n g Psych.) U n i v e r s i t y of B r i t i s h  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN  Columbia  PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF  THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department of Counselling Psychology) We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA March 1998  (c) Mladen A. Loncaric  In presenting  this  degree at the  thesis  in  partial fulfilment  of  University of  British Columbia,  I agree  freely available for reference copying  of  department publication  this or of  and study.  this  his  or  her  Department of The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada  Date  DE-6 (2/88)  frtfflC/?  that the  representatives.  may be It  thesis for financial gain shall not  permission.  requirements  1 further agree  thesis for scholarly purposes by  the  is  that  an  advanced  Library shall make it  permission for extensive  granted  by the  understood be  for  allowed  that without  head  of  my  copying  or  my written  ABSTRACT  This study was designed to explore the meaning of disengagement from school as experienced by those who left school before graduating. Data for the study was gathered using an unstructured interview format. The research produced authentic narrative accounts of the meaning of disengagement for the individual participants. A cross case comparison of these narratives indicated the presence of three common streams of movement. As children, each of the participants were involved in an escalating cumulation of problems which over time, increased in scope and intensity. Their personal vulnerabilities generated through a troubled background, when coupled with the more complex demands of the secondary system, translated into an increased school maladjustment. The third movement involved a crystallizing of previous experiences and attitudes and an engulfment in a spoiled identity. The stories collected indicated that a comprehensive theory of disengagement must be built on a holistic perspective. Beyond the events, experiences, and circumstances that contribute to a disengagement process, questions of individual interpretation and meaning must also be considered. Finally, the thesis raises questions about the relationship of school practices and dropout experiences.  Table of Contents Abstract  ii  Chapter 1:  Introduction  1  Chapter 2:  Review of the L i t e r a t u r e  7  Chapter 3:  Methodology-  44  Chapter 4:  Case Study One:  M  54  Chapter 5:  Case Study Two:  A  64  Chapter 6:  Case Study Three:  R  74  Chapter 7:  Case Study Four:  G  88  Chapter 8:  Case Study F i v e :  L  101  Chapter 9:  Case Study S i x :  B  112  Chapter 10:  Case Study Seven:  M  125  Chapter 11  Case Study E i g h t :  S  140  Chapter 12  Case Study Nine:  B  151  Chapter 13  Case Study Ten:  C  161  Chapter 14  Comparison of Common P a t t e r n s of N a r r a t i v e Accounts  175  Discussion  198  Chapter 15  212  References Appendix A:  Recruitment N o t i c e  224  Appendix B:  P a r t i c i p a n t Consent Form  226  Appendix C:  Sample T r a n s c r i p t  227  ACKNOWLEDGMENT  Appreciation is extended to Dr. Cochran for his direction, encouragement and kindness. I wish also to thank Dr. Borgan and Dr. Holmes for their attention to detail, support, and warmth. Finally, there are my children Michael, David , and Carlyn and my wife Carol whose tolerance and generosity know no bounds.  Chapter 1 Purpose of the study T h i s study was designed t o e x p l o r e the meaning of disengagement from school as experienced by those who  left  s c h o o l b e f o r e they graduated. The l i t e r a t u r e d e d i c a t e d t o the i s s u e of h i g h s c h o o l dropouts f a l l s p r i m a r i l y i n t o two camps.  Empirical  studies  have generated data about the c o r r e l a t e s of dropping out, and the s t a t e d reasons that c h i l d r e n have c i t e d f o r l e a v i n g s c h o o l prematurely 1993).  ( G i l b e r t , Barr, C l a r k , Blue & Sunter,  Another body of r e s e a r c h has i d e n t i f i e d i n t e r v e n t i o n  e f f o r t s t o prevent students from l e a v i n g s c h o o l 1989).  (Finn,  While u s e f u l i n a r t i c u l a t i n g c e r t a i n a s p e c t s o f the  dropout problem,  the nature of the r e s e a r c h from both camps  i s l i m i t e d t o an e x t e r n a l focus on s t r u c t u r a l characteristics.  M i s s i n g i n the l i t e r a t u r e i s any l a r g e  s c a l e e f f o r t t o understand the i n t e r n a l ,  l i v e d p r o c e s s of  dropping out (Bloch, 1991; Finn, 1989; Rumberger, A r t i c u l a t i n g .the process presupposes of the meaning of events.  1987).  a faithful  A c c o r d i n g t o Polkinghorne  grasp (1988),  "experience i s meaningful and human b e h a v i o r i s generated from and informed by t h i s meaningfulness.  Thus, the study  of b e h a v i o r needs t o i n c l u d e an e x p l o r a t i o n of the meaning systems that form human experience" (p. 1 ) . The i n t e n t of t h i s study was t o explore and d e s c r i b e the l i v e d experience of disengagement.  C a p t u r i n g t h i s process n e c e s s i t a t e d a  2  " r e s p e c t f u l l i s t e n i n g to what the phenomenon speaks of itself"  ( C o l a i z z i p. 53). Rationale  There i s a growing r e c o g n i t i o n of a need f o r a b e t t e r understanding of the disengagement L e i n h a r d t and Zigmond s o c i a l and academic  process.  Miller,  (1988) i n an ethnographic study of  p a r t i c i p a t i o n among h i g h s c h o o l students  d e s c r i b e d "dropping out as a process of g r a d u a l disengagement emphasized  from s c h o o l "  (p.12).  Rumberger  (1987)  the importance of r e s e a r c h i n g the p r o c e s s of  disengagement  r a t h e r than the " s t r u c t u r a l  such as f a m i l y background  characteristics"  and socioeconomic s t a t u s .  t h e i r review of q u a n t i t a t i v e , o b s e r v a t i o n a l and  After  interview  data from 14 secondary school dropout p r e v e n t i o n programs, Wehlage, R u t t e r , Smith, Lesko,& Fernandez,(1987)  suggested  that dropping out can best be understood as a p r o c e s s of mutual  rejection.  Commenting on the s t a t e of p r e s e n t  dropout r e s e a r c h F i n n is  (1991) noted that what the f i e l d  "good conceptual a n a l y s e s " r a t h e r than  tallies  needs  "statistical  of dropout r a t e s or dropout c o r r e l a t e s "  (p. 30).  Research on the process, o f t e n r e f e r r e d t o as disengagement,  (Kelly,  1993;  Rumberger, 1987)  p r a c t i c a l and t h e o r e t i c a l advantages  has both  over a more t r a d i t i o n a l  perspective.  As a c o n s t r u c t , disengagement  v a l u e because  i t c u t s a c r o s s the polemics of blame o f t e n  a s s o c i a t e d w i t h the terms  has  practical  "dropout" and "pushout".  The  former a t t r i b u t e s blame to the i n d i v i d u a l ; the l a t t e r  3  a t t r i b u t e s blame t o the system.  In terms of theory,  r e s e a r c h on disengagement i s needed because i t "encourages us t o connect  events i n students' l i v e s over time and t o  l o o k f o r cumulative e f f e c t s "  ( K e l l y , p.  29).  School c o u n s e l l i n g has much t o g a i n from a w e l l a r t i c u l a t e d theory of the disengagement p r o c e s s . r o l e as c h i l d advocates  c o u n s e l l o r s have an o b l i g a t i o n t o  enhance s c h o o l p e r s o n n e l s ' understanding r i s k students.  In t h e i r  A c c o r d i n g to B l o c h  and t o l e r a n c e of at  (1991) c o u n s e l l o r s "have  an o b l i g a t i o n t o promote a f o r t h r i g h t examination f a c t s of dropping out and r e s e a r c h on e f f e c t i v e  of the  strategies  to h e l p s c h o o l s more adequately serve a l l students" An understanding  (p. 45).  of the l i v e d experience of disengagement  would p r o v i d e a h o l i s t i c p e r s p e c t i v e that may guide c o u n s e l l o r s ' i n t e r v e n t i o n A b e t t e r understanding  assist  and  efforts.  of the disengagement p r o c e s s  might a l s o broaden the i n f l u e n c e of school c o u n s e l l i n g . Some c r i t i c s of the school system have proposed dropout  t h a t the  problem would be more e f f e c t i v e l y addressed  an e c o l o g i c a l approach  (Srebnik & E l i a s ,  1993).  through  These  r e s e a r c h e r s maintained t h a t "the h o l d i n g power of a s c h o o l should be c e n t r a l not o n l y to the d e f i n i t i o n of s c h o o l e x c e l l e n c e , but of b a s i c school competence"  (p.527).  C e r t a i n aspects of " h o l d i n g power" which are o f t e n addressed by school c o u n s e l l o r s i n c l u d e student  bonding  (Hawkins & Weis, 1985), peer t u t o r i n g and peer c o u n s e l l i n g (Natriello  , P a l l a s , M c d i l l , McPartland  & Royster,1988),  and  4  social s k i l l s training  ( E l i a s , Gara, & Ubriaco,  1985). An  a r t i c u l a t e d theory of disengagement might c o n t r i b u t e a unique and h e l p f u l p e r s p e c t i v e to d i s c u s s i o n w i t h on matters  such as d i s c i p l i n e ,  educators  e v a l u a t i o n , and r e t e n t i o n  each of which i s seen as c o n t r i b u t i n g to the  dropout  problem. A theory of disengagement would a l s o be u s e f u l to the development of school c o u n s e l l i n g as a p r o f e s s i o n .  Across  the p r o v i n c e of B r i t i s h Columbia there i s s u b s t a n t i a l v a r i a b i l i t y i n the r o l e s that c o u n s e l l o r s perform p e r s o n a l communication, September, 1996). v a r y from c h i l d advocates, to  administrators.  understanding  (Paterson,  Job f u n c t i o n s  t h e r a p i s t s , behavior  specialists  I f the job d e s c r i p t i o n i s l e f t  to the  of the school a d m i n i s t r a t o r t h e r e i s a danger  t h a t the r o l e of the c o u n s e l l o r can be eroded  and l i m i t e d  the i m a g i n a t i o n and p e r s p e c t i v e of those w i t h l i t t l e information.  T h i s i s a p a r t i c u l a r concern  economic times.  direct  in difficult  Disengagement theory can help address  concern.  A b e t t e r understanding  disengage  would a l s o inform on what may  p r o c e s s of student engagement.  of how  by  this  some c h i l d r e n be i n v o l v e d i n the  These f i n d i n g s ,  while  i n t e r e s t i n g , are a n c i l l a r y data that are beyond the scope of the c u r r e n t i n q u i r y .  By c h a r t i n g the l i v e d experiences  of  the d e v e l o p i n g c h i l d i n the school system, a theory of disengagement c o u l d begin to l a y the groundwork f o r a d r i v e n emotional establishment  curriculum.  field-  The management and  of such a c u r r i c u l u m p o t e n t i a l l y would serve  5  to ground, a r t i c u l a t e , and enhance the r o l e of s c h o o l counselling.  Disengagement theory p r o v i d e s the f i e l d of  s c h o o l c o u n s e l l i n g with a potent means of c r y s t a l l i z i n g a comprehensive a f f e c t i v e developmental guidance c u r r i c u l u m . Research S t r a t e g y Yin  (1984) i n d i c a t e d that case study i s an e f f e c t i v e  means of " i n v e s t i g a t i n g phenomenon w i t h i n i t s r e a l - l i f e context"  (p. 23). A m u l t i p l e - c a s e d e s i g n i s a v a r i a t i o n o f  the case study and i s a k i n t o m u l t i p l e experiments. U t i l i z i n g replication logic, evidence  t h i s approach  t h a t can be c o n s i d e r e d compelling  generates and robust ( Y i n ,  1984) . Data f o r t h i s study was gathered u s i n g an u n s t r u c t u r e d i n t e r v i e w format.  T h i s approach i s c h a r a c t e r i z e d as "a  f l e x i b l e s t r a t e g y of d i s c o v e r y a guided  [whose] o b j e c t i s t o c a r r y on  c o n v e r s a t i o n and t o e l i c i t  materials"  (Mishler, 1986, p. 27).  rich,  detailed  The i n t e n t was t o a l l o w  p a r t i c i p a n t s maximum l a t i t u d e t o i d e n t i f y and a r t i c u l a t e s i g n i f i c a n t aspects of t h e i r experience.  The primary  focus  of the study was t o capture and d e s c r i b e the l i v e d experience The  of each p a r t i c i p a n t .  r e s e a r c h produced a u t h e n t i c n a r r a t i v e accounts o f  the meaning of disengagement f o r i n d i v i d u a l p a r t i c i p a n t s . c r o s s case comparison of these n a r r a t i v e s i n d i c a t e d the presence o f common streams of movement.  A  6  D e f i n i t i o n of Terms Dropout i n t h i s study r e f e r s t o any student who left of  school p r i o r to graduation.  Definitional  has  ambiguities  the term commonly a s s o c i a t e d w i t h e f f o r t s t o estimate  s i z e of dropout  populations  (Carson, 1993)  the  are o u t s i d e of  the scope of t h i s r e s e a r c h . Pushout commonly r e f e r s to a student who  has been  e v i c t e d through some school i n i t i a t e d p o l i c y or a c t i o n (Fine, 1986) .  Since the focus of t h i s r e s e a r c h was  the  d e s c r i p t i o n and i d e n t i f i c a t i o n of the process of l e a v i n g e x p e r i e n c e d by i n d i v i d u a l students, the dichotomy was  not  "pushout-dropout"  utilized.  Agency i s a combination  of s k i l l s ,  attitudes,  and c o n v i c t i o n s , t h a t enable people t o d i r e c t , shape t h e i r l i v e s  as  beliefs,  control,  and  (Cochran & Laub, 1994).  Disengagement has been d e s c r i b e d as a process of mutual rejection  (Wehlage et a l . , 1987).  Kelly  (1993) e l a b o r a t e d  on t h i s n o t i o n through her metaphor f o r engagement which she d e s c r i b e d as "two  toothed wheels of a gear,  student  s c h o o l , meshed together so that the motion of one on t o the other" In  and  i s passed  (p.29).  the f o l l o w i n g chapter, r e s e a r c h i n the f i e l d of h i g h  s c h o o l dropouts are reviewed  i s examined.  Two  models of s c h o o l l e a v i n g  and s t u d i e s focused on the process of  disengagement are presented.  7 Chapter 2 Review of the L i t e r a t u r e Introduction In  some ways the term  America's  "dropout"  dreams and f a i l u r e s .  i s a benchmark of North  The word e n t e r e d the p o p u l a r  i m a g i n a t i o n i n the e a r l y 1960's, when completing s c h o o l was  first  e s t a b l i s h e d as a norm (Dorn,  secondary  1993) .  Over  the y e a r s dropping out has been a s s o c i a t e d w i t h p e r s o n a l and institutional injustice. hope and  f a i l u r e , d e l i n q u e n t behavior, and  At stake are i s s u e s of i n d i v i d u a l and  collective  security.  Dropping  out of h i g h school has s e r i o u s p e r s o n a l ,  s o c i a l and economic i m p l i c a t i o n s .  Dropouts  have  l e v e l s of unemployment and lower earnings than ( G i l b e r t , e t a l . , 1993;  Rumberger, 1987).  t o have h e a l t h problems,  w e l f a r e dependency  higher  graduates  S o c i a l c o s t s come  i n the form of i n c r e a s e d c r i m i n a l a c t i v i t y , tendency  societal  a greater  and a h i g h e r r a t e of  (Rumberger, 1987).  Calculated i n real  d o l l a r s one American estimate of the annual l o s s t o the n a t i o n i s $77 b i l l i o n - - $ 3 b i l l i o n  i n crime p r e v e n t i o n , $3  billion  i n w e l f a r e and unemployment and $71 b i l l i o n  revenue  (Weis,  Farrar, & Petrie,  1989)-.  Dropping out  been shown t o have a s i g n i f i c a n t l y n e g a t i v e e f f e c t p s y c h o l o g i c a l f u n c t i o n i n g i n young adulthood Kaplan,  1994).  has  on  (Damphousse &  I n d i v i d u a l consequences of dropping out  i n c l u d e lower academic s k i l l s Pallas,  i n tax  (Alexander, N a t r e i l l o ,  1985), reduced o p p o r t u n i t y f o r employment  &  8  (Catterall,  1987)  and i n c r e a s e d p s y c h o l o g i c a l s t r e s s .  One  study l i n k e d i n c r e a s e d unemployment w i t h a g r e a t e r r i s k of s u i c i d e and mental  illness  (Brenner, 1976).  tend t o f i n d work harder to secure Brenner  Since  dropouts  suggested  that  they would a l s o s u f f e r g r e a t e r r a t e s of m o r t a l i t y and  mental-  illness. E f f o r t s t o address the dropout phenomenon have generated d i f f e r e n t bodies of r e s e a r c h . the term  "dropout"  individuals,  Depending on  how  i s framed, s t u d i e s have focused on  f a m i l i e s , s c h o o l s , or s o c i e t i e s at l a r g e .  Regardless of the focus, there i s an o v e r r i d i n g concern t h a t a s u b s t a n t i a l body of dropout r e s e a r c h i s d e c o n t e x t u a l i z e d data  (Finn, 1991).  Many of these s t u d i e s have focused on  i d e n t i f y i n g the c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of the dropout p o p u l a t i o n , the s c h o o l s or school systems from which students leave, and the attempted  r e s o l u t i o n s t o the problem. B u i l d i n g on  work, more recent e f f o r t s have attempted p r o c e s s of dropping out 1986).  ( K e l l y , 1993;  this  t o d e l i n e a t e the  F i n n , 1989;  Fine,  An understanding of the process would b e t t e r  i l l u m i n a t e how  dropouts come i n t o being.  In t h i s  chapter  i n f o r m a t i o n i s p r o v i d e d on the c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of the p o p u l a t i o n , s c h o o l - l e v e l c o n t r i b u t i o n s t o the problem, attempted The  s o l u t i o n s , and e f f o r t s to a r t i c u l a t e the p r o c e s s .  Problem Of  Incidence  Research e f f o r t s to understand the magnitude of the dropout phenomenon a l l grapple w i t h q u e s t i o n s of d e f i n i t i o n  9  (Carson, 1993;  Kominski, 1990;  Rumberger, 1987).  Three  d i f f e r e n t terms are most o f t e n used: the event dropout  rate,  the s t a t u s dropout r a t e , and the cohort dropout r a t e .  The  event r a t e i s simply the percentage of e n r o l l e d students leave s c h o o l i n any g i v e n year.  The s t a t u s dropout  measures the percentage of a p o p u l a t i o n  who  rate  that has not  completed h i g h school and i s not e n r o l l e d i n s c h o o l .  The  cohort dropout r a t e r e f e r s t o the percentage of dropouts i n a s i n g l e group over a p e r i o d of time.  Questions of  d e f i n i t i o n t r a n s l a t e into varying estimates (figures from 15%  - 30%)  (Carson, 1993;  about the s i z e of the dropout  G i l b e r t et a l . ,  1993;  range  problem  Rumberger, 1987).  For  the purposes of t h i s study a broad i n c l u s i v e d e f i n i t i o n been u t i l i z e d ,  that i s , dropouts are students who  left  has the  s c h o o l system b e f o r e g r a d u a t i n g . Causes a s s o c i a t e d w i t h the problem Research on the causes of dropping out i s d i v i d e d a l o n g two g e n e r a l l e v e l s of a n a l y s i s .  The l a r g e r group of s t u d i e s  has f o c u s e d on the i n d i v i d u a l and attempted t o a s c e r t a i n the many f a c t o r s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h l e a v i n g school prematurely.  A  second s t r a n d of r e s e a r c h has taken a school  focus.  The  i n t e n t here has been t o uncover the d i f f e r e n t  institutional  l e v e l f a c t o r s and c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s that i n f l u e n c e dropout rates  (Rumberger,  1995).  10  Individual  perspective  Studies  have i d e n t i f i e d a l a r g e number of i n d i v i d u a l  l e v e l f a c t o r s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h dropping out. mentioned g e n e r a l background, and  categories  individual  A demographic focus ( G i l b e r t et a l . , 1993; socioeconomic s t a t u s 1986;  f o r Blacks  students  school  i n d i c a t e d that race, e t h n i c i t y and  low  Dropout r a t e s i n the U n i t e d  over 40%  Asian  Kaufman, Hausken,& Bradby, 1993).  One  represented  n a t i o n a l Canadian study i n d i c a t e d t h a t  of a b o r i g i n a l 18-20  compared to 16%  S t a t e s were  than f o r Anglo and  A b o r i g i n a l people were a l s o d i s p r o p o r t i o n a t e l y i n dropout data.  & Rock,  are h i g h l y c o r r e l a t e d w i t h l e a v i n g  and H i s p a n i c s  (McMillen,  family-  experience.  (Ekstrom, Goertz, P o l l a c k ,  school prematurely.  most o f t e n  i n c l u d e : demographics,  Rumberger, 1987)  Rumberger, 1983)  higher  The  year-olds  f o r the general  dropped out  population  as  ( G i l b e r t et a l . ,  1993) . Research about f a m i l y background, another key i s o f t e n d i v i d e d along and  l i n e s of u n d e r l y i n g  b e h a v i o r w i t h lower p a r e n t a l education,  al.,  family processes  o v e r a l l family structure. I n v e s t i g a t i o n of f a m i l y s t r u c t u r e has  and  factor,  l i n k e d dropout  socioeconomic  s i n g l e parent f a m i l i e s ( G i l b e r t et a l . , 1993; 1986;  Rumberger, 1983).  h e l d constant,  Ekstrom et  When socioeconomic s t a t u s  c h i l d r e n from stepparent  similar difficulties  status  with e d u c a t i o n a l  was  families exhibited  attainment as d i d  c h i l d r e n from s i n g l e parent f a m i l i e s (Astone & McLanahan,  11  1991).  T h i s r e s e a r c h expanded on Coleman's  social capital.  He maintained  (1988) t h e o r y of  that the r e l a t i o n s h i p between  a c h i l d and the parents determined  the c h i l d ' s access t o  whatever f i n a n c i a l and human c a p i t a l e x i s t e d i n the household.  Two-parent f a m i l i e s t h e r e f o r e would have more  social capital.  Astone & McLanahan (1991) expanded on  this  q u a n t i t a t i v e n o t i o n of s o c i a l c a p i t a l and i n t r o d u c e d a q u a l i t a t i v e measure.  They argued  that s o c i a l c a p i t a l  was  a l s o i n d i c a t e d by the s t r e n g t h of the attachment between parent and c h i l d .  From t h i s p e r s p e c t i v e the q u a l i t y of  attachment i s a matter o f :  (1) p a r e n t a l w i l l i n g n e s s and  a b i l i t y t o p r o v i d e the c h i l d with care and a t t e n t i o n and  (2)  the c h i l d ' s r e c e p t i v i t y t o the parent's g e s t u r e s . A much s m a l l e r body of data e x i s t s about the u n d e r l y i n g p r o c e s s e s through which f a m i l y background i n f l u e n c e s s c h o o l success.  Measures of p a r e n t a l involvement  through  a c t i v i t i e s l i k e r e a d i n g at home and a t t e n d i n g s c h o o l f u n c t i o n s have been t i e d t o academic accomplishment & McLanahan, 1991)  which i n t u r n i s  associated with  i n c r e a s e d engagement and decreased dropout et a l . , 1986) . s c h o o l success.  behavior  (Ekstrom  P a r e n t i n g s t y l e has a l s o been l i n k e d w i t h Students who  r e g u l a t e d and monitored  came from homes where parents  behavior while p r o v i d i n g emotional  support tended t o be more s u c c e s s f u l at school R i t t e r , Leiderman, Roberts, Elmen, & Mounts, 1989). of dropouts  (Astone  One  & F r a l e i g h 1987;  (Dornbusch,  Steinberg,  study which compared  families  t o f a m i l i e s of other students i d e n t i f i e d  three  12  major d i f f e r e n c e s between the two. f a c i l i t a t e d by p e r m i s s i v e sanctions  parenting,  to poor grades, and  i n t h e i r children's schooling Dornbusch, 1991). data,  The  Dropout b e h a v i o r negative  reactions  a l a c k of p a r e n t a l  involvement  s t y l e s do p l a y a r o l e  (Rumberger, 1995).  Investigations and  adaptable f a m i l i e s f o s t e r e d more a t - r i s k c h i l d r e n 1994). Other home r e l a t e d f a c t o r s i n c l u d e d a t t i t u d e s towards school and  The  less  (Vickers,  parental  the value p l a c e d on  education  r e l a t i o n s h i p between an i n d i v i d u a l ' s school dropping out has  amount of a t t e n t i o n .  also received a substantial  Poor academic achievement, low  grade r e t e n t i o n , poor attendance and  b e h a v i o r were a l l l i n k e d with a higher (Bhaerman & Kopp, 1988; al.,  of  ( G i l b e r t et a l . , 1993).  experience and  scores,  &  i m p l i c a t i o n , while based on l i m i t e d  f a m i l y f u n c t i o n i n g i n d i c a t e d that l e s s cohesive  by p a r e n t s .  and  (Lamborn, Mounts, S t e i n b e r g ,  i s that p a r e n t a l p r a c t i c e s and  i n dropout behavior  was  1986;  unacceptable  r i s k of dropping  Borus & Carpenter, 1984;  G i l b e r t et a l . , 1993;  N a t r e i l l o et a l . , 1988).  Grannis & R i e h l ,  Excessive  part-time  (Hergert,  out  Ekstrom et 1989;  employment  (over 15 hours a week) has been a s s o c i a t e d w i t h dropout r a t e s as w e l l  test  higher  1991).  Researchers have a l s o i d e n t i f i e d a number of i n d i v i d u a l f a c t o r s a s s o c i a t e d with dropping out.  Lower l e v e l s of  esteem, a reduced sense of c o n t r o l over t h e i r  lives  (Rumberger, 1987), poor a t t i t u d e s towards school l e v e l s of o c c u p a t i o n a l  and  educational  self-  and  lower  a s p i r a t i o n (Ekstrom  13  et  a l . , 1986;  Wehlage & Rutter, 1986)  w i t h dropout behavior.  have a l l c o r r e l a t e d  Other f a c t o r s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h  dropping out are a l i e n a t i o n from peers 1983;  (Mahan & Johhnson,  Wells, 1990), pregnancy, and e a r l y marriage  & Kopp, 1988;  Ekstrom  et a l . , 1986;  (Bhaerman  Rumberger, 1983).  F i n a l l y , p o t e n t i a l dropouts o f t e n f i n d the r e l e v a n c e of school to l a t e r l i f e d i f f i c u l t al.,  to comprehend  ( N a t r e i l l o et  1988) . S t u d i e s aimed at uncovering the f a c t o r s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h  dropouts have been c r i t i c i z e d on s e v e r a l f r o n t s . t h i s c r i t i c i s m has focused on the i m p l i c a t i o n s assumptions  of such r e s e a r c h .  the  t o h o l d students or  t h e i r f a m i l i e s r e s p o n s i b l e f o r dropping out  (Wehlage &  Other r e s e a r c h e r s have q u e r i e d the  s i g n i f i c a n c e of s p e c i f i c f a c t o r s .  For i n s t a n c e , w h i l e i t i s  b r o a d l y accepted that low socioeconomic f a c t o r i n dropout  s t a t u s i s a key  rates' (Weis, F a r r a r , & P e t r i e ,  argument f a i l s t o e x p l a i n why  1989)  this  some m i n o r i t y groups from the  same economic l e v e l succeed while o t h e r s do not 1991).  and  E f f o r t s t o uncover  u n d e r l y i n g f a c t o r s have had a tendency  R u t t e r , 1987).  Much of  (Rumberger,  E f f o r t s t o address t h i s c r i t i q u e have advanced a  s o c i o c u l t u r a l argument.  T h i s p o s i t i o n maintained that  degree of acceptance of the dominant c u l t u r e by m i n o r i t i e s e x p l a i n e d why  the  different  some m i n o r i t y students were  s u c c e s s f u l while o t h e r s were not  (Mehan, 1992;  Grounded i n p h i l o s o p h i c a l debates about  Ogbu, 1992).  c u l t u r e , human  agency, and c o n s t i t u t i v e a c t i o n , the s o c i o c u l t u r a l viewpoint  14  has  i n v i t e d a broader and  deeper i n v e s t i g a t i o n about  the  .dropout phenomenon. S t u d i e s aimed at uncovering f a c t o r s a s s o c i a t e d dropping out  can a l s o be c r i t i c i z e d on grounds of  usefulness.  An understanding of the  h e l p determine i n t e r v e n t i o n s . requires i n the  an a p p r e c i a t i o n  Designing  interventions  of the r o l e that such f a c t o r s playquestion.  l i t e r a t u r e on s c h o o l - l e v e l f a c t o r s and  is limited.  s c h o o l s may  Few  dropout  s t u d i e s have focused d i r e c t l y on  be c o n t r i b u t i n g to the dropout problem.  internal organization, p r a c t i c e s and  a t t i t u d e s , and  Research on school school  various  s i z e had  how  To  date, r e s e a r c h e r s have looked at the e f f e c t s of school  that  to  Perspective  The rates  f a c t o r s does l i t t l e  l i v e d experience of the c h i l d r e n i n  School  with  size,  p o l i c i e s , some t e a c h e r  classroom  structure.  s i z e i s mixed.  One  study  indicated  an i n d i r e c t e f f e c t on dropout  rates.  L a r g e r student bodies were l i n k e d w i t h l e s s p o s i t i v e s o c i a l climates, the  l e s s s o c i a l i n t e g r a t i o n , and  institution.  contributing  contrasted smaller  These experiences, i n t u r n , were seen as  to i n c r e a s e d  Haughwout, 1987;  dropout r a t e s  Bryk & Thum, 1989).  with previous research  s c h o o l s were a s s o c i a t e d  alienation.  reduced i d e n t i t y w i t h  (Pittman,  This  student body i n c r e a s e d  finding  which i n d i c a t e d  with i n c r e a s e d  A c c o r d i n g to t h i s p e r s p e c t i v e ,  &  a  that  student smaller  p r e s s u r e to s u c c e s s f u l l y p a r t i c i p a t e  15  i n a l l school a c t i v i t i e s ,  thereby g e n e r a t i n g n e g a t i v e s e l f -  e v a l u a t i o n s when e x p e c t a t i o n s weren't met (Grabe, The  1981).  i n t e r n a l o r g a n i z a t i o n of s c h o o l s was a l s o c i t e d as  an important  f a c t o r i n the dropout problem.  From t h i s  p e r s p e c t i v e , s m a l l e r s c h o o l s , l e s s d i v e r s i f i e d academic o f f e r i n g s , and teachers i n t e r e s t e d i n p a r t i c i p a t i n g w i t h students f o s t e r e d a sense of b e l o n g i n g .  Decreased  a l i e n a t i o n t r a n s l a t e d i n t o l e s s absenteeism dropout  and reduced  r a t e s (Bryk & Thum, 1989). T h i s c o n c l u s i o n o f f e r e d  support t o Newman's concern s c h o o l generated student  (1981) about  the need t o counter  alienation.  The quest f o r harmony-integration  (the r e d u c t i o n of  a l i e n a t i o n ) through l e a r n i n g r e q u i r e s a d i f f e r e n t i a t i o n of s e l f from experience, an a n a l y t i c detachment, but t h i s must be pursued with e f f o r t , engagement.  Reducing  s t r u g g l e , and  a l i e n a t i o n , then, i s not  tantamount t o e l i m i n a t i n g s t r e s s o r e f f o r t ; r a t h e r ,  it  i s a r r a n g i n g c o n d i t i o n s so that people expend energy i n ways that enhance engagement w i t h work, people, and p h y s i c a l surroundings, One  (p. 54 8)  of the school generated c o n d i t i o n s that has  r e c e i v e d a t t e n t i o n and i s l i n k e d w i t h student a l i e n a t i o n i s a school's retention p o l i c y .  Roderick  students who repeated a grade  i n elementary  twice as l i k e l y t o drop out at age 16.  (1994) concluded  that  s c h o o l were  These f i n d i n g s were  16  p a r t of an emerging p e r s p e c t i v e 1992;  Schultz,  1989;  Shepard & Smith, 1988)  long-term emotional and and  e a r l y grade  (Mantzicopoulos & Morrison, questioning  academic b e n e f i t s of  kindergarten  retention.  Beyond r e t e n t i o n p o l i c i e s , the e d u c a t i o n system a l s o been c r i t i c i z e d f o r being too  insular.  d i s s a t i s f a c t i o n , Coleman (1993) has  Citing  p r o c e s s of t h e i r c h i l d r e n .  S p e c i f i c a l l y , he  exclusionary  p r a c t i c e s and  contributing  f a c t o r i n a l i e n a t i n g parents. support was  parental  saw  the a  In a r e l a t e d  i d e n t i f i e d as an  v a r i a b l e i n student academic engagement  important  (Raddysh, 1992) .  i n d i c a t e d that a  perceived  l a c k of t e a c h e r i n t e r e s t i n students, the p e r c e p t i o n d i s c i p l i n e p r a c t i c e s were u n f a i r and  to  education  a t t i t u d e s of t e a c h e r s as  Student generated r e p o r t s  has  c a l l e d upon s c h o o l s  be more e f f e c t i v e i n i n v o l v i n g f a m i l i e s i n the  study, p a r e n t a l  the  that  i n e f f e c t i v e , and  widespread t r u a n c y were s c h o o l - l e v e l f a c t o r s which contributed 1986). New  Fine's  York school  structure An  to premature school  to be  leaving  (1986) ethnographic study of an i n n e r identified  school  large contributors  accepted p r a c t i c e of r i d d i n g the  p o l i c y and  students out  of  classroom  school  of  "bad  kids"  competition,  a u t h o r i t y were seen as f a c t o r s that school.  city  to the dropout problem.  classrooms o r g a n i z e d around n o t i o n s of obedience, and  (Wehlage & R u t t e r ,  pushed  and  17  S o l u t i o n s to the problem Research on dropout p r e v e n t i o n programs p r o v i d e d critical  e v a l u a t i o n of previous  e f f o r t s to address  problem as w e l l as a snapshot of the l a t e s t solutions. present  These d i f f e r e n t viewpoints  the  proposed  are p e r t i n e n t to  the  r e s e a r c h because they o f f e r a p e r s p e c t i v e about past  and present Various  c o n c e p t u a l i z a t i o n s of the dropout phenomenon.  elements have been i d e n t i f i e d as c r i t i c a l  successful prevention One  appropriate  on the academic needs of  this  I d e n t i f i e d concerns i n c l u d e d  curriculum,  s e n s i t i v e and  an  sympathetic  and v a r i e d measures of progress  D e s i r a b l e aspects  to a  program.  element focused  diverse population.  staff,  a  teaching  (Rumberger, 1987).  of a dropout p r e v e n t i o n program t h a t made  a p o s i t i v e d i f f e r e n c e i n c l u d e d a mix  of academic  and  v o c a t i o n a l s t u d i e s , i n d i v i d u a l i z e d i n s t r u c t i o n , and sensitive staff  (Bullis,  S u c c e s s f u l and element of  1986;  Olsen & Edwards, 1982).  t i m e l y r e c o g n i t i o n was  another  p r e v e n t i o n programs. E f f o r t s to address  problem among h i g h r i s k disadvantaged students lower dropout r a t e s with preschool Berrueta-Clement, Barnett,  a more  programs  critical the  have l i n k e d  (Schweinhart,  E p s t e i n , & Weikart, 1985) .  Attempts to meet the p s y c h o l o g i c a l needs of p o t e n t i a l dropouts, most o f t e n a r t i c u l a t e d as a d e s i r e f o r someone t o care about them i n d i v i d u a l l y , have o f t e n been addressed through i n c r e a s e d 1986;  a v a i l a b i l i t y of c o u n s e l l i n g time  Olsen & Edwards, 1982).  (Bullis,  18  For the most p a r t , these types of s o l u t i o n s a r e grounded  i n the  d i f f e r e n t s t r u c t u r a l c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s used  to d e f i n e the dropout p o p u l a t i o n (Finn, 1989). who espoused an e c o l o g i c a l l y focused s o l u t i o n Elias,  Researchers (Srbnik &  1993) saw i n d i v i d u a l l y - b a s e d p r e v e n t i o n i n t e r v e n t i o n s  as fundamentally flawed.  The source of the e r r o r was the  c o n c e p t u a l i z a t i o n of the problem.  A c c o r d i n g t o Rappaport  (1981) the v e r y n o t i o n of p r e v e n t i o n may l i m i t our a b i l i t y to address such i s s u e s . The i d e a of p r e v e n t i o n i s the l o g i c a l e x t e n s i o n of a needs model which views people i n d i f f i c u l t y as c h i l d r e n ; the i d e a of advocacy i s an e x t e n s i o n o f the r i g h t s model of people as c i t i z e n s . one-sided.  Both o f these a r e  I propose an empowerment model f o r a s o c i a l  p o l i c y which views people as complete human beings, c r e a t e s a symbolic sense of urgency, r e q u i r e s to paradox,  attention  and expects d i v e r g e n t and d i a l e c t i c a l  r a t h e r than convergent s o l u t i o n s ,  (p. 1)  W i t h i n the context of the dropout problem,  the e c o l o g i c a l  approach advocated u t i l i z i n g s u p p o r t i v e s t r u c t u r e s l i k e peer t u t o r i n g , peer c o u n s e l l i n g , buddy programs, and s o c i a l s k i l l s training 1988;  (Wells, 1990; Greenwood, C a r t a , & H a l l ,  Cohen, 1986).  While these are v a l u a b l e a d d i t i o n s t o  the s c h o o l system,  t h i s systemic focus i s hampered by an o l d  dropout paradigm.  Specifically,  the proposed  ecological  19  p e r s p e c t i v e was  l i m i t e d to a school focus and  i n t o c o n s i d e r a t i o n the broader process disengaging The  f a i l e d t o take  involved i n  from s c h o o l .  process  of disengagement was  c e n t r a l to  the  f i n d i n g s of a l a r g e s c a l e American e v a l u a t i o n of h i g h prevention  programs  ( N a t r i e l l o et a l . , 1988).  r e s u l t e d i n a four-category dropout problem. success  The  i n school,  relevance  typology  This  school  study  of approaches to  the  i d e n t i f i e d categories included:  (1)  (2) p o s i t i v e r e l a t i o n s h i p s i n s c h o o l ,  of school and  c r i t i q u e of t h e i r own  (4) o u t s i d e i n t e r f e r e n c e s .  typology  (3)  In a  the authors o f f e r e d the  following: One  weakness of the typology  when dropping out over time.  is i t s static  i s a c t u a l l y a process  A student  character,  t h a t develops  does not get c l a s s i f i e d as a  dropout u s u a l l y as a r e s u l t of a s i n g l e d e c i s i o n day by the i n d i v i d u a l that enrollment l o n g e r of i n t e r e s t . final,  Dropping out  i n school  one i s no  i s u s u a l l y not  e x p l i c i t d e c i s i o n by a student  or by a school o f f i c i a l to terminate o f t e n an i n d i v i d u a l begins a p a t t e r n  to leave  a  school  a student.  More  of•off-and-on  attendance that grows over time i n t o an even more i n t e r m i t t e n t attendance p a t t e r n u n t i l the i n d i v i d u a l f i n a l l y stops coming to school a l t o g e t h e r .  It often  20  would be more accurate t o speak of the " d r i f t o u t " problem  than the "dropout" problem.(p.  36)  A s i m i l a r c r i t i q u e of the s t a t e of present r e s e a r c h was o f f e r e d by Diem (1991).  T h i s r e s e a r c h employed a case  study  methodology t o i n v e s t i g a t e a t - r i s k students and the outcomes of the school-based i n t e r v e n t i o n s they were i n v o l v e d w i t h . Among the i n t e r v e n t i o n s c i t e d are teacher and b u s i n e s s mentors, work-study programs, and u t i l i z a t i o n of a t - r i s k program c o - o r d i n a t o r s and c o u n s e l l o r s .  Diem concluded  that:  To s e t up a v i a b l e at r i s k i n t e r v e n t i o n program i t i s necessary t o g a i n some understanding of the p o p u l a t i o n one  i s d e a l i n g with that goes beyond  r e c o r d s , t e s t scores, promotion  attendance  r e c o r d s , and guidance  r e f e r r a l s and should i n c l u d e i n q u i r i e s i n t o the l i v e s of students and how school f i t s i n t o them...  Providing  programs that o n l y focus on obvious academic and i n t e r p e r s o n a l d i f f i c u l t i e s has not r e v e r s e d dropout patterns.  Yet, t r y i n g t o develop a systemic community  o r i e n t e d at r i s k p r e v e n t i o n model would not o n l y be c o s t l y , but probably unacceptable t o many who might view these e f f o r t s as beyond the purview institutions.  of e d u c a t i o n a l  We have come t o understand that the  needs of students at r i s k are numerous, programs t o serve them d i v e r s e , and that a s y s t e m a t i c t h e o r y f o r  21 understanding student engagement and disengagement i s still  i n a primitive state.  Because of t h i s we  w e l l be at an impasse i n d e v i s i n g  may  effective  i n t e r v e n t i o n s towards r e d u c i n g the dropout  r a t e . (p.15)  Process Models Kelly  (1993) s t a t e d that  "the metaphor u n d e r l y i n g  engagement i s that of two toothed wheels of a gear,  student  and s c h o o l , meshed together so that the motion of one i s passed on t o the other"  (p.29).  Disengagement, by c o n t r a s t ,  has been d e s c r i b e d as a process of mutual r e j e c t i o n 1991;  Wehlage et a l . ,  1987). In a review of the  (Fine,  literature  on dropouts, F i n n (1989) argued that e f f o r t s t o understand and address the dropout phenomenon l a c k e d a "systematic understanding of the developmental  processes that l e a d an  i n d i v i d u a l t o withdraw completely from s c h o o l " (p. 118). d e s c r i b e d and o f f e r e d support f o r two developmental of the disengagement p r o c e s s : esteem model and  (a) The  frustration  He  models self-  (b) the p a r t i c i p a t i o n - i d e n t i f i c a t i o n model.  F r u s t r a t i o n - S e l f - E s t e e m Model The b a s i c tenants of t h i s model maintained that s c h o o l performance  l e d t o an impaired s e l f - v i e w which i n  t u r n , r e s u l t e d i n o p p o s i t i o n a l behavior and withdrawal.  poor  early  These three components were common a c r o s s  v a r i o u s s t u d i e s even though measures of the c o n s t r u c t s differed.  School performance  standardized tests,  was  e s t a b l i s h e d by the use of  s u b j e c t generated t e s t s ,  cumulative  22  grade h i s t o r i e s and, on o c c a s i o n ,  IQ s c o r e s .  The  e x p l a n a t i o n of poor performance v a r i e d although commonly a t t r i b u t e d t o the school's address students' impaired  i t was  i n a b i l i t y or f a i l u r e to  i n t e l l e c t u a l o r emotional  needs.  s e l f - v i e w o f t e n r e s u l t e d from embarrassment o r  f r u s t r a t i o n and was o p e r a t i o n a l i z e d as g e n e r a l  self-esteem,  s e l f - c o n c e p t , academic s e l f - c o n c e p t , o r p e r s o n a l beliefs.  Finally,  o p p o s i t i o n a l behavior  agency  took the form o f  c l a s s d i s r u p t i o n s , missing  school, delinquent  combination of a l l t h r e e .  F i n n r e p o r t e d that the  f r u s t r a t i o n - s e l f - e s t e e m paradigm was present analyses  of adolescent  B e r s t e i n and Rulo reasoning  An  a c t s , o r some  i n various  behavior. (1976) u t i l i z e d t h i s l i n e of  t o o f f e r an e x p l a n a t i o n of how undiagnosed  l e a r n i n g d i s a b i l i t i e s may  lead to delinquent  behavior.  F r u s t r a t e d and embarrassed by l i m i t e d school success o r f a i l u r e from the s t a r t , the c h i l d becomes i n c r e a s i n g l y d i s r u p t i v e i n the classroom. unacceptable disability, and  behavior,  Over t i m e , c o n t r o l l i n g  as opposed t o a d d r e s s i n g  the l e a r n i n g  becomes the main concern of the a d u l t s i n v o l v e d  the c h i l d  " f a l l s f a r t h e r and f a r t h e r behind  more of a problem.  and becomes  E v e n t u a l l y , the c h i l d i s suspended,  drops out, o r i s thrown out of school and the movement towards delinquency  i s w e l l under way"  (p. 44).  A broader though s i m i l a r p e r s p e c t i v e was taken by Bloom (1976) who maintained  that ongoing evidence  of s c h o o l -  23  r e l a t e d adequacy leads to s e l f - c o n f i d e n c e and ego i n the d e v e l o p i n g c h i l d .  strength  This provided:  a type of immunization  a g a i n s t mental i l l n e s s f o r an  i n d e f i n i t e p e r i o d of time  [while at the o t h e r extreme]  are the bottom t h i r d of the students who  have been  g i v e n c o n s i s t e n t evidence of t h e i r inadequacy... over a p e r i o d of 5 to 10 y e a r s .  Such students r a r e l y  any p o s i t i v e reinforcement teachers or p a r e n t s .  We  i n the  classroom...from  would expect  be i n f e c t e d with emotional  secure  such students  to  d i f f i c u l t i e s and to e x h i b i t  symptoms of acute d i s t r e s s and a l i e n a t i o n from the world of school and a d u l t s . ( p .  158)  T h e o r i e s of d e l i n q u e n t behavior p o s t u l a t e d student a l i e n a t i o n and d i s t r e s s as p a r t of the opportunity disjunction".  "aspiration-  F a i l u r e , or a n t i c i p a t e d  i n s c h o o l a c t i v i t i e s attenuated commitment and  failure  generated  a l i e n a t i o n which i n t u r n opened the door f o r d e l i n q u e n t behavior  ( E l l i o t , Ageton, & Canter,  1979).  Ford and N i c k o l s (1987) p r o v i d e d one  e x p l a n a t i o n of  u n a t t a i n a b l e g o a l s might r e s u l t i n f r u s t r a t i o n withdrawal  from s c h o o l .  how  and  W i t h i n t h e i r framework,  behavior  was  o r g a n i z e d i n t o h i e r a r c h i e s of goal-^directed episodes.  The  framework c o n s i s t e d of broad c a t e g o r i e s of g o a l s which  included:  " a f f e c t i v e goals", "cognitive goals", "subjective  24  o r g a n i z a t i o n g o a l s " , " s o c i a l r e l a t i o n s h i p g o a l s " , and "task goals".  In t h i s context the f r u s t r a t i o n - e s t e e m model  assumed t h a t the c o g n i t i v e g o a l s " e x p l o r a t i o n " , "understanding",  and " p o s i t i v e o r c o n f i r m a t o r y  self-  e v a l u a t i o n s " , along w i t h "mastery" and "meeting a standard of achievement" were s a l i e n t Ford  (1987) maintained  f o r most students  (p. 295).  that one's agency b e l i e f s , the  p e r c e p t i o n that a goal i s a t t a i n a b l e , r e g u l a t e d the p r i o r i t y g i v e n t o d e s i r e d g o a l s . Where students experienced  ongoing  f r u s t r a t i o n s and f a i l u r e i n school s u b j e c t s , a p e r c e p t i o n o f the s e l f as " i n e f f e c t i v e and powerless"  (Ford, 1987, p. 214)  might take h o l d and c o u l d l e a d t o e a r l y withdrawal school.  A threatened o r b e l i t t l e d s e l f - v i e w r e s u l t e d i n a  student's  search f o r other, l e s s s o c i a l l y  activities. engine  from  sanctioned  Gold and Mann (1984) saw s e l f - e s t e e m as the  t h a t drove t h i s p r o c e s s :  Under c o n d i t i o n s of low s o c i a l c o n t r o l , these young people esteem.  t u r n t o d e l i n q u e n t behavior t o r a i s e t h e i r  self-  I f experiences at school were a l t e r e d  s u f f i c i e n t l y to raise their self-esteem...their d i s r u p t i v e and delinquent behavior would s u b s i d e . ( p . 19) V a r i o u s s t u d i e s have i n d i c a t e d that a r e l a t i o n s h i p i s present between s e l f - c o n c e p t and s e l f - e s t e e m measures and academic performance  (Byrne,  1984; Gold & Mann, 1984;  25  Hansford and H a t t i e , 1982).  T h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p has  demonstrated to e x i s t over time s p e c i f i c focus r e v e a l e d  (Kifer,  1975).  a l s o been  A more  that academic s e l f - c o n c e p t  in  p a r t i c u l a r c o r r e l a t e s more h i g h l y with academic performance and grades than other broader measures of  self-esteem.  These a s s o c i a t i o n s however, are supported p r i m a r i l y by c o r r e l a t i o n a l evidence, t h e r e f o r e d i r e c t i o n a l c o n c l u s i o n s are not  justifiable.  Byrne  (1984) s t a t e d t h a t :  Causal predominance between s e l f - c o n c e p t achievement has  and  not been f u l l y confirmed.  academic  An  examination of the r e s u l t s from a l l the c a u s a l s t u d i e s reviewed i n d i c a t e d that other  modeling  important  v a r i a b l e s appear to i n f l u e n c e the r e l a t i o n s h i p between self-concept  and  academic achievement.  [Included  in  these v a r i a b l e s a r e ] : socioeconomic s t a t u s , e t h n i c i t y , a b i l i t y level,  and  s p e c i f i c i t y of s e l f - c o n c e p t  academic achievement measure, Shavelson and Bolus and p a r e n t a l The  (p.  i n f l u e n c e on t h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p .  conclusions  that students who  about the r e l a t i o n s h i p between s e l f -  Kaplan  Reid  (1984)  reported  were absent r e g u l a r l y tended t o have lower  academic s e l f - c o n c e p t s  general  451)  (1982) recommended the i n c l u s i o n of peer  esteem and problem behavior are mixed.  esteem.  and  and  lower general  l e v e l s of  self-  (1980) s t a t e d that c h i l d r e n r a t e d low  self-esteem  were more l i k e l y to d i s p l a y  in  deviant  26  behavior.  On the other hand, Ekstrom  et a l . ,  (1986) found  that on measures of g e n e r a l s e l f - e s t e e m , there was no s i g n i f i c a n t d i f f e r e n c e between graduates and dropouts. Other r e s e a r c h e r s (Wehlage & Rutter, 1986) confirmed finding.  Measuring  this  the change i n s e l f - e s t e e m over a t h r e e  year p e r i o d w i t h a group of sophomores, they r e p o r t e d an i n c r e a s e i n s e l f - e s t e e m f o r a l l students.  The g a i n f o r  dropouts was the same as the g a i n f o r graduates. While a number of d i f f e r e n t s t u d i e s l e n d support t o the f r u s t r a t i o n - s e l f - e s t e e m paradigm, s u b s t a n t i a l gaps e x i s t between t h e o r y and r e s e a r c h . largely correlational speculative  Support  f o r the model i s  (Hansford & H a t t i e ,  ( B e r n s t e i n & Rulo,  1976).  1982) o r  The main c o n s t r u c t ,  s e l f - e s t e e m / s e l f - c o n c e p t i s burdened by a l a c k of accepted d e f i n i t i o n a l c l a r i t y and questions of c a u s a l predominance (Byrne, 1984). it  Finally,  the s i m p l i c i t y of the model makes  easy t o blame the school system  f o r the c h i l d ' s l a c k o f  success when, what i s needed, i s a b e t t e r understanding of the developmental  sequences i n v o l v e d i n disengagement  (Finn,  1989) . P a r t i c i p a t i o n - I d e n t i f i c a t i o n Model The  second model reviewed by F i n n p o s t u l a t e d t h a t  student disengagement was a s s o c i a t e d w i t h i d e n t i t y and participation.  Premature departure was l i n k e d w i t h a l a c k  of a c t i v e p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n school and classroom  activities  and an absent o r reduced sense of i d e n t i f i c a t i o n w i t h  27  school.  As w i t h the f r u s t r a t i o n - s e l f - e s t e e m model, F i n n  c i t e d s e v e r a l s t u d i e s t o support t h i s paradigm. I d e n t i f i c a t i o n with s c h o o l . Student  i d e n t i f i c a t i o n with school has been s t u d i e d  under numerous g u i s e s .  In p o s i t i v e terms i t has been  d e s c r i b e d as " a f f i l i a t i o n " , "bonding",  and  "commitment".  "involvement",  "attachment",  From a negative p e r s p e c t i v e i t  has been c o n s i d e r e d i n l i g h t of " a l i e n a t i o n " "withdrawal".  Finn  and  (1989) maintained t h a t :  These terms denote two  ideas i n common t h a t c o n s t i t u t e  a good working d e f i n i t i o n of i d e n t i f i c a t i o n . students who  i d e n t i f y w i t h school have an  First,  internalized  c o n c e p t i o n of belongingness-that they are d i s c e r n i b l y p a r t of the school environment and that s c h o o l c o n s t i t u t e s an important p a r t of t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e . second,  And  these i n d i v i d u a l s value success i n s c h o o l -  relevant goals.(p.  123)  V a r i o u s s t u d i e s l i n k e d i d e n t i f i c a t i o n with s c h o o l success. A l o n g i t u d i n a l study, the Perry Preschool P r o j e c t (as c i t e d i n F i n n , 1989)  i d e n t i f i e d bonding  c o n t r i b u t o r to student  as a s i g n i f i c a n t  success.  On the b a s i s of these i n t e r n a l  [commitment t o  s c h o o l i n g ] and e x t e r n a l [student r o l e factors,  reinforcement]  s o c i a l bonds develop between persons  and  28 s e t t i n g s i n the course of human development.  Strong  s o c i a l bonds t o c o n v e n t i o n a l s e t t i n g s , such as s c h o o l , are seen as making delinquency l e s s l i k e l y whereas weak s o c i a l bonds make delinquency more l i k e l y ,  (p. 123)  In t h e i r i n v e s t i g a t i o n of a l t e r n a t e s c h o o l s Gold and Mann (1984) found c o r r e l a t i o n a l support f o r i d e n t i f i c a t i o n as v a l u i n g of s c h o o l .  In t h i s new s e t t i n g students were  l e s s d i s r u p t i v e and i n d i c a t e d an i n c r e a s e d commitment t o , and an optimism  about,  t h e i r chances of academic s u c c e s s .  Other s t u d i e s looked at i d e n t i f i c a t i o n as a measure o f b e l o n g i n g . Polk and H a l f e r t y , (1972) l i n k e d l a c k of commitment w i t h eventual withdrawal  and delinquency.  Delinquency among at l e a s t some youth may be a f u n c t i o n of the l a c k of commitment t o school and a d u l t s u c c e s s . . . The uncommitted d e l i n q u e n t youth, appear, school.  i t would  i s c h a r a c t e r i z e d by b e h a v i o r a l withdrawal He does not study, he r e c e i v e s poor  from  grades,  and he does not p a r t i c i p a t e i n a c t i v i t i e s . . . t h e r e i s a p a t t e r n o f p s y c h o l o g i c a l d i s c o m f o r t and a l i e n a t i o n i n the a t t i t u d e s the d e l i n q u e n t and uncommitted youth e x h i b i t s toward  the school (p.  F i r e s t o n e and Rosenbloom  85).  (1988) i d e n t i f i e d commitment t o  p l a c e and commitment t o l e a r n i n g as important l i n k i n g i d e n t i f i c a t i o n w i t h school success.  variables  29  From a d i f f e r e n t p e r s p e c t i v e , a l i e n a t i o n has been s t u d i e d as an i n d i c a t o r of weak school involvement.  Seeman  (1975) i d e n t i f i e d s i x e s s e n t i a l components of a l i e n a t i o n : powerlessness,  meaninglessness,  normlessness,  estrangement, s o c i a l i s o l a t i o n and c u l t u r a l Finn  (1989) saw  self-  estrangement.  s o c i a l i s o l a t i o n and normlessness  as most  c l o s e l y a l i g n e d w i t h the v a l u i n g and b e l o n g i n g a s p e c t s of identification. Reid  (1981) .  Support  for this position i s offered  by  He r e p o r t e d s i g n i f i c a n t d i f f e r e n c e s between  p e r s i s t e n t s c h o o l absentees  and r e g u l a r a t t e n d e r s f o r these  two  Normlessness and  aspects of a l i e n a t i o n .  social  i s o l a t i o n were a l s o l i n k e d w i t h d e l i n q u e n t a c t s and out by E l l i o t  and Voss(1974).  dropping  They concluded t h a t  "delinquent behavior and dropping out are a l t e r n a t e responses  t o f a i l u r e and a l i e n a t i o n "  (p. 202).  Some support f o r the i d e n t i f i c a t i o n aspect of the model i s a l s o t o be found i n s o c i a l c o n t r o l r e s e a r c h . c o n t r o l t h e o r y p o s t u l a t e s that " t i e s  (links,  Social  attachments,  binds, and bonds) t o c o n v e n t i o n a l i n s t i t u t i o n s f u n c t i o n t o c o n t r o l or i n h i b i t the b e h a v i o r a l e x p r e s s i o n of d e v i a n t motivation"  (Liska & Reed, 1985,  p. 547).  s t a t e d t h a t these bonds are comprised attachment  Hirschi  of f o u r  (1969)  elements:  (concern w i t h the o p i n i o n s of o t h e r s ) , commitment  (a r a t i o n a l d e c i s i o n t o behave i n a c c e p t a b l e ways), involvement  (the expenditure of time and energy i n  i n s t i t u t i o n a l l y encouraged b e h a v i o r s ; and b e l i e f  (a view  t h a t the p r i n c i p l e s encouraged by the i n s t i t u t i o n are  30  valid). fail  S o c i a l c o n t r o l theory maintains that when c h i l d r e n  t o bond a p p r o p r i a t e l y t o parents and s c h o o l they are  f r e e d t o engage i n d e l i n q u e n t behavior.  L i s k a and Reed  (1985) have c h a l l e n g e d the c a p a c i t y of s c h o o l s t o generate t h i s d i r e c t type of h o l d i n g power.  In a departure from the  u n i d i r e c t i o n a l r e l a t i o n s h i p between school bonding d e l i n q u e n c y they noted  and  that:  parents, not s c h o o l s are the major i n s t i t u t i o n a l sources of delinquency c o n t r o l . . . P a r e n t a l a f f e c t s delinquency, which a f f e c t s s c h o o l  attachment attachment,  which i n t u r n a f f e c t s p a r e n t a l attachment,  (p.  I d e n t i f i c a t i o n then was  internal  hypothesized as an  s t a t e w i t h two components, belonging and v a l u i n g . a s s o c i a t e d w i t h such behaviors as absenteeism, dropout,  and delinquency.  between the emotional dimensions  as  F i n n (1989) saw  this  558)  It i s  truancy, distinction  ( i n t e r n a l ) and b e h a v i o r a l (external)  significant.  The two may  develop i n d i f f e r e n t ways and are c e r t a i n l y  manipulable  to d i f f e r e n t e x t e n t s .  In f a c t , the  to manipulate p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n school a c t i v i t i e s  ability may  p r o v i d e a handle through which i n c r e a s e d l e v e l s of i d e n t i f i c a t i o n may  become a c c e s s i b l e ,  (p.  127)  31  P a r t i c i p a t i o n i n school. The p a r t i c i p a t i o n component of the model was i n terms of f o u r d i f f e r e n t l e v e l s . through b e h a v i o r s  L e v e l one was  L e v e l two  centered around  i n i t i a t i n g questions and d i s p l a y i n g enthusiasm. a measure of s o c i a l ,  involvement.  measured  l i k e a t t e n d i n g c l a s s , being prepared  answering q u e s t i o n s .  l e v e l was  discussed  L e v e l f o u r was  students The  e x t r a c u r r i c u l a r , and  hypothesized  and  third athletic  as a measure of  s c h o o l governance. Research o f f e r e d c o r r e l a t i o n a l support p a r t i c i p a t i o n and studies  school success.  Zigmond, S c h a e f f e r , & Brown, 1986)  which was  & Clifford,  interaction",  Kerr, that  The McKinney framework, students,  "attending", " t a s k - o r i e n t e d  constructive play",  directed activity",  1975;  i d e n t i f i e d behaviors  based on o b s e r v a t i o n s of second grade  l i n k e d s c h o o l success with  one  Classroom o b s e r v a t i o n  (McKinney, Mason, Perkerson,  i n c l u d e d p a r t i c i p a t o r y measures.  for level  "constructive s e l f -  "distractibility",  and  "aggression".  Working w i t h h i g h school students, Kerr produced three s c a l e s t h a t d i s c r i m i n a t e d between s u c c e s s f u l and u n s u c c e s s f u l students: interest  " c l a s s preparedness",  i n academic performance" and  a p p r o p r i a t e l y with  "exhibiting  an  "interacting  teachers".  L e v e l two p a r t i c i p a t i o n was  hypothesized  as academic  i n t e r e s t and enthusiasm t r a n s l a t i n g i n t o o u t - o f - s c h o o l s u b j e c t - r e l a t e d endeavors  (clubs, job shadowing etc.)  While  32  no  d i r e c t evidence l i n k i n g enthusiasm w i t h t h i s type of  a c t i v i t y has and  been produced, dropouts  delinquents  r e a d i n g and  (Hirschi,  1969)  (Ekstrom et al.,1986)  tend to do  less  nonrequired  l e s s homework than t h e i r more s u c c e s s f u l  peers  (Ekstrom et a l . , 1986). The  relationship  p a r t i c i p a t i o n and  between the  extracurricular,  activity is correlational. and  delinquents  participated  t h i r d l e v e l of s o c i a l , and  Dropouts  (Ekstrom et a l . ,  (Landers & Landers, 1978;  less in extracurricular  athletic  Schafer,  1986)  1972)  a c t i v i t i e s and  sports  than t h e i r nondropout or nondelinquent peers. Participation,  on the  o t h e r hand, i s c o r r e l a t e d  l e v e l s of s e l f - e s t e e m , h i g h e r e d u c a t i o n a l better  grades f o r males, and  one's l i f e  with higher  aspirations,  a g r e a t e r sense of c o n t r o l  (Holland & Andre, 1987).  The  authors'  over  speculated  that: P a r t i c i p a t i o n has  e f f e c t s because of what happens as  r e s u l t of p a r t i c i p a t i o n . . .  P a r t i c i p a t i o n may  a d o l e s c e n t s to a c q u i r e new  skills  The  fourth  personality  characteristics,  that  (p.  l e v e l of p a r t i c i p a t i o n focused on  involvement i n school governance.  or  (discipline,  m o t i v a t i o n ) , or to r e c e i v e s o c i a l rewards influence  lead  (organizational,  p l a n n i n g , time-management, e t c . ) , to develop strengthen p a r t i c u l a r attitudes  a  447) student  Advocates of t h i s n o t i o n  33  (Ekstrom et a l . , 1986, Reid, saw student  1981; Wehlage & Rutter, 1986)  empowerment as an e f f e c t i v e means of c o u n t e r i n g  f e e l i n g s of a l i e n a t i o n and r e s i g n a t i o n . e x i s t s t h a t o f f e r s support power s h a r i n g i n schools The  To date no data  f o r the m e r i t s of t h i s type of (Finn, 1989).  b a s i c premise of the P a r t i c i p a t i o n - i d e n t i f i c a t i o n  model i s t h a t p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n school a c t i v i t i e s i s a p r e r e q u i s i t e t o school success.  P a r t i c i p a t i o n was a l s o seen  as a p o s s i b l e means of f o s t e r i n g i d e n t i f i c a t i o n w i t h  school.  Four l e v e l s of p a r t i c i p a t i o n were p o s t u l a t e d and c o r r e l a t i o n a l support  was o f f e r e d p r i m a r i l y f o r l e v e l one.  L i t t l e r e s e a r c h has been conducted on l e v e l s two, three, and four. A l i m i t a t i o n of the model i s i t s p o i n t of o r i g i n . Focused on school l i f e , dropping  out f a i l s  t h i s conceptualization of  t o take i n t o c o n s i d e r a t i o n the r o l e  of the f a m i l y i n dropout behavior. l i m i t a t i o n that F i n n r e c o g n i z e d  This i s a  that " Youngsters  l a c k i n g the necessary  encouragement at home may a r r i v e  at  t o n o n p a r t i c i p a t i o n and  school p r e d i s p o s e d  nonidentification"  (p.130).  Research on the r e l a t i o n s h i p of f a m i l y dynamics t o school success  suggested that t h i s i s a s i g n i f i c a n t  weakness of the model. l i n k e d student  As F i n n  p o i n t e d out,  r e s e a r c h has  p a r t i c i p a t i o n and i d e n t i f i c a t i o n w i t h more  34  communicative 1951).  families  Other s t u d i e s  (Cervantes, 1966;  Clyne, 1966;  Reiss,  found that dropouts' homes o f f e r e d  s u b s t a n t i a l l y l e s s support than homes of more s u c c e s s f u l s t u d e n t s . Some s i g n i f i c a n t d i f f e r e n c e s were fewer study aids, less opportunity f o r non-school-related  learning,  lower p a r e n t a l e d u c a t i o n a l e x p e c t a t i o n s , and lower i n t e r e s t i n and a t t e n t i o n p a i d t o students' school (Ekstrom et a l . , disengagement  activities  1986; L i s k a & Reed, 1985).  needs to take these f a c t o r s  A model of  into  consideration. The most i n depth commentary on disengagement in Kelly's schools.  (1993) ethnographic comparison of two Four d i f f e r e n t disengagement  identified:  (a) academic,  of academic disengagement  and  fighting,  Disengagement  alternate  (c)  (d) c r e d e n t i a l .  Indicators  i n c l u d e d poor academic p r o g r e s s ,  classroom withdrawal, grade r e p e t i t i o n , expulsion.  found  s t y l e s were  (b) peer r e l a t i o n s ,  extracurricular activities,  was  suspension and  r e l a t e d to peers i n v o l v e d  i n a b i l i t y t o make f r i e n d s , a l i e n a t i o n from s c h o o l  s a n c t i o n e d peer groups, and membership i n m a r g i n a l i z e d s c h o o l groups.  E x t r a c u r r i c u l a r disengagement  l a c k of p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n and d i s l i k e of school C r e d e n t i a l disengagement  r e s p e c t t o gender.  functions.  c e n t e r e d around the u s e f u l n e s s o r  a t t a i n a b i l i t y of a h i g h school diploma. t h i s study focused on how  i n c l u d e d both  disengagement  The main t h r u s t of styles d i f f e r e d with  By i d e n t i f y i n g and d e t a i l i n g  i n f l u e n c e s i n v o l v e d i n the p r o c e s s of l e a v i n g  reciprocal  school  35  prematurely,  t h i s r e s e a r c h c o n s t i t u t e d an i n v a l u a b l e  b e g i n n i n g p o i n t to the q u e s t i o n of disengagement. The purpose of the present r e s e a r c h was how of  to i n v e s t i g a t e  these and o t h e r i n f l u e n c e s come t o g e t h e r i n the an i n d i v i d u a l ' s l i f e .  course  Furthermore, i s disengagement from  s c h o o l a u n i q u e l y i n d i v i d u a l experience or are t h e r e common p o i n t s t h a t make f o r a g e n e r a l theory of disengagement? Personal R e f l e c t i o n s My  i n t e r e s t i n student disengagement stems from my  as an educator and my  experience as a f a t h e r .  work  Over the past  18 years I have worked as a classroom teacher, a v i c e principal,  and a school c o u n s e l l o r .  one year p a r t - t i m e elementary the b u l k of my level  With the e x c e p t i o n of a  school c o u n s e l l i n g p o s i t i o n ,  time has been spent at the j u n i o r h i g h s c h o o l  (13 to 1 6 - y e a r - o l d s ) .  Over the past 16 years I have  a l s o helped r a i s e our three c h i l d r e n , twin 16-year-old boys and a 13 year o l d g i r l .  My b i a s e s , p r e j u d i c e s , hopes,  dreams about the education system stem mainly  and  from these  two  sources. My  experience has g i v e n me  access to both the p u b l i c  p r e s e n t a t i o n s and the p r i v a t e musings of students,  teachers,  p a r e n t s , and a d m i n i s t r a t o r s . The v a s t m a j o r i t y of the p r o f e s s i o n a l s I've known are w e l l i n t e n t i o n e d and c a r i n g . I've met  o n l y a few parents who  r e g a r d l e s s of how  d i d n ' t care; most,  incapable they were of p a r e n t i n g , had  best i n t e r e s t s of t h e i r c h i l d r e n i n mind.  And,  whatever  the  36  t h e i r p u b l i c stance,  a l l the c h i l d r e n that I've  known have  wanted to l e a r n . I have had For my then  first spent  three d i s t i n c t r o l e s i n the school  5 years  I was  a f u l l - t i m e classroom  6 years as a school a d m i n i s t r a t o r  f o r school-wide management and d i s c i p l i n e .  system.  teacher.  I  responsible  Presently, I  work as a c o u n s e l l o r - - f o c u s i n g p r i m a r i l y on the needs of individuals.  The  l a s t two-thirds  spent working with students who  of my  c a r e e r has  are not w e l l served by  e d u c a t i o n a l system, or, from a d i f f e r e n t c h i l d r e n who system.  couldn't  blame, my  I was  the  perspective,  f i n d success w i t h i n the  While i n the past  been  regular  more prone to a s c r i b i n g  i n t e r e s t here i s to d e s c r i b e what I've  seen and  a r t i c u l a t e my  b e l i e f s about the r o l e of j u n i o r h i g h i n the  disengagement  process.  to  I see the t r a n s i t i o n from elementary school to j u n i o r h i g h school as the s i n g l e , most d i f f i c u l t experience  t h a t c h i l d r e n encounter.  time of i n c r e a s i n g chaos and  schooling  For too many i t i s a  self-doubt.  Ironically,  i t is  a l s o a time when the school system s t a r t s to become l e s s t o l e r a n t , more demanding, and  less forgiving.  I have come  to understand t h a t a l a r g e p a r t of t h i s problem o r i g i n a t e s from the i n s t i t u t i o n a l i z e d assumptions t h a t the system about i t s audience.  The  s t r u c t u r e , pace, and  has  expected  a c q u i s i t i o n of i n f o r m a t i o n assumes that c h i l d r e n come t o s c h o o l capable  of l e a r n i n g .  A r e l a t e d assumption i s t h a t  the homes from which these c h i l d r e n o r i g i n a t e are s t a b l e ,  37  supportive,  and g u i d i n g .  For a myriad of reasons,  o f t e n , t h i s i s simply not the case.  Wherever there are gaps  between our assumptions and students' to have c h i l d r e n at r i s k .  too  r e a l i t i e s , we  appear  I have come to b e l i e v e t h a t most  of the c h i l d r e n i n q u e s t i o n cannot cope w i t h i n the system as it  exists.  I t was  my  access  to t h e i r s t o r i e s ,  i n my  an a d m i n i s t r a t o r and a c o u n s e l l o r , that a f f e c t e d my about the d e b i l i t a t i n g s t r u c t u r e of s c h o o l s .  The  I became of the nuances of i n d i v i d u a l s ' l i v e s , I was  to grade, evaluate,  children. with  "at r i s k " students  them, but  was  r a t h e r with how  as  beliefs  more aware  the l e s s  and u l t i m a t e l y to f a i l  Over time, I became convinced  role  able  these  t h a t the  challenge  not so much with what we  taught  long we were able to h o l d on to,  and u l t i m a t e l y educate, them.  As t h i s a t t i t u d e took h o l d I  s t a r t e d to q u e s t i o n the s a n c t i t y of the c u r r i c u l u m and  our  methods of e v a l u a t i o n . The My  Curriculum. d i f f i c u l t y with the c u r r i c u l u m o c c u r r e d p r i m a r i l y at  the p o i n t where to f o l l o w the c u r r i c u l u m meant to l o s e c o n t a c t , or to d i l u t e contact, with  the audience.  more, I s t a r t e d to choose the audience over the I've  curriculum.  come to the p o i n t where I b e l i e v e t h a t there i s n o t h i n g  i n the grade 8 - 1 0 adjusted,  simply  c u r r i c u l u m that cannot be a l t e r e d ,  or ignored.  institution, but  More and  I'm  not arguing  for a curriculum free  or f o r c u r r i c u l u m as j u s t a f e e l good e x e r c i s e ,  f o r an ongoing judgment about the o r d e r  t i m i n g of events.  For me  and  the c u r r i c u l u m e x i s t s as a type  of  38  smorgasbord from which t o choose; the focus should be  on  g e n e r a t i n g engagement and f i n d i n g student s t r e n g t h s which can t r a n s l a t e i n t o academic accomplishment. Evaluation  Procedures  At my best, I used e v a l u a t i o n t o encourage, and c h a l l e n g e students. tool,  I see e v a l u a t i o n as but  a l b e i t a v e r y powerful one,  hooking  children into learning.  i n the ongoing  another p r o c e s s of  I do not b e l i e v e t h a t  s e e i n g e v a l u a t i o n as a p a r t of an ongoing d i a l o g u e about i n d i v i d u a l progress reduces dilutes rigor.  support,  student-teacher standards  or  My b l i n d a p p l i c a t i o n of d e c o n t e x t u a l i z e d  standards r e s u l t e d i n some of my most r e g r e t t a b l e moments as a teacher.  At my worst,  I made d e c i s i o n s about  children  p a s s i n g or f a i l i n g by adding up numbers i n a column and a s s i g n i n g a grade. For a while though, I b e l i e v e that I managed t o a t t a i n a balance between the l e g i t i m a t e r i g h t s and needs of the majority  ( c h i l d r e n who  are w i l l i n g and a b l e t o l e a r n )  those deemed t o be at r i s k . b a l a n c i n g a c t was because I was  huge.  spending  However, the p r i c e f o r t h i s  I l e f t the classroom,  i n part,  s u b s t a n t i a l amounts of time  o t h e r peoples' c h i l d r e n while my own strangers.  Over the course of my  raising  were becoming  c a r e e r as an educator  never heard anyone ask whether a teacher's job i n p r a c t i c e ) can be done.  and  I've  (as d e f i n e d  I a r r i v e d at the c o n c l u s i o n t h a t  w h i l e I c o u l d teach a s u b j e c t t o 200  students  (a t y p i c a l  h i g h s c h o o l teacher-student r a t i o i s about 1:200) I c o u l d  39  not t e a c h 200  students.  The more aware I became of the  l i v e s of disengaging students, the more I detached system as a whole.  the  My compromise s o l u t i o n has been t o f i n d  an enclave where, now an i n d i v i d u a l  from  and again, I can make a d i f f e r e n c e f o r  student. Approach t o the  Research  Introduction Most p r e v i o u s r e s e a r c h on dropouts has been from a t h i r d person,  objective perspective.  conducted  The purpose of  the present study i s to document the s u b j e c t i v e , l i v e d experience of students who  have dropped out of s c h o o l .  Many  r i g o r o u s methods e x i s t which enable r e s e a r c h e r s t o c l a r i f y p e r s o n a l experience, some of which are ethnography, p a r t i c i p a n t o b s e r v a t i o n , grounded theory, d r a m a t u r g i c a l i n t e r v i e w i n g , and content a n a l y s i s .  The present study  used  a n a r r a t i v e case study methodology because n a r r a t i v e p r o v i d e s a means of r e t a i n i n g context. Narrative N a r r a t i v e i s "the fundamental scheme f o r l i n k i n g i n d i v i d u a l human a c t i o n s and events i n t o  interrelated  aspects of  (Polkinghorne,  1988,  an understandable  p. 13).  Cochran We  T h i s composite  composite" i s story.  (1986) : l i v e i n s t o r y whether we  l i k e i t or not.  experience l i f e as a n a r r a t i v e flow. Our  According to  l i v e s are punctuated  We  We  work i n s t o r y .  by o v e r l a p p i n g but  40 i d e n t i f i a b l e u n i t s w i t h beginnings, middles,  and ends.  The human mode of e x i s t e n c e simply i s n a r r a t i v e , t r a n s i e n t encounters  t o l i f e t i m e p r o j e c t s , from  symbolic dramas t o outward performances.  from inward  We a r e born  to drama, t o the experience of a meaningful  gap between  what i s and what ought t o be, that d i r e c t s our s t r i v i n g f o r a s u i t a b l e completion. story,  We p o r t r a y o u r s e l v e s i n  (p. 3)  S t o r y then, becomes a means of framing  individual  experience so t h a t the meaning of the experience can be b e t t e r understood. understanding understand  S t o r y p r o v i d e s a context f o r  human meaning.  Context g i v e s us a means t o  the e s s e n t i a l elements of a l i f e .  In the p r e s e n t  study, n a r r a t i v e allows us t o grasp the process of disengagement of young a d u l t s who dropped out o f s c h o o l . Case Study Case study "allows an i n v e s t i g a t i o n t o r e t a i n the holistic (Yin,  and meaningful  c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of r e a l - l i f e events"  1984, p. 14). The present study u t i l i z e d a m u l t i p l e -  case study d e s i g n which allowed f o r a case comparison i n o r d e r t o i d e n t i f y commonalities process.  A multiple-case design i s s i m i l a r to m u l t i p l e  experiments 1984).  i n the disengagement  i n that both r e l y on r e p l i c a t i o n l o g i c ( Y i n ,  Within t h i s design:  41 Each i n d i v i d u a l case study c o n s i s t s of a 'whole' study, i n which convergent  evidence i s sought  r e g a r d i n g the  f a c t s and c o n c l u s i o n s f o r the case; each  case's  c o n c l u s i o n s are then c o n s i d e r e d to be the i n f o r m a t i o n needing r e p l i c a t i o n by other i n d i v i d u a l cases. (Yin, 1984, Research Yin  p.  57)  Design (1984)  stated  that  the  five  research design p a r t i c u l a r l y  important  (a)  (b)  the  study's  questions;  (c) i t s u n i t ( s ) of a n a l y s i s , to the  the p r o p o s i t i o n s ;  and  components  t o case  of  a  studies are:  i t s propositions,  if  any;  (d) the l o g i c l i n k i n g the data  (e) the c r i t e r i a  for interpreting  findings. The primary purpose  of t h i s study was  t o e x p l o r e the  process of disengagement from school as e x p e r i e n c e d by who  left  s c h o o l b e f o r e they graduated.  was  t o e x p l o r e the degree  A secondary  to which disengagement was  those  purpose a  common as opposed t o an unique p r o c e s s . Because of the e x p l o r a t o r y nature of t h i s study no r e s e a r c h p r o p o s i t i o n s were u t i l i z e d .  Instead, the  r e s e a r c h e r s e n s i t i z e d h i m s e l f to the dropout phenomenon by: (a) r e v i e w i n g the l i t e r a t u r e on dropouts and the on t h e o r i e s of dropping out; and,  (b) drawing  p e r s o n a l experiences as an educator.  literature  on h i s  This information  heightened the r e s e a r c h e r ' s awareness of the phenomenon i n  42  q u e s t i o n and prepared him to conduct proceed w i t h the l a r g e r  i n t e r v i e w s and t o  investigation.  I n d i v i d u a l i n t e r v i e w s about p a r t i c i p a n t s '  experiences  c o n s t i t u t e d the study's primary u n i t s of a n a l y s i s . Interviews were conducted w i t h the i n t e n t of e l i c i t i n g  the  i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s , understandings, and meanings t h a t p a r t i c i p a n t s a s s o c i a t e d with p e r t i n e n t disengagement experiences. W r i t t e n t r a n s c r i p t i o n s of completed i n t e r v i e w s c o n s t i t u t e d the data base.  A l o g i c of r e f l e c t i o n  u t i l i z e d t o process the data. was  was  For each case study the data  converted i n t o a n a r r a t i v e so that  individual  e x p e r i e n c e s , meanings, and understandings c o u l d be embedded i n a meaningful  context.  the r e s e a r c h e r was  By drawing  on t h i s common context  able to i d e n t i f y three streams  of  movement that c o n t r i b u t e d to the l a r g e r process of disengagement.  The r e s e a r c h e r v e r i f i e d streams by  tracing  each t o i t s p o i n t of o r i g i n i n i n d i v i d u a l i n t e r v i e w s and transcripts.  Participants v e r i f i e d their  stories.  independent  Two  individual  judges had an o p p o r t u n i t y t o  v a l i d a t e the l o g i c a l flow from o r i g i n a l data base,  to story  c o n s t r u c t i o n , and stream i d e n t i f i c a t i o n back t o the data base.  Judges were asked t o answer two q u e s t i o n s : (a) D i d  the r e s e a r c h e r c r e a t e a b i a s or d i s t o r t i o n d u r i n g the i n t e r v i e w process? and,  (b) D i d n a r r a t i v e  accounts  a c c u r a t e l y r e f l e c t p a r t i c i p a n t s ' v e r b a l i z e d accounts of d i sengagement ?  43  C r i t e r i a for interpreting and the l e a s t 1984) .•  a study's f i n d i n g s are vague  developed p a r t of case study r e s e a r c h (Yin,  T h i s study r e l i e d on the accuracy u t i l i z e d i n stream  identification. T h i s m u l t i p l e - c a s e study was individual  designed t o document  experiences of disengagement from s c h o o l .  U t i l i z i n g data from i n t e r v i e w s , n a r r a t i v e s were c o n s t r u c t e d and t h r e e streams  of disengagement were  identified.  P a r t i c i p a n t s v e r i f i e d the accuracy of the s t o r i e s independent whole.  while  two  judges v e r i f i e d the accuracy of the study as a  44  Chapter 3 Methodology The main steps of t h i s study can be summarized as follows.  T h i s study used an open ended i n t e r v i e w format t o  gather i n i t i a l  data.  Interviews were t r a n s c r i b e d  and  s t o r i e s which focused on the p a r t i c i p a n t s ' l i v e d e x p e r i e n c e s of disengagement were c o n s t r u c t e d .  Streams of movement  which were e x t r a c t e d from these s t o r i e s suggested a common range of experience a c r o s s the p a r t i c i p a n t s '  lives.  Interviews were terminated when a r e p e t i t i v e p a t t e r n of disengagement s t a r t e d to emerge. Design of the The  Study  study i n v o l v e d a m u l t i p l e case study d e s i g n u s i n g  n a r r a t i v e s of disengagement from s c h o o l . was  Each case study  based on an i n d i v i d u a l n a r r a t i v e of disengagement.  study was  This  based on r e p l i c a t i o n l o g i c as c l a r i f i e d by Y i n  (1984) i n which a p a t t e r n from one case i s r e p l i c a t e d i n o t h e r cases.  The reasoning behind r e p l i c a t i o n l o g i c i s that  s i m i l a r r e s u l t s from m u l t i p l e experiments  or case  studies  are c o n s i d e r e d more robust and compelling than f i n d i n g s a s i n g l e experiment  or case study  (Yin, 1984).  from  In t h i s  study c e n t r a l c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s from each n a r r a t i v e were examined i n o r d e r to i d e n t i f y r e p l i c a t i n g movements of disengagement.  R e p l i c a t i o n of the i d e n t i f i e d p a t t e r n of  disengagement a c r o s s the 10 case s t u d i e s enhanced c o n f i d e n c e i n the study's r e s u l t s .  45  Participants P a r t i c i p a n t s were r e c r u i t e d from a school d i s t r i c t base.  I n i t i a l contact was  principal  (B)  made by an a l t e r n a t e  - someone whom p a r t i c i p a n t s  parents) might be  f a m i l i a r with.  p a r t i c i p a n t s an o u t l i n e of the p r o v i d e d them w i t h my c a l l e d me  study  (see Appendix I)  w i t h i n d i v i d u a l p a r t i c i p a n t s and first  (and/or t h e i r  read p r o s p e c t i v e  I reviewed the nature and  conduct the  purpose of the  dropped out  of school p r i o r to g r a d u a t i o n .  First,  p a r t i c i p a n t s were r e q u i r e d  o u t s e t of the  study.  r e c r u i t m e n t process, 8 of the Two  No  age  c r i t e r i a was  p a r t i c i p a n t s were 16 and  been reached.  to stipulated the  10 p a r t i c i p a n t s ended up  ages of 21  recruitment continued u n t i l had  Second,  However, as a r e s u l t of  remaining 8 were between the  saturation  Saturation  -  23.  was  of  determined t o  failed  to o f f e r  novel i n f o r m a t i o n about the disengagement p r o c e s s . r e c r u i t m e n t process a l s o generated a  disproportionate National  gender r e p r e s e n t a t i o n  i n the  Canadian f i g u r e s i n d i c a t e a 3:2  dropout r a t i o ( G i l b e r t et a l . , 1993).  being  17-year-olds,  a point  have o c c u r r e d once i n d i v i d u a l n a r r a t i v e s  The  had  i n d i v i d u a l s needed to have  to possess some a b i l i t y  a r t i c u l a t e t h e i r experience.  Participant  a time to  study, i n d i v i d u a l s  criteria.  the  study  interview.  to meet two  young a d u l t s .  and  Once a p a r t i c i p a n t  established  In o r d e r to p a r t i c i p a t e i n the  at the  school  B.  phone number.  data  study.  male to female  Of the  10  any  46  participants recruited, of the one  females and  child.  one  Three of the p a r t i c i p a n t s were s t i l l  altogether.  was  3 were male.  The  one  of the  had  attempting  16-year-olds had  given  up  other seven were e i t h e r s t u d y i n g a t r a d e  t o t e c h n i c a l or business programs.  applying  Two  of the males were parents, each  to f i n i s h h i g h school,  applying  7 were female and  to graduate  One  or  participant  school.  Interview Process The and  i n t e n t of the  interview  was  to gather as much depth  breadth of d e t a i l as p a r t i c i p a n t s were capable of  offering  (Mishler,  1986).  Evidence f o r the  were generated i n t h i s study was unstructured interview  format.  f a c i l i t a t i n g d i a l o g u e was first  c o l l e c t e d using  challenging.  At the  dismissed  the  timeline  of l i k e s c h o o l " . procedure was  exercise  The  second case study the p a r t i c i p a n t s was  in  remainder of the  a  approach the  participant kind  orienting s t a r t of  asked: "What do  the you  T h i s type of approach seemed  to have a more r e l a x i n g e f f e c t on p a r t i c i p a n t s and f o r the  the  of  w i t h the words " f e e l s  For example, at the  remember about being a k i d " ?  This  first  T h e r e a f t e r a more g e n e r a l  utilized.  s t a r t of  abandoned e a r l y on  study as i t proved to be p r o b l e m a t i c .  and  ordering  i n the disengagement p r o c e s s .  to o r i e n t i n g p a r t i c i p a n t s was  an  asked to c o n s t r u c t  i n order to produce a c h r o n o l o g i c a l  events i n v o l v e d  that  E s t a b l i s h i n g rapport  case study the p a r t i c i p a n t s was  timeline  stories  study.  was  used  47  The  o v e r a l l s t r a t e g y was  to e s t a b l i s h a l e v e l  d i a l o g u e t h a t might occur between two  f r i e n d s . Once  p a r t i c i p a n t s s t a r t e d t e l l i n g t h e i r s t o r y , the would j o i n the d i a l o g u e appropriate.  researcher  i n whatever manner seemed  For example, i n the second case study  p a r t i c i p a n t seemed very nervous and was f e e l i n g comfortable. reminisced  of  having  the  a hard  time  Near the s t a r t of the i n t e r v i e w I  about v i s i t i n g my  birthplace after  the  p a r t i c i p a n t r e c a l l e d v i s i t i n g the v i l l a g e i n which her f a t h e r was  born.  T h i s i n t r o d u c e d a c o n v e r s a t i o n a l tone to  the i n t e r v i e w and appeared to help her to r e l a x . o c c a s i o n my  response helped  h i s p a i n and to r e f o c u s .  On  another  the p a r t i c i p a n t to d i s t a n c e from  During  the t h i r d case study  the  p a r t i c i p a n t reached a p o i n t where he seemed overwhelmed appeared unable to  and  continue:  The d i v o r c e came and I j u s t , l i k e I went i n t o a s h e l l and I j u s t d i d n ' t want anyone to touch me, n o t h i n g . I j u s t , I j u s t sat there i n s c h o o l . I j u s t . Why? (cries). Here, I attempted to b r i n g him back to the i n t e r v i e w responding  w i t h empathic r e f l e c t i o n ,  and there was  j u s t no w i l l " .  "You  by  were r e a l l y h u r t ,  The p a r t i c i p a n t responded by  c o l l e c t i n g h i m s e l f and c o n t i n u i n g with h i s s t o r y . Throughout the i n t e r v i e w i n g process, whatever a t t e n d i n g ,  the r e s e a r c h e r  l i s t e n i n g , paraphrasing  s k i l l s t h a t seemed a p p r o p r i a t e .  and  utilized  empathy  48  E s t a b l i s h i n g rapport and conducting i n i t i a l  interviews  r e q u i r e d v a r y i n g lengths of time. Some i n t e r v i e w s were conducted  w i t h i n a 3 - 4 hour p e r i o d while o t h e r s r e q u i r e d 7  - 8 hours t o complete. Beyond e s t a b l i s h i n g rapport, the i n t e r v i e w p r o c e s s p r e s e n t e d the r e s e a r c h e r w i t h two main types of c h a l l e n g e s . Some i n t e r v i e w s were so v i l e and f i l l e d w i t h p a i n t h a t I became v e r y e m o t i o n a l l y engaged. to  On these o c c a s i o n s I had  s t r u g g l e t o r e g a i n d i s t a n c e and balance  i n o r d e r t o check  my i n c l i n a t i o n t o move i n t o a t h e r a p e u t i c r o l e .  For  example, i n the seventh case study when M. s t a r t e d e x p l a i n i n g how she had been raped by her mother's b o y f r i e n d and then i g n o r e d by her mother, I d i s t a n c e d by seeking clarification  about the time i n her l i f e when these  events  had o c c u r r e d . On the o t h e r hand, i n other types of i n t e r v i e w s , where p a r t i c i p a n t s seemed v e r y f l a t , work at engaging.  I had t o  In these s e s s i o n s the p a r t i c i p a n t s were  not a b l e t o a r t i c u l a t e t h e i r experiences e a s i l y , sparse manner, and had d i f f i c u l t y e l a b o r a t i n g .  spoke i n a Here my  c h a l l e n g e was t o remain p a t i e n t and t o s t a y w i t h the p a r t i c i p a n t , while they attempted t o e x p l a i n t h e i r With these p a r t i c i p a n t s I would o f t e n paraphrase  stories.  what had  been o f f e r e d , query how t h i s f i t i n t o the o v e r a l l s t o r y , and seek c o n f i r m a t i o n f o r my understanding expressed.  T h i s tended  to f i l l  of what had been  uncomfortable  s i l e n c e s and  helped t o move the i n t e r v i e w away from a q u e s t i o n and answer format  and i n t o a d i a l o g u e .  49  C o n s t r u c t i o n of N a r r a t i v e s Narrative construction followed a f a i r l y routine.  Once  an i n t e r v i e w was completed  content immersion took p l a c e .  uniform  a process of  Taped i n t e r v i e w s were turned  i n t o v e r b a t i m t r a n s c r i p t s and read r e p e a t e d l y w h i l e were l i s t e n e d t o r e g u l a r l y . to  an i n t e r v i e w .  Whenever I drove  tapes  I would  listen  Reading and l i s t e n i n g t o the i n t e r v i e w s  enabled me t o dwell on and f a m i l i a r i z e myself i n d i v i d u a l cases.  with  T h i s process helped t o c r e a t e an i n i t i a l  o r d e r i n g of events i n t o g e n e r a l c a t e g o r i e s : beginnings, middles,  and ends.  The i n i t i a l  order was then  clarified  through w r i t i n g which used the p a r t i c i p a n t s ' own words as much as p o s s i b l e .  I added my own words t o each emerging  s t o r y i n order t o : (a) add c l a r i t y t o events,  (b) make  connections between events; and (c) make i m p l i c i t meanings more e x p l i c i t . V a l i d a t i o n of N a r r a t i v e s During the c o n s t r u c t i o n of a n a r r a t i v e ,  I regularly  c o n s u l t e d w i t h my a d v i s o r and two f e l l o w d o c t o r a l s t u d e n t s . T h e i r suggestions, r e s u l t e d i n changes that helped t o add c l a r i t y and coherence  to i n d i v i d u a l s t o r i e s .  On a more  p e r s o n a l note, these meetings were a l s o an extremely way t o m a i n t a i n momentum.  Two forms of n a r r a t i v e review, o r  ways t o check on steps from the data base, through c o n s t r u c t i o n , t o i d e n t i f y i n g streams were used: p a r t i c i p a n t review,  useful  and (b) an independent  narrative  (a) a  judges  review.  50  P a r t i c i p a n t Review . Once completed,  n a r r a t i v e d r a f t s were submitted t o  p a r t i c i p a n t s t o be reviewed.  These meetings p r o v i d e d the  o p p o r t u n i t y t o d i s c u s s and r e v i s e s t o r i e s so that they more accurately r e f l e c t e d p a r t i c i p a n t s ' l i v e d experiences. each of the 10 case s t u d i e s the i n i t i a l  story draft  In  had  c a p t u r e d the essence of the p a r t i c i p a n t ' s experience, and the changes r e q u i r e d were a l l of a t e c h n i c a l n a t u r e .  For  i n s t a n c e , i n the 9th case study the p a r t i c i p a n t ' s name had been m i s s p e l l e d and i n the 8th case study the date that moved out of the lower mainland needed to be changed. p a r t i c i p a n t d e c i d e d when h i s or her s t o r y was Independent Two  Each  completed.  Judges'Review  c o u n s e l l i n g psychology d o c t o r a l students reviewed  and e v a l u a t e d the r e s e a r c h p r o c e s s . to  he  Each reviewer l i s t e n e d  the audio-tapes, read both the t r a n s c r i p t s and the  f i n i s h e d s t o r i e s , and had an o p p o r t u n i t y t o comment on the a c c u r a c y of the i d e n t i f i e d p a t t e r n of disengagement. Reviewers Was  were asked i n i t i a l l y  to answer two q u e s t i o n s : (1)  the p a r t i c i p a n t l e d , d i r e c t e d , c u r t a i l e d , or unduly  i n f l u e n c e d by the r e s e a r c h e r i n the v e r b a l account of h i s / h e r experience? and  (2) D i d the w r i t t e n account of each  p a r t i c i p a n t ' s process of disengagement a c c u r a t e l y the o r i g i n a l  reflect  account?  With r e s p e c t to the f i r s t  q u e s t i o n , both judges  felt  that the i n t e g r i t y of the process had been maintained.  Each  p a r t i c i p a n t had been allowed to t e l l h i s / h e r s t o r y without  51  being d i r e c t e d or led.  My i n t e r v i e w  r e s p e c t f u l , open, c u r i o u s , judges a l s o f e l t  s t y l e was d e s c r i b e d as  and at times p l a y f u l .  that the completed s t o r i e s  Both  accurately  r e f l e c t e d the o r i g i n a l accounts of disengagement o f f e r e d i n each i n t e r v i e w .  Each f e l t  the t r a n s l a t i o n from i n t e r v i e w t o  completed s t o r y had s u c c e s s f u l l y r e t a i n e d the d e t a i l , mood, and  character  of o r i g i n a l  interviews.  Comparative P a t t e r n  Analysis  When the 10 s t o r i e s were completed, they were s y s t e m a t i c a l l y compared t o i d e n t i f y commonalties i n the p r o c e s s o f disengagement from s c h o o l .  The purpose here was  to a s c e r t a i n whether a common p a t t e r n o r p a t t e r n s of experience c o u l d be found across p a r t i c i p a n t s ' accounts. there  Patton  a l l o r some o f the (1990) i n d i c a t e d t h a t  while  a r e no u n i v e r s a l l y accepted r u l e s about how t o conduct  a n a l y s i s o f q u a l i t a t i v e data, there Applying  are g u i d e l i n e s .  these g u i d e l i n e s however, r e q u i r e s  creativity.  judgment and  A c e n t r a l concern i s that the r e s e a r c h e r ' s  a n a l y s i s t r u t h f u l l y r e f l e c t s p a r t i c i p a n t s ' experiences. Once a s t o r y had been completed the r e s e a r c h e r  wrote a  b r i e f commentary on each, o u t l i n i n g i n d i v i d u a l p r o c e s s e s o f disengagement. researcher's  Commentary c o n s t r u c t i o n  strengthened the  grasp of i n d i v i d u a l s t o r i e s , r e q u i r e d  a shift  from concrete d e t a i l t o low l e v e l a b s t r a c t i o n , and f a c i l i t a t e d a broader comparative a n a l y s i s . The  comparative a n a l y s i s was conducted on a s t o r y by  s t o r y b a s i s . Completed s t o r i e s and commentaries were  52  reviewed  and experiences, events, and meanings t h a t seemed  to have c o n t r i b u t e d t o the disengagement process were coded. T h i s produced difficulties.  groupings of common types of primary For i n s t a n c e , some p a r t i c i p a n t s had problems  w i t h t h e i r parents  (1st, 3rd 6th case s t u d i e s ) o t h e r s were  t r o u b l e d by shyness  (2nd & 4th case s t u d i e s ) , while a couple  (7th & 8th) were undermined by the broader  social  environment. Commentaries, on the other hand, i n d i c a t e d some s i m i l a r kinds of f e e l i n g s .  For the f i r s t  f o u r case s t u d i e s  these f e e l i n g s centered around a l o s s of t r u s t and a d e s i r e to belong.  Other commentaries  f e e l i n g s of power and c o n t r o l .  (6th and 10th)  revealed  T h i s process of  sifting  through the s t o r i e s enabled the r e s e a r c h e r t o s t a r t i d e n t i f y and a r t i c u l a t e how  to  s i g n i f i c a n t experiences seemed  to f i t i n t o an o v e r a l l movement of disengagement. Common i n g r e d i e n t s from each s t o r y were then compared on a s t o r y by s t o r y b a s i s .  I n g r e d i e n t s were compared not  from a p e r s p e c t i v e of s i m i l a r i t y of d e t a i l but r a t h e r f o r s i m i l a r i t y of impact  i n the disengagement p r o c e s s .  From  t h i s somewhat more a b s t r a c t p o i n t of view, f o r m e r l y d i s t i n c t c a t e g o r i e s s t a r t e d t o merge i n t o broader p a t t e r n s of movement.  For i n s t a n c e a common e f f e c t of  individuals'  t r o u b l e d backgrounds, r e g a r d l e s s of the source, were f e e l i n g s of v u l n e r a b i l i t y and aloneness. abandoned, d i r e c t i o n l e s s , or unguided r e l a t i o n s h i p s with parents.  A sense of being  s u r f a c e d from  T h i s process r e s u l t e d i n the  t h r e e movements that c o n s t i t u t e the disengagement p r o c e s s .  53  Once a d r a f t of the comparative  p a t t e r n s was  completed,  the r e s e a r c h e r engaged i n a d i a l o g u e with h i s a d v i s o r and the two  c o l l e a g u e s i n order t o r e f i n e and c l a r i f y the t h r e e  movements.  F i n a l l y , common s t o r y components were  checked  a g a i n s t i n d i v i d u a l s t o r i e s t o see i f the movements adequately captured i n d i v i d u a l experiences of disengagement. Both independent  judges were asked whether the t h r e e streams  of disengagement a c c u r a t e l y r e p r e s e n t e d the 10 e x p e r i e n c e s of dropping out. semantic the  participants  A s i d e from suggestions about  c h o i c e s , both judges agreed w i t h the f i n d i n g s  of  study. The  stories.  following  10 chapters c o n t a i n the  Each n a r r a t i v e  i s f o l l o w e d by a commentary which  r e f l e c t s the r e s e a r c h e r ' s understanding stories.  participants'  of i n d i v i d u a l  A sample t r a n s c r i p t i s p r o v i d e d i n Appendix I I I .  D i s c u s s i o n of the r e s u l t s has been l i m i t e d t o the l i v e s of the  participants.  54 Chapter  4  Case Study 1: M Introduction M. dropped out of h i g h school i n October, 16 years o l d and had completed without g r a d u a t i n g was Rather,  i t was  grade 10.  198 9.  He  was  Leaving s c h o o l  not a s i n g u l a r act i n M's  life.  the f i n a l step i n a process of disengagement  which c e n t e r e d around h i s s t r u g g l e to belong, h i s growing i n a b i l i t y t o t r u s t , and h i s continued l a c k of agency.  This  c o n f l i c t had i t s o r i g i n i n h i s f a m i l y , i n t e n s i f i e d d u r i n g grade 8 and 9, and culminated i n h i s dropping out. r e t r o s p e c t , dropping out can be seen as an outcome.  At the same time, M's  In  inevitable  academic a b i l i t y , h i s  courage and t e n a c i t y p r o v i d e d moments of genuine  wavering  when a s u c c e s s f u l school experience seemed p o s s i b l e . end,  In the  d i s e n g a g i n g from the experienced b r u t a l i t y of the  s c h o o l system however, was  the best t h i n g t h a t young M d i d .  Background One  of M's  earliest  sync w i t h f a m i l y mores.  f a m i l y memories i s of b e i n g out of As he e x p l a i n e d i t :  w e l l I've always been v e r y c o l d and s e l f - c e n t e r e d . I've j u s t been t o l d that through my e n t i r e l i f e . Like when I was 5 years o l d I can remember being t o l d I was s e l f - c e n t e r e d and s e l f i s h . While  t h i s experience would a c q u i r e a d i f f e r e n t  in h i s adult l i f e ,  as a c h i l d i t l e f t him w i t h f e e l i n g s of  d i s a p p r o v a l and s e l f - d o u b t . belong,  significance  F r u s t r a t e d i n h i s d e s i r e to  " f i t t i n g i n " would become a t a s k of c e n t r a l  55  importance.  Heeding h i s p a r e n t s ' and  grandparents'  admonitions,  M would at f i r s t  to accomplish  attempt  this  t a s k by p l a y i n g a c c o r d i n g to the r u l e s . Elementary belong.  school however o n l y added t o h i s need t o  E n r o l l e d i n a p u b l i c elementary  through 4, M's  s c h o o l i n grades  f r i e n d s h i p s came t o a sudden end when he  t r a n s f e r r e d t o a C a t h o l i c school i n grade 5. l o s s was  1  T h i s sense  of  deepened by h i s p a r e n t s ' d i v o r c e and the subsequent  scapegoating of h i s f a t h e r by h i s mother and her p a r e n t s . His aloneness was circumstance.  compounded by h i s mother's p e r s o n a l  She was  i n c r e a s i n g l y absent  a manic d e p r e s s i v e a l c o h o l i c who  from M e m o t i o n a l l y .  was  T r a n s i t i o n to  j u n i o r h i g h then, found M l i v i n g i n d i f f i c u l t  circumstances  w i t h h i s mother, o s t r a c i z e d from h i s f a t h e r , and moving away from f r i e n d s h i p s t h a t he had formed at the C a t h o l i c elementary The  school.  Beginning The move t o h i g h school marked, i n many ways, the  b e g i n n i n g of M's  disengagement from s c h o o l .  Saddled w i t h  an  i n t e n s e d e s i r e t o belong and burdened with numerous e x p e r i e n c e s of not f i t t i n g  i n , M now  had to face the  i n c r e a s e d demands that adolescence b r i n g s t o the s t r u g g l e t o define oneself.  T h i s task became more d i f f i c u l t  to r e a l i z e  i n the charged  atmosphere of j u n i o r h i g h where peer  acceptance  w e l l mark the d i f f e r e n c e between success  failure.  may  and  His f a i l u r e t o f i n d a p l a c e d u r i n g grade 8 and 9  would b e g i n t o sow  the seeds of r e s i g n a t i o n .  56  Part of M's d i f f i c u l t y was h i s s i z e .  Short and angry  he o f t e n found h i m s e l f unable t o back up a s i t u a t i o n t h a t h i s " b i g mouth" helped c r e a t e .  Added t o the d i f f i c u l t i e s  t h a t h i s s t a t u r e presented was h i s appearance. My f a m i l y , my grandparents and my mom...they d r e s s e d me...and they dressed me i n garbage. In grade 8 people are g e t t i n g i n t o these f a s h i o n t h i n g s and s t u f f . . . a n d so I was a complete o u t c a s t . Grade 8 a l s o brought  a change i n school  systems.  Come grade 8, they shove me back i n t o the s c h o o l , p u b l i c school system. So my b r a i n i s j u s t goop by now. You know, I've j u s t been p i c k e d up and thrown around. You know, I have no secure r e l a t i o n s h i p s w i t h anybody, no f r i e n d s , no peers, you know, that I can r e l a t e t o . Then I get back i n t o the school system and I'm j u s t completely messed". Added t o t h i s sense of displacement were e x p e r i e n c e s of betrayal. T h i s i s what l e d me t o the "fuck you" a t t i t u d e t h a t I have...And I f i g u r e d B was my f r i e n d and then I'm walking down from 7-Eleven... t h i s guy s t a r t s t w i s t i n g my arm and s t a r t s chasing me down the road, r i g h t . I t ' s l i k e I'm such a l i t t l e runt so he can get away w i t h i t . . . A n d uhm, he d i d that and I pleaded t o B and he d i d n ' t do anything so, you know, i t was j u s t like...fuck this. H i s summer time experiences a l s o added t o h i s difficulties. My grandparents and my mom are so s t u p i d . What happened i s they took me and they sent me o f f d u r i n g the summer so that they can have a break from me and my brother. They sent us t o our u n c l e ' s . . . he's got f o u r k i d s . . . a n d he knows how t o handle k i d s r e l a t i v e l y w e l l . So we'd have a s t a b l e environment where we'd a c t u a l l y be happy. I'd s i t up t h e r e . . . I wouldn't have t o d e a l w i t h my mother...her f r e a k i n g out a l l the time...and then we'd come back and i t ' d j u s t be h e l l . You know, I would j u s t go through t o t a l anarchy w i t h i n .  57  "Anarchy w i t h i n " was d e f i n e d as "a f e e l i n g of i n t e n s e u n c e r t a i n t y t o what s going t o happen i n the next few 1  minutes". During h i s second year i n h i g h school, even h i s academic  accomplishments  M's performance,  seemed t o d i s t a n c e him.  In grade 9  motivated by a $25 p e r "A" agreement w i t h  h i s grandparents, r e s u l t e d i n the purchase of a much wanted computer. aloneness.  I r o n i c a l l y , r e a l i z i n g t h i s g o a l o n l y added t o M's The computer o f f e r e d him an escape from the  d a i l y p a i n of home and s c h o o l . was  "very s a f e " and which  I t was "another world"  "didn't f i g h t  which  back".  Angry and s o c i a l l y a l i e n a t e d from the s t a r t , grade 8 and 9 o n l y made matters worse.  H i s own e f f o r t s t o f i n d a  p l a c e among h i s chosen peers f a i l e d .  His r e l a t i v e s '  c o n t r i b u t i o n s confirmed that they were i g n o r a n t , not t o be t r u s t e d , and f u r t h e r sabotaged h i s acceptance by the group. Peers whom he thought he c o u l d t r u s t abandoned him. Pleasant summer time experiences ended up deepening h i s i n s e c u r i t i e s and made him more aware of the emptiness of life  a t home.  Academic accomplishments  p r o v i d e d an escape  from the system r a t h e r than the membership that he coveted. In the p r o c e s s , academic as i t d i d l i t t l e  accomplishment  t o address h i s needs.  i t s e l f was devalued Increasingly, school  became a p l a c e t o s u r v i v e and guard a g a i n s t . The Middle While the f i r s t  2 years of h i g h s c h o o l were marked by  s t r u g g l e and e f f o r t , grade 10 and 11 brought about  increased  58  r e s i g n a t i o n and i n e v i t a b l e withdrawal.  The v i t a l i t y ,  vigor,  and achievement demonstrated as a 13 and 14 y e a r o l d s t a r t e d to be r e p l a c e d by a growing numbness. Both home and s c h o o l c o n t r i b u t e d t o t h i s deadening of the s p i r i t .  No l o n g e r  l i v i n g w i t h h i s maternal grandparents, M, h i s b r o t h e r , and t h e i r mother were now l i v i n g alone. a l r e a d y bad s i t u a t i o n  T h i s move made an  worse.  I used t o come home and my mom would be drunk on the couch...when you're that age and you see your mother having complete d i s r e s p e c t f o r h e r s e l f and you know not c a r i n g about anything, drunk every s i n g l e day, you know, p a r t i a l l y i t l e d me t o be completely c o l d towards h e r . . . I d i d n ' t even want t o come home when, you know you see your mother l i k e that you j u s t , i t ' s crap. And,  though he c o u l d escape her presence he c o u l d not escape  her i n f l u e n c e . L i v i n g w i t h my mom, I j u s t s t a r t e d not c a r i n g about anything anymore I guess. I t wasn't worth i t . T h i s deadening of s p i r i t a l s o o c c u r r i n g at s c h o o l .  and i n c r e a s e d r e s i g n a t i o n were  S o c i a l l y unaccepted by h i s chosen  peer group M was now "hanging around w i t h grade 9's". Whereas academic achievement had some r e l e v a n c e i n the e a r l i e r years, i f o n l y as a means t o an ends, grades no' l o n g e r mattered.  In p a r t t h i s s h i f t was due t o work.  In grade 10 my grades went down the t o i l e t . I started working at Burger King. That's r i g h t , and I s t a r t e d going t o work r a t h e r than coming t o s c h o o l . Burger King o f f e r e d something that n e i t h e r home nor s c h o o l c o u l d p r o v i d e , a sense of peace and agency.  "Not  59  o n l y am  I e a r n i n g my way,  w i t h the garbage  i t ' s that I don't  have t o d e a l  ( harassment at school) every  day".  P u t t i n g i n 24 t o 3 0 hours a week, work became the main focus of h i s days.  School, on the o t h e r hand, s t a r t e d t o be  as a p l a c e t o r a i s e havoc.  In grade  seen  10:  L i k e I was c l i m b i n g i n and out of windows i n my t y p i n g class. I was going home halfway through the c l a s s , you know I was c a l l i n g her a b i t c h , t e l l i n g her t o fuck off. Most t e a c h e r s were seen as people who  c o u l d be  dominated: My E n g l i s h teacher, my Consumer Ed. teacher, and my Typing teacher would, they c o u l d have no c o n t r o l over me whatsoever and as soon as they'd l e t me dominate, t h a t was i t . On the o t h e r hand c o n f r o n t a t i o n was  e q u a l l y as u s e l e s s , o n l y  f u r t h e r i n g the disengagement. I walked i n there  (Drama c l a s s ) and I had a b i g  a t t i t u d e problem I guess, something to me cow"  and t h a t day she  said  and I t o l d her to "fuck o f f you dumb  and then I walked away and walked home.  got burnt  (suspended),  So...I  big deal.  Accompanying t h i s experience of school as an e x e r c i s e i n contempt, was  a change of sought  a f t e r peers.  Near the  end  of grade 10 h i s d e s i r e to belong to the " p o p u l a r group" dwindled. It d i e d i n the sense that I d i d n ' t care about what o t h e r k i d s l i k e t h a t , supposedly upper c l a s s k i d s , were doing. You know I s t a r t e d hanging around w i t h o t h e r people who were, who would be d e f i n e d as lower c l a s s .  60  No  l o n g e r working at Burger King, f i l l e d w i t h contempt f o r  s c h o o l and not i n t e r e s t e d i n f i t t i n g i n w i t h those for  students  whom s c h o o l had some meaning, M turned to crime  drugs by the s t a r t of grade  and  11.  Now I was s t a r t i n g to r e l a t e to people. Through the one a c t i v i t y which I was good at, which was b e i n g a criminal. I wasn't good at s p o r t s . I wasn't good at being w i t h o t h e r people who were supposedly b e t t e r than me. I c o u l d be a c r i m i n a l . Besides the " t h r i l l  and entertainment"  v a l u e of crime, i t  a l s o p r o v i d e d i d e n t i t y and belonging. hand, was  an emotional  School on the  and i n t e l l e c t u a l  other  death.  Most of the time i n school I j u s t s i t there l i k e a lump of s h i t . [Thinking] nothing at a l l . [Feeling] nothing. S e v e r a l important period. his  changes o c c u r r e d f o r M d u r i n g t h i s  Though b i t t e r l y p a i n f u l and v e r y much u n r e s o l v e d ,  r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h h i s mother f o r c e d him to become more  independent.  In a s i m i l a r f a s h i o n , r e j e c t i o n by h i s "upper  c l a s s " peers moved him towards the v i t a l i t y and g r a t i f i c a t i o n of the s t r e e t .  instant  His s e e t h i n g and  u n c o n t r o l l a b l e rage showed him that the a d u l t s i n the s c h o o l system were l a r g e l y powerless The  to stop  him.  End M was  e x p e l l e d near the end of grade 11 f o r s t e a l i n g a  t e a c h e r ' s purse.  He r e t u r n e d to school next September  dropped out by e a r l y  October.  and  61  Disengagement had s e v e r a l meanings f o r M.  Withdrawal  from s c h o o l meant l e a v i n g an environment that was s t i f l i n g and i n c r e a s i n g l y meaningless.  painful,  I t marked the end of  an emotional and i n t e l l e c t u a l emptiness t h a t had become an everyday  experience.  Disengagement a l s o meant moving from the p o s i t i o n of b e i n g a pawn t o becoming an agent.  Having  f a i l e d to f i t i n  and a t t a i n r e c o g n i t i o n through a p p r o p r i a t e channels,  M  turned t o crime on the s t r e e t and d i s r u p t i v e b e h a v i o r i n the classroom.  T h i s way  of being p r o v i d e d i d e n t i t y ,  a type of  s e c u r i t y and a power over o t h e r s . Perhaps the most s i g n i f i c a n t s h i f t a s s o c i a t e d w i t h the p r o c e s s of disengagement though, had t o do w i t h M's memories.  earliest  Somewhere i n the process M s t a r t e d t o l e a r n t o  put h i m s e l f f i r s t - - e v e n t o the e x c l u s i o n of the needs of others.  Now  i n s t e a d of denying and being ashamed of h i s  " s e l f i s h n e s s " he embraced i t as a p h i l o s o p h y . • Commentary. For M,  disengagement centered around i s s u e s of  membership, t r u s t , and agency.  Dropping  out of s c h o o l  o f f e r e d s h o r t term s o l u t i o n s to entrenched, problems. A sense of b e l o n g i n g was f a m i l y ; he had f e l t  long s t a n d i n g  denied f i r s t by h i s  l i k e an o u t s i d e r as e a r l y as age  M's  separateness was  his  mother's i l l n e s s .  five.  made worse by h i s parent's d i v o r c e and T h i s d e s i r e to belong was  f r u s t r a t e d by h i s e a r l y school experience.  further  M repeatedly  62  experienced abrupt  a c y c l e of h e s i t a n t connection  removal.  f o l l o w e d by  The process r e s u l t e d i n h e i g h t e n i n g  h e s i t a t i o n , r e l u c t a n c e t o form c l o s e connections and m i s t r u s t of p o t e n t i a l  t o peers  friends.  Instead of p r o v i d i n g a sense of s e c u r i t y , h i s experience  r e g u l a r l y deepened h i s need t o f i t i n .  By the  time he l e f t elementary school that hazy f e e l i n g o f b e i n g out of p l a c e t h a t he had known as a p r e s c h o o l e r , beginning  was  to c r y s t a l l i z e .  High s c h o o l i n c r e a s e d h i s d i f f i c u l t i e s .  Increasingly  angry, s h o r t , and mouthy, M's e f f o r t s t o connect  o n l y added  to h i s growing i n a b i l i t y t o t r u s t and growing d e f e n s i v e stance.  Rooted i n h i s f a m i l y experience,  exacerbated  and f u r t h e r  by h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p s with h i s peers,  of t r u s t encouraged M's a l i e n a t i o n .  this lack  Where o t h e r s might be  c a r e f r e e and f l u i d M became i n c r e a s i n g l y c a u t i o u s and suspicious.  O p p o r t u n i t i e s f o r c e l e b r a t i o n and b e l o n g i n g  (school success)  only  added t o h i s aloneness.  Slowly  d e s p e r a t i o n turned t o r e s i g n a t i o n . Withering  i n an u n p r e d i c t a b l e , u n r e l i a b l e world where  o n l y r e j e c t i o n seemed c e r t a i n , M developed control.  a need f o r  Increased agency came about through the employment  of two s t r a t e g i e s .  He withdrew from the p a r t s of h i s world  that were p a i n f u l and beyond h i s c o n t r o l (home, s c h o o l ) , and g r a v i t a t e d towards those enclaves where he c o u l d e s t a b l i s h himself and  (work, the s t r e e t ) .  some grounding.  Work o f f e r e d a sense of c o n t r o l  I t a l s o took him away from s c h o o l .  63  Freed from h i s o b l i g a t i o n and too b r i g h t t o f i n d satisfaction  f l i p p i n g hamburgers,  M turned t o p e t t y  crime.  C r i m i n a l a c t i v i t y p r o v i d e d e x h i l a r a t i o n , power, and acceptance.  In the end, disengagement from s c h o o l not o n l y  added t o M's  sense of agency but a l s o r e v i t a l i z e d h i s  spirit.  64 Chapter 5 Case Study 2 : A L i k e a s k e i n of loose s i l k blown a g a i n s t She walks by the r a i l i n g of a path i n Kensington Gardens, And she i s dying piece-meal of a s o r t of emotional anemia. Ezra Pound  a wall  Our s u r v i v a l and development depend on our c a p a c i t y to r e c r u i t the i n v e s t e d a t t e n t i o n of others to us. Robert Kegan Introduction In some ways, the s i g n i f i c a n c e of A's from school was  captured  i n her p a r t i n g comment.  of a 3 hour i n t e r v i e w she noted, "This was know, I mean, I'm  Though she had v o l u n t e e r e d  evident  good f o r me  throughout our  you The  exchange.  difficult.  " n a t u r a l " f o r A to e l a b o r a t e  without  prodded.  On the other hand, I d i d n ' t want to t u r n  interview  into a question  and  answer s e s s i o n .  i n t e r e s t e d i n her s t o r y as she opted to t e l l we  end  to partake i n the study, a c t u a l l y  t e l l i n g her s t o r y proved to be not  At the  j u s t l e a r n i n g to t a l k to people".  magnitude of her task was  I t was  disengagement  the  I was it.  being  more  Together  produced a n a r r a t i v e which at times begs f o r more d e t a i l . A d d r e s s i n g the  i s s u e of vagueness became a p i v o t a l  p o i n t i n the c o n s t r u c t i o n of the n a r r a t i v e . decided  that the vagueness was  experience. stillness,  What b e t t e r way  In the end  a core component of  A's  to capture the aloneness,  the overwhelming sense of being  I  abandoned,  the  65  repeatedly.  On o c c a s i o n however, A was d e l i b e r a t e l y vague.  She d i d n ' t want to o f f e r any d e t a i l s about her experience of abuse.  first  T h i s event though, needs t o be  d i s t i n g u i s h e d from the p h y s i c a l abuse that she s u f f e r e d at the  hands of her b r o t h e r . The i s s u e of vagueness t h e r e f o r e , w i l l be addressed i n  two ways. the  Wherever p o s s i b l e ,  reader.  i t w i l l be l e f t  t o speak t o  On those o c c a s i o n s where c l a r i t y i s r e q u i r e d I  w i l l o f f e r my comments.  These w i l l appear i n p a r e n t h e s e s .  A never f o r m a l l y dropped out of s c h o o l .  Instead,  she  d r i f t e d i n t o an emotional and academic s t i l l n e s s t h a t had a coma-like q u a l i t y t o i t .  Over time, school would move from  b e i n g a source of v i t a l i t y and d i s c o v e r y i n her l i f e t o , at best, a d a i l y d i v e r s i o n o r o b s t a c l e t o be overcome. p r o c e s s of disengagement from school s t a r t e d  Her  early,  c o n t i n u e d s t e a d i l y , and moved at a b a r e l y p e r c e p t i b l e pace. T h i s p r o c e s s was rooted i n her overwhelming shyness and  was  f a c i l i t a t e d by her experiences both at home and at s c h o o l . Her disengagement disengagement to  from school, l i k e her growing  from l i f e , was a product both of her i n a b i l i t y  engage and the world's (parents' and school's) f a i l u r e t o  notice. The B e g i n n i n g A c c o r d i n g t o her mom [her]  own drummer.  what was  A "always walked to the beat of  [She] always had a v e r y s t r o n g sense of  r i g h t and what  [she] thought was r i g h t " .  she would come across as f e i s t y and f u l l  At times  of bravado.  As a 3  66  year o l d she d i d n ' t l i k e her grandmother's cooking wouldn't eat i t .  I n t e r n a l l y however, a d i f f e r e n t  seemed t o be t a k i n g shape.  and self  By the age of f i v e she had a  t a s t e of b e i n g alone and abandoned: My mom was working and my dad was working graveyard. And so, he'd be s l e e p i n g when I got home from s c h o o l and we'd be there to take care of o u r s e l v e s . Or we had a b a b y - s i t t e r f o r awhile but she d i d n ' t pay any a t t e n t i o n to me. And I f e l t alone a l o t of the time. And I t a l k e d t o my parents about that and they'd say I wasn't alone that much but to me I was. I t was  t h i s aloneness that she a s s o c i a t e d w i t h her  independence: And so I had t o l e a r n , I had to l e a r n my independence r e a l l y young. I had to take care of myself, s e t my own v a l u e s and g o a l s and t r y to f i g u r e t h i n g s out. N a t u r a l l y shy, her tendency  to go i t alone i n c r e a s e d a f t e r  she was abused: That's (the abuse) p a r t of why why I secluded myself. Still,  f o r the f i r s t  I became a l o n e r , t h a t ' s  three years school was  a rich  and  rewarding experience which seemed to g i v e her what she needed.  Her grade 3 teacher  was:  Wonderful. He'd r e a l l y pay a t t e n t i o n . He'd l i s t e n , he r e a l l y cared. I was shy...and he'd l i s t e n , he'd get me to g i v e my answer out. He'd be p a t i e n t . He'd never scream at us, he never made us f e e l s t u p i d f o r not knowing. He'd j u s t be p a t i e n t and not demand i t and j u s t be v e r y r e l a x e d about i t . Other p a r t s of her world however, were not as encouraging.  She and her o l d e r b r o t h e r , w i t h whom she  shared a room, had a f a l l i n g out when she was  seven.  Over  67  the next e i g h t y e a r s he became i n c r e a s i n g l y more p h y s i c a l l y and e m o t i o n a l l y abusive. she f i r s t  I t was at the age of seven that  remembered b e i n g v i s i t e d by a s o r t of sadness  which would remain f o r y e a r s .  In a d d i t i o n t o the p a i n , "he  was my o l d e r b r o t h e r and I looked up t o him", t h i s treatment eroded h e r c o n f i d e n c e : Well, when you get put down at home then that i n t e r f e r e s w i t h how you f e e l even i n s c h o o l . Even i f you're not put down. In many ways grade 3 was the l a s t time that A was t o be engaged i n s c h o o l . impatient".  Her grade 4 t e a c h e r was "mean and  S h o r t l y i n t o the school year he had h e r p l a c e d  into Learning Assistance: Probably because I d i d n ' t do my homework. Because I got i r r i t a t e d and I decided I'm not going t o do i t and they put me i n t o t h i s (L.A.) which made me more i r r i t a t e d , which made me want t o do l e s s . . . I was mad, I was r e a l l y mad cause I know I'm not s t u p i d . A l o v e d t o read, l o v e d t o w r i t e , and was i n honors math by grade 7, but grade 4 s t a r t e d t o d e r a i l h e r : I j u s t remember f e e l i n g so bad because he'd make a comment...If I d i d n ' t know the answer he'd say "I'm not s u r p r i s e d you d i d n ' t know' o r something t o that e f f e c t . And when you hear i t enough you j u s t don't want t o hear i t anymore and you don't want t o l i s t e n t o what he has t o say. While grade 4 was the worst, the next 3 y e a r s were almost as bad.  Forced t o d e a l w i t h t e a c h e r s whom she found  mean and impatient A responded by s a y i n g as l i t t l e as possible,  " I ' d j u s t be q u i e t and I wouldn't d i v u l g e a n y t h i n g  68  that wasn't asked of me".  She a l s o p r o t e s t e d by doing o n l y  the work t h a t she c o u l d f i n i s h at s c h o o l : I f I d i d n ' t have time to do i t i n c l a s s , then I j u s t wouldn't do i t . . . A n d because I f i g u r e d , at s c h o o l , t h a t was s c h o o l time but at home, that was my time. Of equal importance  was  her parents i n a b i l i t y t o get her t o  engage i n her s c h o o l i n g .  Still  i n elementary  s c h o o l , she  knew t h a t "They (her parents) couldn't make me t e l l me  t o , but they couldn't r e a l l y make  do i t ,  me".  Through a mixture of her c o n s t i t u t i o n and experience A had developed skills.  some important  By the time she l e f t elementary  they'd  and  her powerful  school she  had  l e a r n e d t o handle her parents, her teachers and the s c h o o l system.  O b s t i n a t e and f e e l i n g under a t t a c k , she fended o f f  her t e a c h e r s and the school by l i m i t i n g her p a r t i c i p a t i o n . Her p a r e n t s , she recognized, were l i m i t e d i n t h e i r to  a f f e c t her.  ability  Shy by nature, traumatized by her abuse and  f e e l i n g abandoned by her f a m i l y , she was i n c r e a s i n g l y more alone.  Ironically,  becoming  the v e r y means t h a t  she had d i s c o v e r e d to fend o f f the world would serve t o entrap her.  For though she was  l e a r n i n g how  t o cope w i t h  and even c o n t r o l d i f f e r e n t aspects of her l i f e ,  A was  losing  her a b i l i t y t o t r u s t . The  Middle The move to h i g h school r e p r e s e n t e d a time of both  i n c r e a s e d r i s k and i n c r e a s e d p o s s i b i l i t y . allowed f o r genuine engagement:  Some s u b j e c t s  69  I took the best c l a s s I ever had (Communications 8). The teacher was g r e a t . I t was the f i r s t time I f e l t comfortable i n any c l a s s i n t e r a c t i n g with o t h e r students... F i r s t there was me and Jackie...And then there was a couple of other guys who we became f r i e n d s with...and then i t j u s t k i n d of grew. We'd go down t o Kentucky F r i e d Chicken at lunch and b r i n g back something f o r everybody. In o t h e r c l a s s e s a sense of r e s i g n a t i o n seemed to and  she  continued  surface  on i n her d r i f t away from academics:  S o c i a l s I've always been bad a t . Math, I b a r e l y passed Math because of the jump from [grade] 7 honors to [grade] 9 honors...It was d i s t r e s s i n g . . . p r e t t y hard t o d e a l with...We (she and Jackie) were both k i n d of s i n k i n g . And we both knew there was something wrong w i t h the c l a s s . So we j u s t l e t i t go at t h a t and we b a r e l y passed. I mentioned a few t h i n g s at home here and there but nothing major. S o c i a l l y , A was  making c h o i c e s which would i n c r e a s e  her  isolation: I wasn't i n t o group a c t i v i t y i n h i g h s c h o o l . j o i n any s p o r t s . I quit singing. I gave up ukulele. I d i d n ' t j o i n band Almost as i f by a c c i d e n t q u i e t and unprovocative  she d i s c o v e r e d  a new  I didn't the  power i n her  mannerisms which would, u l t i m a t e l y ,  move her deeper i n t o her disengagement: The f i r s t time I remember s k i p p i n g out was at a f i r e alarm. I was i n French (grade 8) and J a c k i e and I contemplated on the chances of g e t t i n g caught. And so we decided to go f o r i t . And she got caught and I didn't. So i t was l i k e "Okay, t h i s i s c o o l ' which k i n d of worked out r i g h t because we'd be t a l k i n g i n c l a s s and she'd get i n t r o u b l e and I wouldn't... because she was l o u d and I was q u i e t . And I c o u l d s t a r t and i n i t i a t e e v e r y t h i n g and s t i l l not get i n t r o u b l e . I l e a r n e d r e a l f a s t that I c o u l d t a l k my way out of anything. I t meant that I c o u l d s k i p out and I c o u l d go and t a l k to the p r i n c i p a l and once or twice I'd get busted but the r e s t of the time I'd j u s t t a l k my way  70 out o f i t . I l e a r n e d that because I was q u i e t , never r e a l l y n o t i c e d i f I was t h e r e . At  they  the deepest and most s e c r e t i v e p a r t of her b e i n g the  s t r u g g l e s w i t h her memories of abuse continued: Then i n grade 8 I s t a r t e d g e t t i n g r e a l l y depressed, s a y i n g no i t d i d n ' t happen. I t ' s something that I took out of my mind somewhere. [Even though] i t was always t h e r e I j u s t s a i d "No, I'm insane'. I thought I was insane f o r y e a r s . And then I s t a r t e d t o get r e a l l y , r e a l l y depressed. I n c r e a s i n g l y alone and unhappy, A attempted her growing  to fight  d e p r e s s i o n by e n l i s t i n g her p a r e n t s ' h e l p :  [At 13] I s t a r t e d smoking too, p r o b a b l y cause I wanted my p a r e n t s t o c a t c h me. I wanted c o n f r o n t a t i o n o f some kind. I was upset a l o t of the time. I was v e r y depressed. And nobody ever asked me why. And I guess I got h u r t , I got mad and wanted something that I knew would d i g i n and get them. And I knew smoking was i t . I t was f o r my mom because she was always so a g a i n s t i t . But they never, they never d i d . They, they caught me when I was 17. At  o t h e r times her anger prevented her from  engaging:  My p a r e n t s would f i g h t . . . a n d I'd comfort her. But then again t h e r e was nobody t h e r e c o m f o r t i n g me. And so f o r a w h i l e I was r e a l l y , r e a l l y angry. Yeah, my mom wanted, as I c a l l e d i t at the time, p l a y f a m i l y . And I was r e a l l y s n o t t y about i t because the sense t h a t I got was that she was too busy w i t h work and we never r e a l l y d i d a n y t h i n g and then at t h i r t e e n , she got more time and, and she wanted t o do t h i n g s as a f a m i l y . And at that time I was, I'd spent so much time on my own, I d i d n ' t want t o be t h i s f a m i l y u n i t . The cumulative e f f e c t of her home and s c h o o l l i f e r e s u l t e d i n f e e l i n g s of profound i s o l a t i o n .  I r o n i c a l l y the  i n v i s i b i l i t y that enabled her t o manipulate s i t u a t i o n s at s c h o o l was becoming a curse:  71 I walked around i n v i s i b l e . That's how I f e l t . I r e a l l y thought that people d i d n ' t see me. They saw through me. Yeah, my parents always s a i d , "Well, why don't you t r y harder. You should get t h i s done'. And I always thought, 'Why bother'. Other than the b r i e f h i a t u s o f f e r e d by Communications 8,  the f i r s t few years of h i g h school proved t o be a  c o n t i n u a t i o n and a deepening of the disengagement t h a t she first  experienced i n grade 4.  d r i f t i n g i n t o doing l e s s . subjects  She was j u s t s u r v i v i n g i n  that she had f o r m e r l y  was becoming more i s o l a t e d .  excelled at.  S o c i a l l y she  A c t i v i t i e s that she had been a  p a r t of ( s i n g i n g , band, c h o i r ) at  Academically, she was  she no longer  home was becoming more d i f f i c u l t  joined.  Life  as a r e s u l t of h e r  r e l a t i o n s h i p s w i t h her parents and w i t h h e r b r o t h e r . than ever she was haunted by memories of the abuse.,  More And  perhaps most s i g n i f i c a n t l y , her e f f o r t s t o contact h e r p a r e n t s went unnoticed,  an experience that was m i r r o r e d at  school. The End A continued  t o s i n k i n t o her aloneness.  Somewhere  d u r i n g grade 11 she seemed t o h i t bottom: I d i d n ' t want t o f e e l anymore... I d i d n ' t want t o care anymore... I d i d n ' t want t o t a l k t o anybody r e a l l y . . . I d i d n ' t want t o become i n v o l v e d . I honestly didn't t h i n k I'd be around long enough [to get i n v o l v e d ] . She left  would not move out of t h i s s t i l l n e s s u n t i l a f t e r she s c h o o l , d i s c l o s e d about the abuse and r e c e i v e d  While i n grade 11:  help.  72 [School was] an annoyance or a d i s t r a c t i o n pain] depending which c l a s s i t was. The  degree and  extent  of her disengagement from  became most n o t i c e a b l e i n grade  [from  her  school  12:  Oh i t s t e a d i l y got worse. By grade 12, i f I d i d n ' t s k i p an hour out of the day i t was unusual. Usually, I'd go home at lunch and not come back. I never a c t u a l l y even thought of dropping out. It's just i f I showed up, I showed up. If I didn't, I didn't. Which i s b a s i c a l l y the same t h i n g , because i n my s c h o o l I never r e a l l y heard of people dropping out. There i s no p o i n t at which A f o r m a l l y disengaged from school.  O f f i c i a l l y , she was  recorded  grade 12 year without graduating. E n g l i s h 12,  S o c i a l s 12,  as having  f i n i s h e d her  I n v i t e d back to  and Math 12,  In many ways l e a v i n g school was  she  re-take  declined.  a relief.  As  A  explained i t : I d i d n ' t l i k e the whole system of s c h o o l . I didn't l i k e the way i t was run. I d i d n ' t l i k e the people who ran i t . At the same time, her disengagement from school can seen as the c u l m i n a t i o n of a way  of being over which  be  she  appeared t o have l i t t l e c o n t r o l : I f you l e t someone get too c l o s e , they can hurt you. I f you keep people at a d i s t a n c e then you may be s u r p r i s e d , shocked, but you won't be h u r t . Commentary. A i d e n t i f i e d grade 4 as the s t a r t of her disengagement from s c h o o l . and  T h i s was  involved l i t t l e  the year when the v i b r a n t ,  girl  s t a r t e d to withdraw.  curious,  Withdrawing  73  was both an e x t e n s i o n of her shyness  and a response  to being  abandoned.  I t a l s o served t o d i s t a n c e her from the p a i n o f  her abuse.  By the time i t was employed at s c h o o l , t h i s need  d r i v e n c a p a c i t y t o c o n t r o l the world by withdrawing, potent, w e l l e s t a b l i s h e d f o r c e .  was a  Mixed w i t h the ever p r e s e n t  sadness t h a t entered her l i f e when she turned seven, A's soon t o be h a b i t u a l response confuse,  d i s t a n c e , and i s o l a t e her.  elementary  s c h o o l A had developed  l i m i t e d personal r i s k . opportunity. expansion  t o the world, would serve t o During her s t a y at  a way of being, t h a t  With l i m i t e d r i s k came l i m i t e d  Adolescence,  i n s t e a d of being a p e r i o d o f  and growth became a time of atrophy.  Caught i n an e n c a p s u l a t i n g and d e b i l i t a t i n g  silence  that was f u e l e d by her own defensiveness, A spent her e a r l y h i g h s c h o o l years c u t t i n g h e r s e l f o f f from e v e r y t h i n g t h a t c o u l d r e - r o u t e her.  Consequently,  her c o n f i d e n c e w i t h e r e d  and her p a i n deepened i n t o d e p r e s s i o n .  I n c r e a s i n g l y the  world became a p l a c e that she c o u l d not t r u s t .  Slowly her  r e f u s a l t o p a r t i c i p a t e became an i n a b i l i t y t o p a r t i c i p a t e . Quiet, p o l i t e ,  and demure, she was a s s i s t e d i n t h i s  emotional a s p h y x i a t i o n by a school which d i d n ' t n o t i c e her and by parents who were out of touch with her.  74 Chapter 6 Case Study 3 : R I'd be a l i t t l e k i d and I'd you know, you'd break a you know, a l i t t l e g l a s s o r something and he'd whack. And I'd l o o k at her [his mother] and I remember now, but then I'm l i k e , "you b i t c h ' , why aren't you doing a n y t h i n g . And she'd j u s t have her head down. Cause i f she stepped i n , she'd get i t . I'd to,  smoke a j o i n t i n the morning, b e f o r e s c h o o l . I couldn't go, I couldn't go s t r a i g h t .  Right now I Like a l o t , cause now I a f f e c t e d my  I had  j u s t have a l o t of anger towards my f a t h e r . even more than when I was a k i d . J u s t r e a l i z e what he was doing and how he life.  Introduction I n t e r v i e w i n g R was not easy. our In  exchange  he became so angry that he had t o calm h i m s e l f .  p a r t t h i s anger came about because he was e x p l o r i n g  aspects of h i s l i f e "the  S e v e r a l times throughout  f o r the f i r s t  time.  As he e x p l a i n e d ,  b i g joke i s that I have no f e e l i n g s cause I r e a l l y  don't t a l k about s t u f f l i k e t h i s even t o [my w i f e ] " . M o s t l y however, h i s anger was a s s o c i a t e d w i t h u n r e s o l v e d rage towards h i s f a t h e r .  Near the end of the exchange  some  b i t t e r n e s s towards h i s mother a l s o s u r f a c e d . I found these points, i n the i n t e r v i e w v e r y d i f f i c u l t . While v e r y i n t e r e s t e d i n a l l  aspects of h i s s t o r y , I f e l t i t  i n a p p r o p r i a t e t o pursue some l i n e s of q u e s t i o n i n g .  Certain  q u e r i e s seemed more s u i t e d t o a therapy s e s s i o n than t o our interview.  At the same time he had contemplated h i s s c h o o l  75  experience his  i n p r e p a r a t i o n f o r our meeting and wanted to  story.  Moreover, R's  anger and h i s tendency t o h o l d  things i n constituted a s i g n i f i c a n t f o r understanding At 22,  aspect of the  context  h i s disengagement from s c h o o l .  R d e s c r i b e d h i m s e l f as someone who  s c h o o l easy.  tell  Success,  when i t d i d come, was  never  found  always  connected to a sense of p e r s o n a l contact with h i s t e a c h e r s . Personal c o n t a c t was On a p r a c t i c a l  significant  l e v e l i t enabled  h e l p w i t h h i s school work. instruction as w e l l .  R to get one  Given some e x t r a time  this shift  from c o n f u s i o n  on  one  and enjoyable and  to c l a r i t y and s a t i s f a c t i o n on s e v e r a l o c c a s i o n s  during h i s school l i f e . would enable to  reasons.  school became not o n l y manageable but  R experienced  frustration  for several  I t was  just  such an experience  him to complete h i s grade 12 when he  returned  school. Personal contact however, was  significant Inherent felt  perhaps even more  i n terms of the a t t e n t i o n i t p r o v i d e d  i n t h i s a t t e n t i o n was  c a r e d f o r R seemed capable  R.  a sense of c a r i n g . of p e r s i s t i n g  When he  at h i s t a s k .  Often p e r s i s t e n c e t r a n s l a t e d i n t o short term success and budding b e l i e f t h a t he He pencil" two  that  first  "could do t h i s  f r i e n d s ) got taken  3 teacher who  stuff".  l e a r n e d to w r i t e when he was  by h i s grade 3 teacher.  promised a "magic  R e x p l a i n e d how  "hook, l i n e , and  he  (and h i s  s i n k e r " by h i s grade  promised him a primary p e n c i l i f R would  behave and t r y to l e a r n to w r i t e .  a  76  I f we were good f o r a week we'd get a magic p e n c i l . Well he j u s t d i d that f o r two weeks and k i n d of, we k i n d of smartened up a f t e r two weeks and we j u s t , a l l we d i d , we wanted t o get that magic p e n c i l , a l l of a sudden I'm done, I'm doing b e t t e r , I can w r i t e now. A l l because of t h i s magic p e n c i l . But i t was me the whole time. At the heart of h i s e f f o r t to s t a y i n s c h o o l was ongoing was  s t r u g g l e to s u s t a i n h i s s p i r i t .  R's  The magic p e n c i l  a s s o c i a t e d not o n l y w i t h success and a t t e n t i o n but  w i t h hope and p o s s i b i l i t y .  also  I t wasn't j u s t t h a t he d i d  succeed at l e a r n i n g t o w r i t e , but more s i g n i f i c a n t l y t h a t he c o u l d succeed. moments i n R's home l i f e .  U n f o r t u n a t e l y there were few school l i f e .  "magic p e n c i l "  There were even fewer i n h i s  In many ways R's  disengagement from s c h o o l i s a  s t o r y of a growing hopelessness.  His home l i f e  lacked  support, kindness and d i r e c t i o n .  I t was  permeated  w i t h n e g l e c t and meanness.  a life  Indeed, much of h i s home l i f e  e x i s t e d i n s t a r k c o n t r a s t t o the type of r e l a t i o n s h i p t h a t he had w i t h h i s grade 3 teacher. e s t a b l i s h e d , hope dwindled  When r e l a t i o n s h i p s weren't  and disengagement deepened.  R dropped out of school when he was  15.  His  disengagement from school has i t s r o o t s i n h i s f a t h e r ' s a l c o h o l i c and abusive behavior and h i s p a r e n t s ' marriage.  R's  subsequent involvement  failed  w i t h and dependency on  drugs and the s c h o o l ' s i n a b i l i t y to reach him are a l s o factors.  key  77  The  Beginning R was born i n t o an abusive home.  The youngest  c h i l d r e n , he was the o n l y c h i l d i n the household he was n i n e .  of four  by the time  Each of h i s s i b l i n g s l e f t home when they  turned 16 i n order t o escape t h e i r f a t h e r ' s emotional and p h y s i c a l abuse.  When he was 10 h i s parents d i v o r c e d and R  ended up l i v i n g w i t h h i s f a t h e r f o r three y e a r s .  He has a  c l e a r memory of the breakup: There I am and they (his s i b l i n g s ) a l l l e f t and I can remember they're (his parents) a s k i n g me [who I want t o l i v e w i t h ] . My mom s t i l l , she r e g r e t s , l i k e she d i d n ' t , l i k e she wanted me but my dad j u s t used the money, you know l i k e you can't p l a y hockey i f you l i v e w i t h your mom and you know when you're 10 years o l d what's more important... Hockey. Hockey was, f o r me, I mean, I l o v e d hockey and he's t e l l i n g me t h i s and I can buy you t h i s and your mom can't, you know. And I'm t h i n k i n g , I'm going t o l i v e w i t h my dad... and the f i r s t year was g r e a t . He k i n d of brainwashed me i n a way...he bought me a dog, anything, anything a 10 year o l d k i d wanted, I g o t . Even though the f i r s t year w i t h h i s f a t h e r was "great" t h e r e were s i g n i f i c a n t  difficulties.  We d i d n ' t r e a l l y t a l k . We d i d l i k e f a t h e r son t h i n g s (going t o hockey games). At that time he wasn't d r i n k i n g that I saw. He wasn't d r i n k i n g i n f r o n t of me. He'd go out and then he'd come home drunk cause I'd be by myself, 10 years o l d , a l l n i g h t . Maybe t h a t ' s why he bought me the dog. L i k e I mean you're 10 years o l d . I, you know, i t ' s 12 o ' c l o c k at n i g h t and your dad's not home. The  f e e l i n g of being abandoned by h i s f a t h e r was  m i r r o r e d i n h i s school and s o c i a l l i f e .  R was a t t e n d i n g a  new s c h o o l and l i v i n g i n a d i f f e r e n t neighborhood.  What he  78  remembers most about grade 5 i s that he d i d n ' t have friends.  any  Sometimes he managed to cope.  Grade 5, I was s t i l l i n shock of what had happened. I wasn't doing bad, you know, I was never r e a l l y good i n school but I wasn't causing any t r o u b l e , I'm g e t t i n g s t u f f (school work) done. I'm seeing my mom every now and then. I t was  during  t h i s p e r i o d though, that a tendency to  withdraw s t a r t e d to emerge, a tendency which over time would have a d e v a s t a t i n g school  e f f e c t on h i s chances of s u r v i v i n g  the  system.  When the d i v o r c e came I j u s t , l i k e I went i n t o a s h e l l and I j u s t d i d n ' t want anyone to touch me, to h e l p me, nothing, I j u s t , I j u s t sat there i n s c h o o l . A l l of a sudden i t ' s l i k e I got s t u p i d . I'd look at i t and I'd j u s t go "I can't do i t ' . And I would, I'd j u s t s i t there. No d r i v e . L i k e see when I had the p e n c i l I had something to work f o r . L i f e took a t u r n f o r the worse i n grade 6.  His  father  was  d r i n k i n g r e g u l a r l y , openly and becoming more abusive.  was  becoming more withdrawn. I was i n my own world. scared. That's when he d i d n ' t r i n s e out my milk doing? Smack! Rinse i t  R was  I never t a l k e d . I was too started getting, like, i f I g l a s s i t ' s "What are you out'.  a l s o cut o f f from the refuge that h i s mother o f f e r e d . When grade 6 and 7 came I never saw my mom at a l l . I was too scared to ask to go to mom's on the weekends cause I knew what he would do. So I j u s t wouldn't, so I d i d n ' t see my mom f o r a good year, cause she'd c a l l and t h a t . [He'd l i e , t e l l i n g her] He's at h i s f r i e n d s and I'd hear him. At home, R was  s a n c t u a r y was  alone and  hockey.  terrorized.  His primary  R  79 My o n l y r e l e a s e l i k e , t o get away was hockey. I think t h a t ' s why I r e a l l y l o v e d hockey when I was a k i d , cause I was around other people. I wasn't allowed out, but the hockey, f o r an hour on the i c e , t h a t was j u s t me. And I l o v e d i t . Unfortunately  the j o y and comfort that R found on the i c e  d i d n ' t seem t o help him i n other p a r t s of h i s l i f e .  At  school,.R s t a r t e d t o a c t out. Grade 6 i s when I k i n d of went out of c o n t r o l . I was j u s t a mouthy k i d . I had a Mr. F i e l d , he d i d n ' t l i k e me. I was j u s t anything, anything t o get a laugh. I remember the time but I l i k e I t h i n k back and I t h i n k and i t ' s j u s t , I don't know why I j u s t , I j u s t , I j u s t needed t o do i t . I had t o do something. I t was more j u s t t o get a t t e n t i o n cause I wasn't g e t t i n g a t t e n t i o n at home. Besides g e t t i n g h i t . He d i d however f i n d some s o l a c e i n h i s new neighborhood.  A f t e r grade 6 he and h i s f a t h e r moved t o a  townhouse complex.  No longer p h y s i c a l l y i s o l a t e d  (they used  to l i v e i n a shack i n a neighborhood b e r e f t of c h i l d r e n ) R found support  and understanding from h i s peers.  ever being d i s c u s s e d ,  Without i t  R's f r i e n d s seemed t o understand about  h i s f a t h e r ' s meanness. L i k e they knew, you know, they'd ask me t o come out and p l a y hide and seek and t h a t ' s what we used t o do. They knew, l i k e when I s a i d "No I can't come out', t h a t was i t , l i k e they knew there's no p o i n t asking me and I'd j u s t s i t up i n my room and watch them p l a y i n g . (Regardless age,  of the day, the s i t u a t i o n , the season, o r h i s  R's f a t h e r never allowed  dinner  - 6 pm.  appealed).  h i s son t o p l a y o u t s i d e a f t e r  T h i s was a f a m i l y r u l e that c o u l d not be  80  Encouraged by h i s new f r i e n d s h i p s and drawn by t h e i r companionship, R l e a r n e d an a l l important l e s s o n . first  time i n h i s l i f e  tyranny.  For the  he managed t o escape h i s f a t h e r ' s  C o n f i n e d t o the aloneness of h i s house, R l e a r n e d  to sneak out. They're j u s t l i k e your normal townhouse complex, the bedrooms are up. I c o u l d go onto the garage r o o f and i t ' s only l i k e 8 feet. I'd k i n d of go downstairs and I'd see he's passed out. Well then I'd say, "Well I'm going t o bed'. Go up, down onto the garage and I d i d that f o r a good couple o f , w e l l grade 6 and 7. That's how I got out of the house. Cause he'd be l i k e F r i d a y and Saturday, he'd be passed out. L e a r n i n g t o sneak out of h i s home o f f e r e d some r e l i e f but  i tdid little  school.  t o address h i s growing d i f f i c u l t i e s at  Part way through grade 7 R got k i c k e d out of h i s  elementary s c h o o l .  In the f i n a l  i n t e r v i e w between h i s dad  and the p r i n c i p a l , R's f a t h e r demonstrated some of h i s characteristic  b r u t a l i t y towards h i s son.  (R was s i t t i n g o u t s i d e the p r i n c i p a l ' s o f f i c e when h i s f a t h e r walked i n ) . I ' l l never f o r g e t i t f o r the r e s t of my l i f e . He (his f a t h e r ) came i n , d i d n ' t say a word. (The p r i n c i p a l i n t r o d u c e d h i m s e l f and i n v i t e d R and h i s f a t h e r i n t o h i s o f f i c e ) . I got up and as soon as I was walking he (his f a t h e r ) grabbed my head and he j u s t k i n d of moved me l i k e threw me i n t o the o f f i c e and the p r i n c i p a l was a small guy, and I t h i n k he was more a f r a i d than a n y t h i n g . And he brought i n the v i c e p r i n c i p a l who was a r e a l l y b i g man and then my dad k i n d of calmed down. A f t e r t h i s i n c i d e n t R ended up moving i n w i t h h i s mother, w i t h whom he would continue t o l i v e .  During the l a s t few  months of h i s grade 7 year he attended h i s o l d elementary school  (where he had gone f o r grades 1 - 3 )  with o l d school friends.  and re-connected  For awhile he s e t t l e d down, t r i e d  81  to  work and seemed t o f i n d some success.  Though the y e a r  ended on a h o p e f u l note, R f i n i s h e d elementary  school i l l  prepared f o r the t r a n s i t i o n t o h i g h s c h o o l . R's  l a s t 3 years i n elementary  improve h i s academic s k i l l s .  school d i d l i t t l e t o  The abuse and t e r r o r t h a t he  e x p e r i e n c e d at h i s f a t h e r ' s hands c o n t r i b u t e d t o h i s f e e l i n g d e f e n s i v e and withdrawn. controlled l i f e his  dad, l i f e  In c o n t r a s t t o the o v e r l y  that he had come t o know while l i v i n g  with  w i t h h i s mother was marked by a l a c k of  parental control.  He q u i c k l y d i s c o v e r e d t h a t he c o u l d  ignore h i s mother's d i r e c t i o n s and admonitions.  Perhaps h i s  g r e a t e s t d i f f i c u l t y was that he had t o continue t o shoulder his  p a i n alone.  The  Middle R's  experience i n J u n i o r High deepened h i s  disengagement from s c h o o l .  Though he i n i t i a l l y made a  s i n c e r e e f f o r t t o do h i s school work, the d i f f i c u l t y o f the t a s k and some t e a c h e r s ' a t t i t u d e s overwhelmed him. a g a i n he was l e f t  Once  f e e l i n g l i k e an o u t s i d e r .  I'm l i k e I'm t r y i n g , t h i s i s hard, l i k e t h i s i s r e a l l y hard. I mean I j u s t c o u l d not grasp i t and I had the long h a i r and some of the teachers were p r e j u d i c e d a g a i n s t guys w i t h long h a i r cause I n o t i c e d my o t h e r f r i e n d s who were l o n g h a i r s , we wouldn't get the one on one as much as say the l i t t l e geeky k i d over t h e r e i n the corner who couldn't get i t . Experiences l i k e these would add t o h i s sense o f b e i n g p i c k e d on and u n f a i r l y t r e a t e d . growing i s o l a t i o n and aloneness.  I t would i n c r e a s e h i s On the o t h e r hand, the few  82  t e a c h e r s that managed t o e s t a b l i s h some rapport w i t h R seemed t o tap i n t o a d i f f e r e n t  person.  I had a few teachers who d i d push me. Mr. M. was my S o c i a l s and P.E. teacher. He t r e a t e d me l i k e a person. L i k e most of my teachers t a l k e d down t o me. He always t r e a t e d me l i k e an equal, and l i k e , I always d i d w e l l f o r him i n S o c i a l s and t h a t . I always t r i e d my best f o r him cause of how he t r e a t e d me and t h a t A c o m p l i c a t i n g f a c t o r i n R's e f f o r t s t o s t a y i n s c h o o l was h i s growing f a m i l i a r i t y w i t h p o t . I d i d n ' t r e a l l y s t a r t doing a c i d and mushrooms and t h a t u n t i l grade 9. Grade 8 was j u s t smoking dope. I'd smoke every day at lunch. And then at n i g h t , not every n i g h t , but p r e t t y much. R's The  use of drugs p l a y e d a complex r o l e i n h i s l i f e .  darker s i d e of h i s growing h a b i t presented  itself  first  i n h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h h i s mother. I t (drugs) was a l l I wanted t o do. I'd do a n y t h i n g t o get i t . That's when I s t a r t e d being a r e a l a s s h o l e t o my mom and I j u s t , I'd c a l l her a f - i n g b i t c h j u s t , you know, I had no r e s p e c t f o r her whatsoever. I'd j u s t come home and you know 2 o ' c l o c k i n the morning and she'd be w a i t i n g there "Well, what are you doing? Coming home t h i s l a t e . You can't do t h a t " . And I'm l i k e , you know, "Yes I can'. There's n o t h i n g you can do. I come and go as I p l e a s e . On the o t h e r hand, drugs seemed t o p r o v i d e a s o l u t i o n and a temporary escape from s o c i a l  isolation.  I t would take me away from my problems. I t would make me f e e l happy and I'd s t a r t being a goof and everyone'd laugh. Everyone l i k e d me cause I was funny. Cause I was stoned a l l the time. Though s o c i a l l y accepted, alone.  R was n e v e r t h e l e s s , q u i t e  83 I was shy. I would never r e a l l y t a l k . L i k e s i t down and t a l k one on one l i k e with you, I always, I was never r e a l l y i n t o t h a t . I t h i n k t h a t ' s why I was a l s o bad i n school cause I c o u l d never express myself. Over, time h i s aloneness,  i n a b i l i t y t o express h i m s e l f  and d i f f i c u l t y with h i s school work t r a n s l a t e d i n t o tremendous f r u s t r a t i o n .  Coupled with t h i s f r u s t r a t i o n was  R's "do as I p l e a s e " a t t i t u d e , made p o s s i b l e by h i s mother's h e l p l e s s n e s s and f u e l e d by h i s drug h a b i t .  A l i e n a t e d and  out o f c o n t r o l , R was most v u l n e r a b l e when t e a c h e r s  t r i e d to  c o n t r o l him. I was j u s t , you know, a b i g knot t i e d i n there and I'm l i k e , somebody [ t r y to] c o n t r o l me and I'd b u r s t and fuck you and e v e r y t h i n g . R's r e a c t i o n s t o the school's e x p e c t a t i o n s i n e v i t a b l e consequences.  and e f f o r t s had  The r o u t i n e d e t e n t i o n s , v i s i t s t o  the p r i n c i p a l ' s o f f i c e and suspensions served o n l y t o f u r t h e r disengage him from s c h o o l . one  With the e x c e p t i o n o f  o r two teachers, grade 8 and 9 c o n s t i t u t e d a p r i m a r i l y  negative  experience.  While the work was g e t t i n g harder h i s  a b i l i t y and w i l l i n g n e s s t o make an e f f o r t  steadily  decreased.  almost  D e s c r i b i n g h i m s e l f as "stoned  c o n s t a n t l y " , the n o t i o n of a t t e n d i n g school t o l e a r n was v i r t u a l l y an a l i e n concept. The End By grade 10 d e t e n t i o n s and suspensions turned t o s c h o o l expulsions.  R s t a r t e d o f f h i s grade 10 year r e p e a t i n g most  of h i s grade 9 courses. had h i s f i r s t  A month i n t o h i s grade 10 year he  encounter with the new p r i n c i p a l .  84  I was l a t e f o r school and I got a d e t e n t i o n and he was a real prick. He says "You're doing garbage duty by the smoke p i t ' . And I s a i d , "Hey, I ' l l do garbage duty anywhere on the school but I'm not doing i t i n the smoke p i t ' . And he goes "Well no'. And then I s a i d "Well, fuck you'. (Cleaning up the smoking p i t was the most h u m i l i a t i n g punishment t h a t c o u l d be i s s u e d . they would witness h i s d e t e n t i o n . would r e s u l t  Since R's f r i e n d s ' smoked A c c e p t i n g t h i s punishment  i n a major l o s s of f a c e .  I n s i s t i n g that a  student such as R c l e a n up the smoking p i t would have been, i n my experience as an a d m i n i s t r a t o r , the e a s i e s t way t o have him e x p e l l e d i e . R's response was  inevitable.)  R was e x p e l l e d from h i s h i g h school a f t e r the exchange w i t h the p r i n c i p a l .  Since he was o n l y 15 he had the l e g a l  to a t t e n d another school i n the d i s t r i c t . h i s new  right  H i s experience i n  school o n l y served t o i n c r e a s e h i s disengagement.  A f t e r I went to [my new school] I met some o t h e r guys, t h a t ' s when I s t a r t e d r e a l l y g e t t i n g i n t o the b i g t i m e . I was doing a c i d l i k e every weekend. Two doubles a n i g h t , I'd take a double, wait an hour, take the o t h e r double. And then I'd be smoking dope and i n the meantime I'd be d r i n k i n g beer. I took mushrooms once and O'D'd. R l a s t e d i n h i s new school f o r o n l y two weeks.  Suspended  f o r a day f o r g e t t i n g i n t o a f i g h t , he and a f r i e n d d e c i d e d to stop o f f at R's o l d school on t h e i r way home. I go there and I see a guy, and t o t h i s day I s t i l l don't know why I d i d i t . I was on a double ( a c i d ) , and I j u s t we d i d him r i g h t t h e r e . I'm not blaming the a c i d , i t was me. And then my f r i e n d s t a r t e d k i c k i n g him, and I'm j u s t s t a n d i n g there and l i k e h o l y fuck!  85 L i k e I'm j u s t i n shock, I f i n a l l y r e a l i z e d , I r e a l i z e d what I was doing. R was  charged  f o r a s s a u l t and t r e s p a s s i n g and was  allowed t o a t t e n d another school i n the That ended my of my l i f e .  schooling.  In a way  i t was  d i s e n g a g i n g from school as e a r l y as grade 4. was  the c u l m i n a t i n g event  was  i n elementary  school.  the worst  Dropping  I t was  a process marked by  R's  inevitable  him.  buoyed t e m p o r a r i l y by h i s "magic  p e n c i l " and the p o s s i b i l i t y t o dream that such an offered.  out  i n a process t h a t s t a r t e d when R  that would engulf  grade 3 he was  day  started  s t r u g g l e t o s u s t a i n h i s hope i n the face of the  In  not  district.  Though R o f f i c i a l l y dropped out at 15, he  hopelessness  l i k e holy,  experience  Over the next few years he would use hockey,  f r i e n d s h i p s , and h i s wit to attempt and keep t h i s hope a l i v e .  to s u s t a i n h i s s p i r i t  In J u n i o r High a few  gained h i s t r u s t and helped t o keep him going.  teachers Even h i s  i n i t i a l use of drugs c o n s t i t u t e d an e f f o r t t o support himself.  These e f f o r t s however, p a l e d i n comparison t o the  p a i n , c o n f u s i o n and b r u t a l i t y that he experienced  regularly.  When R s t a r t e d grade 4 h i s parents d i v o r c e d . F r i g h t e n e d and confused,  h i s a b i l i t y to concentrate withered  which made s c h o o l work even more d i f f i c u l t always been.  The next three years, spent w i t h h i s f a t h e r ,  resulted i n l i t t l e p h y s i c a l abuse. responded  than i t had  academic success and much emotional  F e e l i n g abandoned and overwhelmed he  by withdrawing.  J u n i o r High i n c r e a s e d h i s  and  86  aloneness and He  f r u s t r a t i o n and deepened h i s disengagement.  found the work extremely d i f f i c u l t  s k i l l or i n c l i n a t i o n to seek h e l p . experienced  and he had  little  Most teachers  were  as i n d i f f e r e n t or p r e j u d i c e d which i n c r e a s e d h i s  a l r e a d y w e l l e s t a b l i s h e d m i s t r u s t of a d u l t s .  His growing  drug h a b i t d i s t a n c e d him both from school and  from h i s  mother.  Abused, a l i e n a t e d and beyond the c o n t r o l of h i s  mother, he l a c k e d both the s k i l l s and the t o l e r a n c e t o meet the s c h o o l ' s his  r u l e s and e x p e c t a t i o n s .  hopelessness was  By the time he  left  such that not even h i s much l o v e d  hockey mattered. I d i d n ' t care about anything e l s e . Dope and hockey. That's i t . You know. A f t e r , towards the end not even hockey, i t ' s j u s t dope. Commentary. R was  born i n t o an abused f a m i l y that was  an a l c o h o l i c f a t h e r . impression and  By the time he c o u l d speak R had  of a d u l t s as negative.  emotionally  abusive.  were h i s experiences to  c o n s t a n t l y i l l at  seldom p r o t e c t i v e .  of being d r i v e n by c u r i o s i t y and enthusiasm, R  i n c r e a s i n g l y cautious,  an  His f a t h e r was p h y s i c a l l y  His mother was  ease, i n c r e a s i n g l y withdrawn, and Instead  t e r r o r i z e d by  f r i g h t e n e d and d i s t r u s t f u l .  was  These  of the world; t h i s i s what he brought  school. School  did l i t t l e  to d i s p e l these f e e l i n g s .  there were exceptions  (grade 3)  elementary school was  f r u s t r a t i n g and  Though  much of h i s experience embarrassing.  at  In p a r t  87  t h i s was due t o h i s l i m i t e d a b i l i t y , his  d e t e r i o r a t i n g home l i f e .  his  insecurity.  to  i n p a r t i t was due t o  H i s parents d i v o r c e added t o  Abandoned by h i s mother he was l e f t  d e a l w i t h h i s drunken f a t h e r .  and the emotional  As the b e a t i n g s i n c r e a s e d  i s o l a t i o n deepened, R's b e h a v i o r a t s c h o o l  became more d i s r u p t i v e and non-compliant. cope, he took on the persona p r o t e c t i o n and acceptance.  In an e f f o r t t o  of a clown, a r o l e t h a t o f f e r e d Drugs helped t o b u f f e r t h i s  i n c r e a s i n g l y d e f e n s i v e posture; adolescence only complicated  alone  and h i g h s c h o o l  matters.  As s c h o o l became more demanding R became more d i s t a n t . A b u f f o o n on the o u t s i d e , the p r i v a t e R was angry, and h e l p l e s s . direction, needs.  No one c o u l d c o n t r o l him, few o f f e r e d  and he l a c k e d the means t o a r t i c u l a t e h i s own  What was f o r m e r l y a posture, now became a stance.  To l i v e was t o defend.  R's a c t i o n s were the r e s u l t o f h i s  c o n t i n u a l need t o escape.  H i s d r e a d f u l world of  embarrassment and h u m i l i a t i o n l e f t for  isolated,  him c o n s t a n t l y y e a r n i n g  the s e l f he experienced o n l y through hockey.  His joyful  moments on the i c e however, o f f e r e d o n l y a temporary respite.  No r e a l hope was a v a i l a b l e .  As h i s energy t o  defend d i s s i p a t e d , and h i s drug i n t a k e i n c r e a s e d , he gave i n and simply withdrew.  88 Chapter 7 Case Study 4: G I don't t h i n k my mom r e a l l y knew how I f e l t [about school]. I know when I dropped out she was r e a l l y disappointed. Cause she dropped out young, when she was young too. I t h i n k my dad dropped out young t o o . But they've always worked. Introduction For the most p a r t , my i n t e r v i e w w i t h G was straightforward.  She seemed c o o p e r a t i v e  t o answer any questions  asked.  and q u i t e  G described  h e r s e l f as  d r i v e n by events. At the same time however, she little  i n the way of d e t a i l o r e l a b o r a t i o n .  to r e s p e c t  willing  offered  In an attempt  her s t o r y and her way of t e l l i n g i t , I h e s i t a t e d  to t u r n my probes i n t o badgering.  Over time G's matter-of-  f a c t r e n d i t i o n o f her experience s t a r t e d t o f i t w i t h her p r o c e s s of disengagement.  Her s t o r y had a l i s t l e s s q u a l i t y  to i t and r e f l e c t e d a l a c k of agency. not  Leaving school d i d  i n v o l v e a dramatic break o r complex t r a n s i t i o n p o i n t .  never went from being becoming a dropout.  G  deeply engaged as a student t o Rather, l i k e a p o o r l y anchored s h i p , G  s t a r t e d t o d r i f t with the f i r s t  change of t i d e .  Though her  d r i f t i n g was motivated by a d e s i r e t o belong, her resources would f a i l unnoticed  h e r . Not able t o d i r e c t h e r s e l f and o f t e n by both parents and teachers,  she moved from  student t o dropout i n what appeared t o be a r a t h e r uneventful  fashion.  In g e n e r a l ,  she found school d i f f i c u l t  and b o r i n g .  success t h a t she d i d experience was u s u a l l y a s s o c i a t e d  The with  89  t e a c h e r s that she l i k e d and with whom she f e l t Though p o p u l a r and a c t i v e s o c i a l l y to  p a r t i e s , went to a l l the dances,  (she was  comfortable.  always  had an o l d e r b o y f r i e n d )  she never r e a l l y engaged on an academic l e v e l . i n t o adolescence her l a c k l u s t e r academic  As she moved  involvement  d i s s o l v e d t o disengagement with the a i d of drugs. on her experience as a mother, daughter), G mused that perhaps h e r s e l f and her mother may longer.  invited  Drawing  (she has a 2 year o l d s t r o n g e r boundaries between  have helped her t o s t a y i n s c h o o l  Dwindling p a r e n t a l a u t h o r i t y and d i r e c t i o n ,  about by a d i v o r c e , c o n t r i b u t e d t o G's  disengagement  brought from  school. The  Beginning G's  memories of the f i r s t  s c h o o l are vague. were not  The  few years of  elementary  few i n c i d e n t s that she c o u l d r e c a l l  positive.  I was shy. I was r e a l l y shy when I was young and I remember I use to have t o go t o c o u n s e l l o r s when I was r e a l l y young, cause I had a b e h a v i o r a l problem. I remember I use to stand on the back of my desk and get i n t o l o t s of t r o u b l e a l l the time. I would j u s t do r e a l l y s t u p i d t h i n g s l i k e s t a n d i n g up on a c h a i r and yelling. By grade 2 the school had c a t e g o r i z e d her as a b e h a v i o r problem.  At t h i s time she was  seeing a p s y c h i a t r i s t .  v i s i t s were i n i t i a t e d by her parents i n response abuse that G had s u f f e r e d .  She was  s i t t e r e a r l i e r on i n the year.  These  t o the  molested by a male baby-  Beyond the i n i t i a l  trauma  90  and the a c t i n g out at s c h o o l , G d i d n ' t f e e l t h a t t h e r e were any l a s t i n g e f f e c t s from the abuse. S o c i a l l y , G remembered h e r s e l f as q u i e t and somewhat alone, e s p e c i a l l y d u r i n g her f i r s t  three years at s c h o o l .  I d i d n ' t get along with the other k i d s ever. I had my f r i e n d s but I don't r e a l l y remember having c l o s e friends. In grade 4 G moved t o a d i f f e r e n t elementary  school  where she remained u n t i l the end of grade 7. . These years were a marked improvement.  She got along w i t h her peers,  her l a b e l as a behavior problem got l e f t behind, developed  some c l o s e f r i e n d s h i p s .  and she  By the time she reached  grade 7 G was accepted by the " i n crowd". We formed a l i t t l e c l i q u e . I t was about 6 o r 7 g i r l s and we were l i k e r e a l l y c o o l . I wasn't t h a t bad. There's l i k e one o r two that were bad out of us, t h a t had done drugs and smoked and t h i n g s l i k e t h a t . And they k i n d of brought us, made us t r y these t h i n g s and stuff. A c a d e m i c a l l y , G found school d i f f i c u l t and u n i n t e r e s t i n g from the s t a r t . I j u s t b a r e l y made i t by. Not i n t e r e s t i n g at a l l . I found s c h o o l b o r i n g , l i k e I r e a l l y d i d not l i k e s c h o o l at a l l . In many ways G remembered elementary manageable s t r u g g l e .  s c h o o l as a  She found the work d i f f i c u l t and  b o r i n g , and f o r the f i r s t  few years she was q u i t e alone.  At  a v e r y e a r l y age she was l a b e l e d as a behavior problem. Even a f t e r she developed  some c l o s e f r i e n d s h i p s she remained  91  shy and somewhat withdrawn.  T h i s tendency t o withdraw would  not leave her u n t i l she l e f t  elementary s c h o o l .  The  Middle G's e f f o r t s t o f i t i n and ways of doing so. brought h e r  to  the p e r i p h e r y of being a student.  The t r a n s i t i o n t o h i g h  s c h o o l served t o deepen her disengagement.  Prior to  s t a r t i n g grade 8 she d i s c o v e r e d a l c o h o l and drugs. That summer I guess t h a t ' s when I s t a r t e d g e t t i n g i n t o drugs. The f i r s t time I drank was grade 7 summer. Drugs p r o v i d e d s o c i a l comfort.  She d i s c o v e r e d t h a t w h i l e  under the i n f l u e n c e she would become l e s s shy and even gutsy. world  At the same time G found her i n i t i a t i o n i n t o somewhat b e w i l d e r i n g .  this  Prompted by a c o n v e r s a t i o n  with  a f r i e n d , G attempted t o d i s t a n c e h e r s e l f from the group by going t o a d i f f e r e n t high school than a l l of her f r i e n d s . Ironically, at  she had even g r e a t e r access t o drugs and a l c o h o l  h e r new s c h o o l . That's when I got h e a v i l y i n t o drugs and d r i n k i n g . I met t h i s other g i r l , M, and her mom, I guess s o l d [pot] a l l the time. So we used t o s t e a l i t from h e r and smoke pot and d r i n k . I n c r e a s i n g l y , school was becoming a s s o c i a t e d with  " p a r t y i n g and having  fun".  Along  the way G's w i l l seemed t o  have been seduced. Well I k i n d of, I remember always k i n d o f knowing r i g h t from wrong. I knew what was r i g h t and I knew what was wrong and I always knew what I was doing was wrong. And I always thought, w e l l maybe, you know, maybe I should stop. Maybe I should change t h i s o r t h a t but i t was j u s t the drugs that you know. I t was c o o l , k i n d o f thing. I t was k i n d of peer pressure and s t u f f .  92  Her  i n t r o d u c t i o n t o h i g h school was a l s o marked by  s i g n i f i c a n t d i s c i p l i n e problems.  While short on s p e c i f i c  memories G r e c a l l e d that i n grade 8 "she got i n a l o t of trouble".  These types of experiences  of school as an i n c r e a s i n g h a s s l e .  i n t e n s i f i e d her sense  Coupled w i t h  this  growing c o n f l i c t at school was an expanding freedom at home. Near the end of Elementary s c h o o l , G's home l i f e s t a r t e d t o change.  Around grade 6 o r 7, her grandparents  moved out o f G's house.  Since both her parents  worked, G  and her s i s t e r would r e t u r n from school t o the freedom o f an empty house. We'd j u s t come home t o the house, t o o u r s e l v e s which was f i n e . We'd have a l l our f r i e n d s over and eat my parents, a l l the g r o c e r i e s ( l a u g h i n g ) . We got i n t r o u b l e f o r that k i n d of t h i n g . When G d i d encounter r e s i s t a n c e t o her d e s i r e t o do as she pleased  she found ways t o get around the r u l e s .  My g i r l f r i e n d T r i n a , she had more freedom than I d i d , so I'd s l e e p over and we'd s l e e p i n the basement and sneak out a t n i g h t and go out with a l l our f r i e n d s and t h i n g s l i k e t h a t . The ones that were allowed out l a t e . So, there was always, there was always a way of g e t t i n g out of t h e r e . Somewhere d u r i n g her t r a n s i t i o n from Elementary s c h o o l t o J u n i o r High, her parents, all  the time" s t a r t e d d i v o r c e  who G d e s c r i b e d as " f i g h t i n g proceedings.  I remember walking i n the house and there were banana boxes a l l over the house with our s t u f f packed i n i t . and t h a t ' s when I knew that was i t . At the time the d i v o r c e came as a r e l i e f .  Her p a r e n t s '  r e l a t i o n s h i p had been d i s i n t e g r a t i n g f o r some time.  93  "Screaming, shouting,  and  throwing cups and g l a s s e s " were  common p l a c e .  When her parents separated, G moved i n w i t h  her mother and  her o l d e r s i s t e r .  y e a r s she  Over the next couple of  and her mother developed a " p r e t t y good  friendship".  In p a r t , t h i s was  due  to G's  new  found  freedom. I j u s t got a l l the freedom i n the world as soon as they d i v o r c e d , r i g h t . And I was k i n d of g l a d . But I missed my dad. While she grew c l o s e r to her mother her r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h her  f a t h e r s t a r t e d to wither.  the d i v o r c e , G became more d i s t a n t . r o l e i n her  Blaming her  father for  This distance played  a  i n c r e a s i n g disengagement from s c h o o l .  The l a s t time I had a r e a l sense of boundaries was when I l i v e d w i t h my dad and my mom (grade 7). Even though I was s t a r t i n g to push, push o f f but my parents, my dad had always been l i k e no, no t h i s i s not the way you a c t . And I was a f r a i d of him. L i k e I d i d n ' t want to get i n t o t r o u b l e . I d i d n ' t l i k e him f o r i t but at l e a s t my homework got done, and I was at home at a c e r t a i n time. I wasn't t i r e d f o r school and t h i n g s l i k e that. L i v i n g w i t h her mother meant that G became completely responsible she  often  f o r her s c h o o l i n g .  I t was  a r e s p o n s i b i l i t y that  shirked.  Well [my mom] was at work, r i g h t , and we d i d n ' t have b a b y - s i t t e r s or anything l i k e t h a t . So I'd j u s t come home and a f t e r school, watch T.V. or do whatever I wanted and when she came home, "yeah, homework i s done' or, I'd j u s t say i t was done. The  freedom and  sense of abandon that G  d u r i n g grade 8 i n c r e a s e d  discovered  i n the f o l l o w i n g year.  For grade 9  94  G moved back to her neighborhood h i g h s c h o o l where her drug habit escalated. In grade 9 I was s e l l i n g i t f o r my b o y f r i e n d at s c h o o l cause he [went to another s c h o o l ] . So we'd, at lunchtime, we'd get stoned and then a f t e r s c h o o l we'd get stoned. That's when I s t a r t e d s k i p p i n g s c h o o l because he d i d n ' t go to my school so we'd s k i p out and go p l a y v i d e o games at 7-eleven. Though G was  s t e a d i l y moving away from being a  her s c h o o l appears to have done l i t t l e  student,  to a r r e s t or d e l a y  the p r o c e s s .  Her o n l y r e c o l l e c t i o n of any d i s c u s s i o n about  her b e h a v i o r  ( s k i p p i n g , coming to school stoned) o c c u r r e d i n  a d i s c i p l i n a r y context. suspension You Why  she might get  Upon r e t u r n i n g to s c h o o l a f t e r a harassed.  know the p r i n c i p a l i s l i k e "Why are you doing are you s k i p p i n g , Why are you f i g h t i n g ' ?  Other than being c h a s t i s e d however, nobody ever t a l k e d to G about her behavior.  this,  actually  She doesn't have  any  r e c o l l e c t i o n of a teacher or c o u n s e l l o r t r y i n g to reach  her.  On o c c a s i o n , the school's response seemed to f a c i l i t a t e  G's  i n c r e a s i n g disengagement.  She  r e c a l l e d one  particular  suspension. I got suspended f o r s k i p p i n g out f o r t h r e e days. So I got suspended f o r three days which was k i n d of s t u p i d , t h e y ' r e j u s t g i v i n g me more time. Throughout J u n i o r High however, a f l o a t academically. woodwork, cooking, teachers  She  G managed to s t a y  enjoyed p r a c t i c a l s u b j e c t s  and p h y s i c a l education.  like  A couple of  (Science and S o c i a l s ) were seen as n i c e or c o o l  she t h e r e f o r e made an e f f o r t i n t h e i r c l a s s e s .  Other  her and  95  s u b j e c t s , l i k e Math and E n g l i s h , were v e r y d i f f i c u l t f o r her. did  G's  approach t o school work enabled her t o s u r v i v e but  l i t t l e t o prepare her t o continue her e d u c a t i o n . I would cram f o r a t e s t . The reason i s because I wouldn't get i t ( i n c l a s s ) but I wouldn't put up my hand and say "Look, I'm not g e t t i n g t h i s ' . So I'd j u s t k i n d of study, study, study, j u s t t i l I got past the t e s t and then I'd completely f o r g e t what I'd j u s t studied. I t h i n k I've always been that way. I'd l e a r n something j u s t f o r the t e s t and then I'd f o r g e t . G's grade 10 year brought some changes but n o t h i n g t h a t  a l t e r e d her steady movement away from s c h o o l . dope smoking G's  While her  subsided (she had become r e a l l y s i c k of pot)  s o c i a l l i f e was  still  i n c r e a s i n g l y engaging.  c o n t i n u e d t o d i m i n i s h i n importance.  School '  I d i d n ' t have time to do the homework so I was r u s h i n g to get e v e r y t h i n g done, where I c o u l d have done b e t t e r i f I took the time to do i t . At  home, l i f e was becoming more complex.  Though she  L  c o n t i n u e d t o get on w e l l w i t h her mother, t h e i r r o l e s at times, seemed t o r e v e r s e .  T h i s was p a r t i c u l a r l y t r u e i n the  c o n f l i c t that s u r f a c e d between G's  s i s t e r and her mother.  I c o u l d always p r e t t y much t a l k to [my mother] and when my s i s t e r beat her up and s t u f f i t was l i k e , we k i n d of went through i t t o g e t h e r . I t was tough l o v e . And I remember l a y i n g i n bed h e a r i n g my s i s t e r r i n g i n g the d o o r b e l l l i k e a hundred times and banging on the doors and screaming. And I r e a l l y found i t hard. So, I f e l t l i k e I almost had to p r o t e c t my mom sometimes, from my s i s t e r i f she ever t r i e d a n y t h i n g a g a i n . Near the end of grade 10 G got pregnant and ended having an a b o r t i o n . experience.  up  She remembered i t as a v e r y harrowing  96  It was r e a l l y , r e a l l y hard on me. I t was r e a l l y hard. I c r i e d a l o t . I have, l i k e dreams about l i t t l e babies. L i k e I always thought i t was a boy. Cause I'd have nightmares about a l i t t l e boy screaming. Like i t was a r e a l l y bad experience f o r someone that young. She never r e c e i v e d any c o u n s e l l i n g o r p r o f e s s i o n a l support w i t h t h i s p a r t of her The  life.  End In  the summer between grade 10 and 11 G d i s c o v e r e d  cocaine and a c i d .  The f o l l o w i n g September she r e g i s t e r e d i n  grade 11 at the l o c a l S e n i o r High School. I remember i t was r e a l l y , r e a l l y hard. L i k e I found t h a t J u n i o r High d i d n ' t prepare you f o r S e n i o r Secondary s c h o o l . I t ' s more f a s t paced. When I went to E n g l i s h and S o c i a l s i t was r e a l l y , r e a l l y hard f o r me and I was f a l l i n g behind more and more. I remember b e i n g i n S o c i a l s and urn, I d i d n ' t l i k e my t e a c h e r as i t was, but he went so f a s t and I remember going back l o o k i n g i n my books and I had n o t h i n g done. G dropped out of s c h o o l 2 months i n t o the s c h o o l year. I quit. And then I s t a r t e d hanging around w i t h a d i f f e r e n t crowd. I j u s t dropped out and I p a r t i e d . L i k e a l l the time. That's a l l I d i d , f o r about 6 months. For  G, dropping out was  almost i n e v i t a b l e s t e p s .  the f i n a l act i n a s e r i e s of  Never w e l l grounded  she s t a r t e d to d r i f t with the f i r s t she encountered.  While she was  as a student,  s o c i a l p r e s s u r e s that  immersing  h e r s e l f i n the  world of drugs and p a r t i e s , her parents s t a r t e d ending relationship.  At a time when she was  their  f e e l i n g most b u f f e t e d ,  her primary source of guidance and d i r e c t i o n , her f a t h e r , disappeared.  Teachers, c o u n s e l l o r s and  administrators  97  f a i l e d to reach her or never r e a l l y t r i e d .  At home she  more freedom than she c o u l d manage; at school  she had  c h o i c e between boredom and d i f f i c u l t y on the one s o c i a l acceptance and and  f o r g e t t i n g and  the  day.  the  hand  f e e l i n g good on the o t h e r .  had  and  Drifting  i n d u l g i n g i n f a n t a s y became the order  of  I d i d n ' t even t h i n k . I d i d n ' t know what I wanted to do. I, T j u s t thought, I've always had t h i s f e e l i n g I was gonna win the l o t t e r y k i n d of t h i n g ( l a u g h i n g ) . There's got to be an easy way f o r me, t h a t k i n d of thing. I always wanted the easy way out or marry r i c h or something. I never r e a l l y thought along the l i n e s of a c a r e e r or anything l i k e t h a t , t i l I had T a y l o r (her daughter). By the time she  reached grade 11 the d i f f i c u l t y of  s u b j e c t matter and  the  the pace proved to be more than G c o u l d  handle. Commentary. From the v e r y beginning, that she belonged at s c h o o l .  G found i t d i f f i c u l t Her  first  s t r u g g l e and  She  was  The  was  difficult  t h e r e f o r o f t e n alone.  s t a r t e d a c t i n g out  r e f e r r e d to c o u n s e l l i n g to address her  3,  When she  s u b j e c t matter  i n c l a s s and  A  was  inappropriate  t r a n s f e r r e d schools at the end  f i t t i n g i n remained an i s s u e of s i g n i f i c a n t  Though her s o c i a l l i f e was  oddness.  and put academic engagement out of grasp.  v i c t i m of abuse, she  behavior.  feel  4 years were  a s s o c i a t e d with f e e l i n g s of i s o l a t i o n , shy and  to  of grade  proportions:  improved over the next few years i t  not u n t i l grade 7 that a means of grounding h e r s e l f  98  became a v a i l a b l e t o G. experienced  Near the end of grade 7, G  a l e v e l of a f f i r m a t i o n at school t h a t she had  never known.  I t came from a potent group of her peers and  i t was f u e l e d by behavior t h a t the school would n e i t h e r condone nor t o l e r a t e .  U n f o r t u n a t e l y , the acceptance t h a t  she r e c e i v e d was rooted i n what would be seen as a stance of o p p o s i t i o n , a stance which would s i m u l t a n e o u s l y  o f f e r her  i d e n t i t y w h i l e i t continued t o d i s t a n c e her from academic involvement.  Moreover, i t came at a time when she was  g e t t i n g ready  t o leave elementary school and t r a n s f e r t o  j u n i o r high. At t h i s c r i t i c a l to  the more d i f f i c u l t  j u n c t u r e , when she was s t i l l task  (working  at s c h o o l v s . d r i f t i n g  towards p a r t y i n g ) the l i m i t e d support home o f f e r e d , evaporated.  v e r y open  and guidance t h a t her  G's grandparents were no l o n g e r  a v a i l a b l e t o s u p e r v i s e the c h i l d r e n (G, her s i s t e r , and t h e i r f r i e n d s ) when they r e t u r n e d from s c h o o l .  Home became  a hangout, a p l a c e where, f o r a few hours a day c u r i o s i t y and m i s c h i e f had f r e e r e i g n . parent's  S h o r t l y t h e r e a f t e r , her  d i v o r c e d and G's experiment i n temporary c a r e f r e e  l i v i n g turned i n t o a permanent r e a l i t y .  This  experience  would h e l p move G beyond the grasp of a d u l t a u t h o r i t y .  When  her f a t h e r , the d i s c i p l i n a r i a n , moved out of the home he a l s o moved out o f her l i f e .  In t u r n , G was g i v e n u n f e t t e r e d  freedom and unmanageable r e s p o n s i b i l i t y .  G's t r a n s i t i o n t o  h i g h s c h o o l then, was made more d i f f i c u l t  by her l a c k of  academic s k i l l s ,  a l e v e l of freedom that she couldn't  99  manage, and her s t i l l present  shyness.  At the age  of 13  she  found h e r s e l f faced with a choice marked by s t r u g g l e , hardship,  p a i n and aloneness on the one hand and  ease,  comfort, acceptance, and r e c o g n i t i o n on the other. she  felt  drift  i t was  Though  wrong, she l a c k e d the w i l l to counter  towards disengagement.  the freedom  and  High school q u i c k l y became a p l a c e to meet people  who  i n c r e a s i n g l y ignored the  She  responsibility.  l i k e d t o p a r t y and who  had access  l i k e these  she was  activities,  accepted  her  to drugs.  Not  a l s o good at them.  d i s c o v e r e d t h a t under the i n f l u e n c e of drugs she shyness.  only d i d G She lost  her  Coupled with her p h y s i c a l a t t r a c t i o n , t h i s new  found a way  to be,  i n an environment t h a t had  her comfort, l e t alone acceptance.  Now  seldom o f f e r e d  the shy,  withdrawn,  isolated l i t t l e g i r l  s t a r t e d becoming an outgoing,  popular  As her s o c i a l s t a t u s i n c r e a s e d and  adolescent.  i d e n t i t y as a p a r t y g i r l decreased.  l i f e s t y l e was f o r whom she  took form, her i n t e r e s t  Her grounding i n t h i s quick,  and her  i n school  effortless,  enhanced when she a c q u i r e d an o l d e r b o y f r i e n d s o l d pot.  So engaging and complete was  world, t h a t by grade 10 she was o n l y when she had  this  a t t e n d i n g to school work  the time.  Once again her home f a i l e d her. source  G  Instead of b e i n g  a  of guidance and d i r e c t i o n her mother, p u l l e d her i n t o  a parenting role.  Her mother's need added to G's  growing  i l l u s i o n of being an a d u l t while making her i n c r e a s i n g l y l e s s connected to s c h o o l .  Accustomed to making her  own  100  d e c i s i o n s , and now i n v o l v e d i n p r o t e c t i n g her mother, moved beyond the s c h o o l ' s sphere of i n f l u e n c e .  G soon  When the  s c h o o l u t i l i z e d i t s power through suspensions, G's f r e e time and disengagement i n c r e a s e d .  At the age of 16, G was needed  and r e l i e d upon by her mother, v a l u e d and e n v i e d by her peers, and i n c r e a s i n g l y h e l p l e s s when i t came t o her schooling.  The pregnancy, a b o r t i o n , and d e p r e s s i o n t h a t  f o l l o w e d brought t o a head the competing, though uneven f o r c e s i n her l i f e .  Faced with the overwhelming d i f f i c u l t y  of grade 11, G cut h e r s e l f o f f from the ever i n c r e a s i n g p a i n of  the would-be  student and cocooned h e r s e l f i n an  i l l u s i o n a r y world of drugs and p a r t i e s .  101  Chapter 8 Case Study 5: L Some days I remember going i n t o school t h i n k i n g , okay, today I'm going t o do r e a l l y , r e a l l y , good. And I'd t h i n k about i t a l l the time. But then I'd get t h e r e and i t wouldn't t u r n out that way. When I t h i n k about i t now, i t ' s l i k e yea, I wasted l o t s of time. L o t s of time. [As t o dropping out] I'd say p r o b a b l y 70% was my f a u l t and 30% was because of the school. No one ever r e a l l y came have t o show up and you j u s t k i n d of f l o a t e d up and then f i n a l l y , they,  down hard and s a i d l i k e , you have to do t h i s . And, I was from grade e i g h t t o grade t e n I guess s a i d no more.  Introduction L's open and honest manner made c e r t a i n aspects of the i n t e r v i e w q u i t e easy.  She r e a d i l y d e s c r i b e d and  willingly  acknowledged her r o l e i n the process of d i s e n g a g i n g school.  L was  from  a l s o v e r y adept at a r t i c u l a t i n g p a r t s of the  system that f a i l e d her.  She  seemed to have a good  understanding of the r o l e that home l i f e p l a y e d i n her school experience.  In many ways L seemed v e r y much at peace  w i t h her s t o r y . At the same time, I found her experience frustrating.  extremely  Having worked as an educator f o r the past  17  y e a r s , I couldn't l e t go of the f e e l i n g that she should have made i t .  L i s b r i g h t and e n e r g e t i c .  As a student she  v e r y i n t e r e s t e d i n s p o r t s , w e l l accepted s o c i a l l y , seemed t o belong.  Though she was  i n t e r e s t e d i n the s u b j e c t matter,  not  was  and  particularly  she c o u l d and at times  102  did,  excel.  Many teachers  seemed t o l i k e her.  Very  strong  w i l l e d , L not o n l y knew how t o cope but a l s o overcame several d i f f i c u l t i e s .  Though she knew how t o s k i p and get  away w i t h i t , L c o u l d and d i d r e f r a i n from s k i p p i n g when she was engaged i n her s c h o o l i n g .  Even though she had access t o  drugs and at times smoked pot e x c e s s i v e l y , L managed t o curb t h i s d e s i r e when she decided  t o apply h e r s e l f  When she f a i l e d grade 10 she changed schools, grade and had a s u c c e s s f u l year.  T h i s focused  academically. repeated the e f f o r t and  engagement stands i n s t a r k c o n t r a s t t o much o f the r e s t o f her academic experience.  I t demonstrates L's a b i l i t y ,  p o t e n t i a l , and c a p a c i t y t o u t i l i z e her w i l l .  At the same  time, L's f l a s h of success was not enough t o counter the power of h a b i t and i n g r a i n e d b e l i e f .  Much of her s c h o o l i n g  ( e s p e c i a l l y her J u n i o r High experience) was an e x e r c i s e i n disengagement and i n d i f f e r e n c e . only temporarily  T h i s f o r c e of h a b i t was  h a l t e d by her s u c c e s s f u l grade 10 y e a r .  In  many ways, L's disengagement i s the s t o r y of her f a i l u r e t o become a student. The  Beginning One of L's e a r l i e s t  school memories i s of grade 5.  Probably the f i r s t day i n grade f i v e , my dad came t o school w i t h me, took the teacher out i n the hallway and s a i d that I had an a t t i t u d e problem. T o l d the teacher I d i d n ' t l i k e being t o l d what t o do and i f the t e a c h e r was having any problems with me t o g i v e my dad a c a l l . Contrary  t o her dad's p o i n t of view, L doesn't r e c a l l  an a t t i t u d e problem.  having  She d i d however, have some d i f f i c u l t y  103  with school rules,  s p e c i f i c a l l y with i s s u e s o f a u t h o r i t y .  School r o u t i n e s , l i k e needing  t o get p e r m i s s i o n t o get a  d r i n k o r t o go t o the bathroom, were irksome the heart of the i s s u e was L's c h a r a c t e r i s t i c  f o r her.  At  stubbornness.  Routines t h e r e f o r e , always c a r r i e d the p o s s i b i l i t y of becoming  encounters.  On a g e n e r a l l e v e l she never seemed t o take s c h o o l t o o seriously.  As she remembered i t , "School was j u s t l i k e a  p l a c e t o joke around". student.  Yet, L r e c a l l e d t h a t she was a good  Her t e a c h e r s shared t h i s o p i n i o n .  I read back on my r e p o r t cards and they say t h a t L i s a good student but she c o u l d apply h e r s e l f b e t t e r . L's memories of her elementary positive.  school educators are q u i t e  Many were remembered as f i n e t e a c h e r s whom she  got along w i t h most of the time. and had l o t s of f r i e n d s .  S o c i a l l y , L was p o p u l a r  She always e x c e l l e d at s p o r t s .  L a l s o demonstrated a h i g h degree of f l e x i b i l i t y . t o t a l she went t o three d i f f e r e n t elementary moves, brought  about due t o changing  subsequent boundary adjustments, with  schools.  In These  school p o p u l a t i o n s and  appear t o have been handled  ease. I d i d n ' t mind i t cause one of my g i r l f r i e n d s came w i t h me so i t wasn't a b i g t h i n g at a l l . In  s h o r t , l i f e at elementary  school appears  t o have  been a r a t h e r s a t i s f a c t o r y experience f o r L.  She was w e l l  l i k e d by both her peers and by her t e a c h e r s .  Though her  104  s t r o n g w i l l c o u l d r e a d i l y help t r a n s f o r m everyday i n t o problems, L managed to c o n t a i n h e r s e l f . L was  events  Athletically,  v e r y a c t i v e and s u c c e s s f u l ; a c a d e m i c a l l y , she was  seen  as v e r y capable though l e s s than f u l l y engaged. L i f e at home was difficulties  somewhat l e s s s t a b l e .  The  i n her parents' r e l a t i o n s h i p , which had been  present f o r some time,  were beginning to s u r f a c e .  They were always f i g h t i n g , a l l the time. I hated i t . I always stuck up f o r my mom. My dad had cheated on my mom, w i t h my aunt. I guess i t went on f o r a long, l o n g time. And I remember t e l l i n g my mom when I was p r o b a b l y i n grade 6 or 7 that I heard them ( f a t h e r and aunt) k i s s i n g . So she accused him and he denied i t , but I swore a l l along that I knew. Then I found out [that i t was true] and we moved out. I t was the summer of grade 7 going i n t o grade 8. The  Middle In some ways J u n i o r High was  elementary  school.  L was  still  a c o n t i n u a t i o n of  i n French Immersion and  she  remained a c t i v e p h y s i c a l l y through c h e e r l e a d i n g and s o c c e r . A c a d e m i c a l l y , her involvement grades q u i t e low.  remained q u i t e l i m i t e d and  her  Her l i f e at home, though d i f f e r e n t i n  that her parents had s p l i t up, was  i n some ways unchanged.  [My mom] t r i e d to keep us i n a r o u t i n e . s t r i c t and I l i s t e n e d to her.  She was  pretty  T h i s s t r i c t n e s s however, had never r e a l l y a p p l i e d t o s c h o o l issues. They never r e a l l y gave me t r o u b l e f o r i t (teachers' t h i s , you have t o apply y o u r s e l f and, but they never ever, l i k e , took away the T.V. or grounded me or nothing. They were p r e t t y l e n i e n t that way. Maybe i f they would have done more, I would have went r i g h t through ( s c h o o l ) . But you can't r e a l l y blame them.  105  I t ' s more me. there. In  I should have a p p l i e d myself when I was  c o n t r a s t t o her easygoing years at elementary  grade 8 was a s s o c i a t e d w i t h a heightened Though much of the d e t a i l escapes  school,  l e v e l of tension.  her, L r e c a l l e d t h a t grade  8 was fraught w i t h s o c i a l t u r m o i l . I was mean, I know t h a t , r e a l l y mean. i n t o f i g h t s at s c h o o l . Some  I always got  s u b j e c t areas and a couple of teachers proved  p a r t i c u l a r l y troublesome. determined  t o be  Though she o f t e n came t o s c h o o l  t o do w e l l , math c l a s s was d i f f i c u l t  to survive.  I'd walk i n the math c l a s s and he would come i n o r whatever and t e l l us t o s i t down and say, he might say to me, L, s i t over there, cause I was never allowed t o s i t w i t h any of my f r i e n d s . And I'd be l i k e , no, I'm going t o s i t r i g h t here. Cause i n my head I'm t h i n k i n g , okay, today I'm going t o do what I'm supposed to do. But as soon as he'd come i n he'd say, no, you s i t here. Forget i t , I'm going t o s i t here. And t h a t would j u s t s t a r t i t and then I'd y e l l at him and he'd y e l l back and he'd j u s t , okay get out. So t h a t d i d n ' t work. One experience verged on the b i z a r r e . I don't know i f i t was j u s t h i s a t t i t u d e , but the whole c l a s s d i d n ' t l i k e him and I don't t h i n k he l i k e d us. One day he f r e a k e d out and I remember him p i c k i n g up the back of my desk and f l i p p i n g i t backwards [with L i n i t ] and I went down t o the p r i n c i p a l ' s o f f i c e and t o l d him. While  L saw him as a mean teacher and though she f e l t  stupid  and h u m i l i a t e d by t h i s i n c i d e n t , she never d i s c u s s e d i t w i t h her p a r e n t s .  She kept i t t o h e r s e l f because L f e l t t h a t  "she was p r o b a b l y being the c l a s s clown". Other c l a s s e s s t a r t e d o f f w e l l and ended p o o r l y . I r e a l l y , r e a l l y , l i k e d my Consumer Ed. t e a c h e r and she r e a l l y l i k e d me. I was doing r e a l l y , r e a l l y good cause I r e a l l y l i k e d the teacher so I'd want t o p l e a s e the  106  t e a c h e r by doing good. I'd always do my homework, I'd always do what I was supposed t o do. And she l e f t f o r a w h i l e and we had a s u b s t i t u t e . The s u b s t i t u t e used t o phone my mom a l l the time and say, I r e a l l y l i k e L, I t h i n k she's l i k e t o t a l l y n i c e but we have a personality conflict. And she'd always k i c k me out of c l a s s , always. G e t t i n g k i c k e d out of c l a s s became a common e x p e r i e n c e f o r L.  U n l i k e i n the past however, her academic  were now a f f e c t i n g her a t h l e t i c  efforts  pursuits.  When the time came t o go on, l i k e the team t r i p s , I c o u l d never go.. But they would never say you can't go u n t i l the day before we were supposed t o be l e a v i n g . I guess, i n my head I would t h i n k , oh, t h e y ' l l l e t me go. L i k e they need me, more o r l e s s k i n d of t h i n g . But no, I never got t o go. T h i s d i f f i c u l t y i n r e c o g n i z i n g that e x i s t e d c o n t i n u e d t o be a problem.  consequences  When L f a i l e d grade 8  the s c h o o l o f f e r e d her a c h o i c e of r e p e a t i n g grade 8 French Immersion  o r g o i n g i n t o the grade 9 E n g l i s h program.  She  opted f o r grade 9 and c a r r i e d on w i t h i n c r e a s i n g disengagement.  Her grade 9 year and her f i r s t  t r y a t grade  10 were marked by a growing i n d i f f e r e n c e about s c h o o l . I t ( j u n i o r high) was a l l more o r l e s s the same. You j u s t k i n d of went and i f you d i d n ' t f e e l l i k e g o i n g you'd l e a v e . Sometimes I'd s k i p the whole day, sometimes maybe a couple of c l a s s e s . L's disengagement was deepened by h e r e x p e r i m e n t a t i o n w i t h drugs. I'd j u s t s l e e p i n some of my c l a s s e s cause you'd get so stoned a t lunchtime you'd j u s t s l e e p . Sometimes b e f o r e school too.  107  During t h i s 2 year p e r i o d her parents never l e a r n e d that L was  skipping.  her drug h a b i t .  The  s c h o o l , i n t u r n , never d i s c o v e r e d  L managed to make i t through grade 9 but  ended up f a i l i n g grade 10.  I t was  a p a i n f u l experience t h a t  shook her out of her i n d i f f e r e n c e and p r o v i d e d her w i t h a r e a l o p p o r t u n i t y t o engage. I hated f a i l i n g . I t was embarrassing and i t was more embarrassing t h a t a l l my f r i e n d s were a l l l e a v i n g and going t o a d i f f e r e n t school (senior h i g h ) . And I d i d n ' t want t o be with a l l the, l i k e the grade n i n e s going i n t o grade t e n . That's why I l e f t and went t o a d i f f e r e n t s c h o o l . I seemed t o apply myself t h e r e . L d i d v e r y w e l l her second time through grade 10. stopped  She  s k i p p i n g , seldom i n d u l g e d i n drugs and a p p l i e d  h e r s e l f academically.  So complete was  her turnaround t h a t  she overcame one of her b i g g e s t academic hurdles--math.  She  c r e d i t s her teacher f o r t h i s success. L i k e I'm u s e l e s s at math, l i k e i f I have money I can count i t but t h a t ' s about i t . But he (her grade 10 teacher) took the time and he'd e x p l a i n i t step by step i f you d i d n ' t understand i t . He'd do i t a g a i n and a g a i n and a g a i n u n t i l you understood i t . And I got i t and I got an "A" i n Math. Repeating grade 10 proved t o be a p o s i t i v e  experience.  In a d d i t i o n t o math, L d i d v e r y w e l l i n her o t h e r s u b j e c t s as w e l l .  At long l a s t  she was  u s i n g her s t r o n g w i l l t o her  benefit.  When she f i n i s h e d grade 10, L moved on t o S e n i o r  High w i t h genuine hope and p o s s i b i l i t y . appeared  t o be w i t h i n her grasp.  Academic  success  108  The  End  During her f i r s t month of grade 11 L worked v e r y hard. I'd say f o r the f i r s t month I was doing, l i k e , s c h o o l a l l day long and then I was doing n i g h t s c h o o l . I was going t o school d u r i n g the day and at n i g h t cause I wanted t o t r y and get e v e r y t h i n g and get i n t o grade 12 and graduate with the r e s t of my c l a s s . Her  success and her e f f o r t were short l i v e d .  L's f i r s t month i n s e n i o r h i g h she was  By the end of  running  into  difficulties. I was i n math and I couldn't, I hated the teacher, I couldn't stand him. You'd ask him t o e x p l a i n i t and he'd be l i k e , I a l r e a d y d i d . So I j u s t gave up. Though she had always found Math d i f f i c u l t , i s s u e was  the r e l a t i o n s h i p between L and her  Impatient  t e a c h e r s tended t o defeat L q u i c k l y .  the deeper  instructors.  J u s t the way they're t a l k i n g , e x p l a i n i n g i t t o you. Then you f e e l s t u p i d cause you've a l r e a d y asked once and you don't want t o ask again cause you can t e l l t h a t they're t h i n k i n g in' t h e i r head "Well, why don't you understand t h i s Yet? Everyone e l s e seems t o get i t , why don't you?' You j u s t f e e l dumb a s k i n g anymore. So then i t ' s l i k e , f o r g e t i t . I'm not even gonna ask. L's experience i n math brought of  disengagement.  her back t o her  course  The d i f f i c u l t y of the s u b j e c t coupled  w i t h her p e r c e p t i o n of the teacher's a t t i t u d e , unhinged her. Somewhere d u r i n g the second month of school she going t o Math.  stopped  Since the same teacher taught Consumer  Education, she stopped going t o t h i s c l a s s as w e l l .  109  As i n the past, the school d i d n ' t seem t o n o t i c e . Nobody ever s a i d anything t o me about m i s s i n g these classes. Well, a t f i r s t the computer t h a t used t o phone home f o r not being there would phone home but I'd j u s t hear i t and hang up. I n c r e a s i n g l y discouraged, L a l s o dropped her courses a t night school.  With t h i s , her s l i d e towards disengagement  r a p i d l y turned i n t o a f r e e f a l l . J u s t b e f o r e I dropped out I s t a r t e d p a r t y i n g a l l the time and doing drugs. Somewhere d u r i n g her t h i r d month i n t o grade 11 L d e c i d e d t o leave s c h o o l . I phoned my mom a t work and s a i d I q u i t today. She's l i k e why and a l l t h i s s t u f f . And i t ' s l i k e I'm not doing i t . Forget i t . I'm not going t o pass anyway so I'm not going t o do i t . Though capable and a t times i n t e r e s t e d , L spent most of her time a t school as an observer. d i d occur, was u s u a l l y the byproduct  P a r t i c i p a t i o n when i t of a r e l a t i o n s h i p .  When she found teachers w i t h whom she c o u l d connect L applied herself.  To o f t e n though, she occupied a p o s i t i o n  of i n d i f f e r e n c e .  In the end t h i s e s t a b l i s h e d way of b e i n g  proved  to d i f f i c u l t  t o overcome with mere i n t e n t i o n and  desire. Commentary. L's s t o r y of disengagement has a s i m p l i s t i c , forwardness  straight  about i t . She d i d not l i k e s c h o o l , had a hard  time t a k i n g i t s e r i o u s l y and never managed t o get beyond the  110  bad  habits  (limited effort,  confrontation)  skipping,  predictable  one might a s s o c i a t e w i t h such an approach.  At the same time, L's f a i l u r e i s about l o s t  opportunities.  These went hand i n hand with an emotional f r a i l n e s s , skinned, too e a s i l y generated defensiveness.  a thin  When she  e x p e r i e n c e d o p p o s i t i o n and c r i t i c i s m she became stubborn, argumentative, and u l t i m a t e l y s e l f - d e s t r u c t i v e . c o u l d develop a rapport  she engaged and found success.  her p a r e n t s and the school, roll  i n L's f a i l u r e s .  L's d e f e n s i v e  albeit  Both  inadvertently, played a  Her s t o r y of disengagement i s about  and stubborn tendencies and the q u a l i t y of h e r  relationships. relationship,  When she  T h i s combination of a way of being and t o o f t e n t r a n s l a t e d i n t o an o p p o s i t i o n a l  stance on L's p a r t . Sometimes those who cared o f f e r e d her a s e l f - d e f e a t i n g stance.  When she was o n l y 10, her f a t h e r s i g n a l e d h i s  f r u s t r a t i o n and r e s i g n a t i o n w i t h L through h i s i n v i t a t i o n t o her grade 5 teacher.  Rather than h e l p i n g L w i t h h e r  " a t t i t u d e problem" he was. determined t o defeat i m p l i e d t h r e a t though proved t o be hollow. was  strict,  school.  i t . His  Her home l i f e  but t h i s s t r i c t n e s s d i d n ' t p e r t a i n t o matters o f  Beyond t a l k i n g t o L about her l a c k of e f f o r t , h e r  p a r e n t s d i d l i t t l e t o f o s t e r a d i f f e r e n t approach t o s c h o o l . On other occasions,  opportunities  through a l a c k of imagination. her  school  opportunity  life  (grade eight)  f o r contact  At a c r i t i c a l  were l o s t  juncture i n  the h i g h school bumbled an  t o e n t i c e her t o belong.  Instead  of u s i n g L's  Ill  a t h l e t i c a b i l i t i e s t o p u l l her i n t o the system, the s c h o o l ' s "do o r d i e " approach p r o v i d e d her with another o p p o s i t i o n a l opportunity. thereby  Numerous teachers p l a y e d out the same r o l e  i n c r e a s i n g her d e f i a n c e .  While the source of L's  d e f e n s i v e stubbornness remains ambiguous, her p a r e n t s and the s c h o o l ' s i n a b i l i t y t o help her overcome t h i s drawback i s clear.  Over time,  the o p p o s i t i o n a l stance became a h a b i t  t h a t she couldn't get beyond.  112 Chapter 9 Case Study 6: B I had a wonderful teacher i n grade 5. Of course I got p u l l e d out of grade 5. She was g r e a t . She was j u s t wonderful. She was j u s t uhm, there was enough o f a s t r o n g hand, so there was enough of a c o n s t r i c t i o n and s t u f f and y e t enough freedom, c r e a t i v i t y , you know, not j u s t do what you want but do what you want w i t h i n these guidelines. No, I s t i l l b e l i e v e that i t was my parents f a u l t . Not, not t h a t they were bad parents but I t h i n k i f I hadn't gone through a l l that uhm, I t r u l y b e l i e v e i f I had stayed i n grade s i x and gone on t o grade seven l i k e , l i k e , you know. I was p u l l e d out of so many of my c i r c l e of f r i e n d s , so many times. And so many d i f f e r e n t programs, I j u s t , I t h i n k i f I had stayed w i t h t h a t group who a l l graduated and went on t o , you know, do l o v e l y t h i n g s . I s t i l l look at i t and you know, a l l those people d i d i t , why couldn't I. I s t i l l f e e l t h a t way. I t ' s l i k e why couldn't I graduate. Everyone e l s e d i d . I c o u l d have done i t , I should have done i t , but I d i d n ' t . Turning and t u r n i n g i n the widening gyre The f a l c o n cannot hear the f a l c o n e r ; Things f a l l apart; the centre cannot h o l d (The Second Coming W.B.Yeats) Introduction Though she was honest and f o r t h r i g h t , i n t e r v i e w i n g B was not s t r a i g h t f o r w a r d . with p a r t i a l  sentences, musings, and thoughts i n the p r o c e s s  of being developed. and  Often her responses were strewn  t o the p o i n t .  At other times, On a few occasions  p e r s p e c t i v e of her l i f e too a n a l y t i c a l .  as a student  she was c l e a r , p r e c i s e B offered a only to dismiss  i t as  T h i s mixture of c l a r i t y and ambiguity,  sureness and u n c e r t a i n t y captures  her s t r u g g l e t o make sense  113  of  t h a t p e r i o d of her l i f e .  She accepts, i n p a r t , her  r e s p o n s i b i l i t y f o r the outcome.  At the same time, t h e r e i s  a sense of somehow, having been i n a p p r o p r i a t e l y launched. Her s t o r y i s somewhat a k i n t o a spark bouncing  between the  two p o l e s of " i f o n l y " and "I should have". B dropped out of school when she was 15.  There was no  s i n g u l a r i s s u e o r event t h a t caused her t o l e a v e . day,  she f i n d s her f a i l u r e t o graduate  somewhat p u z z l i n g .  frustrating,  B i s b r i g h t and a r t i c u l a t e .  a r i c h and i n some ways even p r i v i l e g e d l i f e . time,  she was anything but cocooned.  experience was w e l l beyond her age.  To t h i s even  She has l e d At the same  In many ways B's l i f e Capable,  at times  haughty, and always more v u l n e r a b l e than her p r e s e n t a t i o n would suggest, B never e s t a b l i s h e d r o o t s t h a t would s u s t a i n her.  Ungrounded, her a b i l i t i e s and experiences o f t e n  f a c i l i t a t e d her disengagement. The  Beginning B s 1  memories of her e a r l y school experiences were v e r y  positive. I d i d k i n d e r g a r t e n , grade 1 and 2 back e a s t . School was g r e a t . -Got s t r a i g h t A's. Came out her and was a l i t t l e bored. S t i l l got s t r a i g h t A's though. I still l i k e d s c h o o l . I was v e r y s o c i a l . Had l o t s of f r i e n d s . When she e n t e r e d grade 5 her grades dropped t o C's and D's (from s t r a i g h t A's) and the school decided t o have her tested.  114 So they p u l l e d me out of grade 5 and f i g u r e d out that I was q u i t e b r i g h t and put me i n t o grade 6 r i g h t away. I got s t r a i g h t A's again that year. I t wasn't a g r e a t year. They a l l thought, the grade 6's a l l thought I should be i n grade 5. Over time B worked through the o t h e r k i d s ' resentment the  end of the year " i t was a l l f i n e and dandy".  and by  No sooner  had she s e t t l e d i n than i t was time t o move. Then my mom decides that French Immersion would be a r e a l l y neat i d e a . And, none of these d e c i s i o n s were mine. I d i d n ' t say, I d i d n ' t get t o choose whether I would be i n grade 6 o r grade 5. They j u s t put me i n t o grade 6. Anyway, my mom d e c i d e d that t h i s would be a r e a l l y n i f t y t h i n g f o r me t o do and so I had t o do grade 6 over again and I'm l i k e , w e l l why d i d you make me do grade 6, so t h a t , at that p o i n t I got a l i t t l e , I got a l i t t l e , you know. I'm w i t h a t o t a l l y d i f f e r e n t group o f people, and i f you check that c l a s s , t h i s i s s o r t of i n t e r e s t i n g , that grade 6 c l a s s , the French Immersion one, f o u r people graduated, out of 23 students. So I mean t h e r e were some problems. Once a g a i n though, the  B excelled  (straight A's).  She enjoyed  year and found " i t was neat l e a r n i n g a new language". Grade 7, on the o t h e r hand, p r e s e n t e d some d i f f i c u l t y . We had a t e a c h e r who was q u i t e h o r r i b l e . I mean I got a "B" i n Math but we never opened a math book. I mean, never. Not once. She was j u s t very, umh, she c o u l d n ' t c o n t r o l h e r s e l f at a l l . I mean she would run out of the classroom c r y i n g and she j u s t , she d i d n ' t do a l o t of t e a c h i n g that year. I t was r e a l l y tough when we went i n t o J u n i o r High.  Towards the end of grade 7 B's s o c i a l l i f e  started to  change, as d i d h e r r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h her p a r e n t s . I remember I s t a r t e d l y i n g t o my parents i n grade seven, cause I mean the o l d e r k i d s went out and drank and s t u f f and so. You know we wanted to, so we d i d . You know I'd say we'd been t o the movies but we d i d n ' t . And i t was o n l y v e r y m i l d i n grade 7, you know you're o n l y 12. How much a l c o h o l can you get, eh?  115  While  she was  i n o t h e r ways B was fully articulate  r e l a t i v e l y innocent and naive s o c i a l l y , q u i t e experienced.  i t at the time, B was  Though she c o u l d n ' t the f i r s t member of  the f a m i l y to openly r e c o g n i z e and address her mother's alcoholism. I j u s t remember not wanting t o go home. L i k e I would walk home c r y i n g . I d i d n ' t want her t o be home.Probably at 11 or so I s t a r t e d t e l l i n g my mom t h a t she had a problem. I used t o take care of her when she got home and she was drunk. I f I asked my b r o t h e r f o r h e l p he'd j u s t l e a v e . I f I asked my dad f o r h e l p he'd j u s t say "Oh she's f i n e . J u s t put her t o bed, she's not f e e l i n g w e l l ' . And so, no one would admit i t except me. I handled her f o r y e a r s . You know, you become the parent. Only when she was d r i n k i n g . B parented her mother f o r the next 4 y e a r s .  Painful  and  o f t e n b e w i l d e r i n g , the experience f o r c e d on her a l e v e l of independence and r e s p o n s i b i l i t y  f a r beyond her age.  Other  aspects of B's u p b r i n g i n g a l s o r e q u i r e d her t o be v e r y independent. My parents were always very, and t h i s i s not a g r i p e a g a i n s t them. They weren't home a l o t growing up. So t h a t we (she and her brother) were v e r y independent. They were there when we needed them. When we moved out here, we d i d n ' t have s i t t e r s , we were j u s t t h a t independent. We made d i n n e r f o r o u r s e l v e s . Yea, we had a l o t of freedom. Maybe too much, I'm not sure. By the time she l e f t ways, her own  person.  elementary  s c h o o l , B was,  i n many  Her u p b r i n g i n g and the experience of  l o o k i n g a f t e r her mother f o s t e r e d a sense of independence and bravado. trust  Success at school v a l i d a t e d her b e l i e f  i n her i n t e l l i g e n c e  and a b i l i t i e s .  and at times, v e r y mature she appeared  and  Poised, c o n f i d e n t ,  w e l l prepared  f o r her  116  t r a n s i t i o n to j u n i o r high.  At the same time her grade 7  year was a poor p r e p a r a t i o n f o r grade 8.  Her t r o u b l e d  t e a c h e r ' s incompetence c r e a t e d an environment which l a c k e d order.  Once again her experience made s e l f r e l i a n c e a  natural option.  The s u r f a c e image that was t a k i n g h o l d  b e l i e d the twelve year o l d that r e s i d e d w i t h i n . I've always been a goody two-shoes on the i n s i d e . know what I mean, I'm j u s t so honest.  You  The Middle B s t a r t e d j u n i o r h i g h w i t h the t y p i c a l apprehensions shared by most grade 8's (bigger k i d s , new t e a c h e r s , situations).  She was s t i l l  unknown  i n French Immersion which meant  she was w i t h many of her f r i e n d s from elementary s c h o o l . While t h i s group p r o v i d e d comfort and s e c u r i t y , certain  i t a l s o had  drawbacks.  We were a rougher crowd than the r e s t of the s c h o o l and t h a t was b i z a r r e cause of course you were the s e l e c t group. I mean there were some, guess you'd c a l l them goody-two-shoes but the r e s t were p r e t t y rough. And, we s t a r t e d the drugs then. I don't know how o r why. I guess cause we always hung around o l d e r k i d s . Of course they were doing i t . With the drugs came a more l a c k a d a i s i c a l approach t o s c h o o l , some s k i p p i n g and r o u t i n e d e t e n t i o n s .  Confronting  t e a c h e r s a l s o s t a r t e d t o become r o u t i n e . I was a troublemaker. I was r e a l l y mouthy, r e a l l y mouthy, v e r y cheeky. I f the teacher was c a u s i n g me some d i s t r e s s I j u s t got v e r y cheeky and i t d i d n ' t matter t o me i f i t was i n f r o n t of everybody o r not, whether i t was a p p r o p r i a t e o r not.  117  Her w i l l i n g n e s s and a b i l i t y t o c o n f r o n t a u t h o r i t y made B a formidable c h a l l e n g e t o any a d u l t .  E x e r c i s i n g t h i s power i n  the classroom had i n e v i t a b l e consequences. Instead of l e t t i n g f l y , I'd make fun o f them. I knew I was i n t e l l i g e n t that way. I f I j u s t y e l l and c a l l them a s s h o l e , i t doesn't do much t o a teacher. But i f you can make them look s t u p i d . Well, I had c o n t r o l of the s i t u a t i o n ( c o n f r o n t a t i o n ) but I s t i l l had t o leave the classroom. A contributing factor  t o B's d i f f i c u l t i e s w i t h a u t h o r i t y  was h e r view of r e s p e c t . I t h i n k f o r me, the problem was most people look up t o t h e i r teachers. For me, I don't t h i n k everybody, I don't care how o l d you are, I mean I don't look down on people who are younger than me and I don't look up t o people who are o l d e r than me. I j u s t t h i n k , you're on the same l e v e l . You should s t a r t there anyway. L i k e , t e a c h e r s , they a l l want r e s p e c t . Right? Well, why should I g i v e i t t o you, i f you, you know, you're not going t o have any f o r me. The academic  t u r m o i l of grade 8 was i n c r e a s e d by unexpected difficulties.  I've always been s o r t of f a i r l y c o n f i d e n t i n my intelligence. But i n Math, I don't understand. When we were doing l i k e A l g e b r a i n grade 6, cause we had a s p e c i a l group, I was f i n e . And then I s t a r t e d t o do A l g e b r a i n grade 8 and I couldn't, I c o u l d n ' t grasp i t and I don't understand cause I used t o be a b l e t o do it. B's d i f f i c u l t i e s  i n math were compounded by h e r impatience.  Normally I l e a r n t h i n g s v e r y q u i c k l y and i f I can't, I don't want t o . L i k e i f I don't get i t the f i r s t time, I don't want t o l e a r n i t . So when we got t o t h a t , my dad and I would j u s t get i n t o arguments because I got back i n t o A l g e b r a and I couldn't do i t . I couldn't understand why. I'd get v e r y mad and f r u s t r a t e d and get mad at him but of course i t wasn't h i s f a u l t . So he stopped t e a c h i n g me.  118  While B was having some d i f f i c u l t i e s  i n the classroom,  s o c i a l l y she was v e r y engaged with s c h o o l l i f e . I was i n band, I was i n c h o i r , I was a tomboy so I p l a y e d a l l the s p o r t s . I was never embarrassed about the t h i n g s that I was i n v o l v e d i n . L i k e , most kidsweren't i n v o l v e d i n band and that k i n d of s t u f f . But I always enjoyed i t . I c o u l d be gay, you know, i t d i d n ' t matter. T h i s exuberance  and "can do" s e n s i b i l i t y was a l s o  p r e v a l e n t at home. Uhm, i n grade 7, I l i e d t o them. So i n grade 8 I r e a l i z e d I can s t i l l do these t h i n g s . They can e v e r y t h i n g which I'm not sure whether i t was a good o r bad t h i n g f o r them. There's the drugs, you know, I smoke, I d r i n k , you know. Hey mom, I had sex. So I t o l d them e v e r y t h i n g . I never h i d a n y t h i n g from them from that p o i n t on. Not much anyway. And you know, l i k e I went out and they s a i d s t a y home, and I went out a l l n i g h t , you know. I would phone and t e l l them where I was, you know, even though I wasn't supposed t o be there. L i k e goody-two-shoes. Hey mom, p i s s on you but here's the phone number where I ' l l be. O v e r a l l , grade 8 turned out t o be a d i f f i c u l t e s p e c i a l l y academically. growing  year,  B's budding s o c i a l l i f e and  disengagement from school was r e f l e c t e d i n h e r  grades. The f i r s t term I got A's and B's. And then the next I got B's and C's. And then I j u s t b a r e l y passed the year. At  the end of grade 8 B decided t o l e a v e French  Immersion and e n r o l l e d i n an E n g l i s h program f o r grade 9. In  September she attended another s c h o o l .  Quick t o make  119  friends,  she soon had access t o a constant supply of f r e e  drugs. Grade nine, we d i d drugs the whole year. I don't remember much of grade 9. We'd smoke i n the morning, at lunch, a l l the time. I t ' s so weird, I don't have t h a t , I mean, I don't see myself as t h a t k i n d of person. In a d d i t i o n t o f u r t h e r disengaging her from s c h o o l , B's drug use seems t o have had a more d e v a s t a t i n g e f f e c t . What's r e a l l y b i z a r r e i s that I used t o be very, very, outgoing i n terms o f , you know I c o u l d go up and s i n g i n f r o n t of people and i t d i d n ' t matter. Like after the drugs t h i n g s s t a r t e d t o change, I know t h a t f o r sure. L i k e grade 8, I s t i l l remember doing a s k i t and being f i n e . I h i t grade 9 and I l o s t i t . I mean I'd g i v e up a percentage of my mark j u s t cause I d i d n ' t want t o say anything. I j u s t remember being, a l l o f a sudden, t h i s person who wouldn't speak i n f r o n t of a group. While  t h i s new f e a r prevented B from s p e a k i n g ' i n f r o n t o f a  group i t d i d n ' t c u r t a i l her behavior. s c h o o l s t a r t e d , she was asked t o l e a v e . painful  Two months a f t e r B remembers i t as a  experience.  Well i n s i d e i t was, I was upset. How c o u l d t h i s happen You know, although I was always a troublemaker, I was always thought of as a f a i r l y good person. But on the o u t s i d e i t was always k i n d of c o o l , you were hanging around w i t h a rough crowd, you got k i c k e d out of s c h o o l , you know. B r e t u r n e d t o the school she had attended the p r e v i o u s year.  At the end of the school year she was, once again,  k i c k e d out.  Academically, grade 9 turned out worse than  grade 8. I f a i l e d two c l a s s e s . I d i d summer s c h o o l . I got 98% i n both c l a s s e s and went on my merry way. And so I was  120 l i k e , w e l l , how come I"can do that and I can't do i t i n school. I t j u s t , you know, b a f f l e d my mind. The  other s i g n i f i c a n t development i n B's l i f e was t h a t  she moved out of her home.  She was 14 years o l d .  The  i n i t i a l move o c c u r r e d when she went t o summer school and d i d n ' t r e s u l t i n any acrimony between B and h e r p a r e n t s . C l a s s e s would be e a s i e r t o a t t e n d i f she stayed at a friend's place.  From t h i s p o i n t on she would move i n and  out of h e r home at w i l l .  Other moves were f i l l e d  with  t e n s i o n and c o n f l i c t . I mean i t wasn't them (parents). I t h i n k i t ' s j u s t , you know, the arrogant a t t i t u d e . Conquering the world. A teenager. I know e v e r y t h i n g . And they d i d n ' t have much c o n t r o l . Cause I f i g u r e d out, they t e l l me I'm . grounded, I go out. More grounding, I mean ground me t i l l I'm dead, who c a r e s . By the time she had f i n i s h e d grade 9, B was beyond the c o n t r o l of any a d u l t i n her l i f e . adult r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s ,  Though she had managed  she l a c k e d the p a t i e n c e ,  p e r s p e c t i v e , and s e n s i b i l i t y that sometimes come with age. What she c o u l d do f o r her mother she c o u l d not do f o r herself.  Though many teachers  tolerate i n class.  l i k e d her,  she was hard t o  Her i n t e l l i g e n c e and s k i l l s were a p a l e  s u b s t i t u t e f o r emotional  m a t u r i t y and s e c u r i t y .  Her  independence and s e l f - r e l i a n c e , which helped h e r t o cope a t home and t h r i v e at school  (when she a p p l i e d h e r s e l f )  c o n t r i b u t e d t o h e r a b i l i t y and w i l l i n g n e s s t o c o n f r o n t .  At  a time when she was d e s p e r a t e l y i n need of guidance, she was on h e r own.  Lacking d i r e c t i o n , her energies were r e g u l a r l y  121  misspent and and  belonging  o f t e n r e s u l t e d i n f o r c e d change. that comes w i t h a p r e d i c t a b l e ,  environment never m a t e r i a l i z e d . the c o o l , c o n t r o l l e d veneer and her was  widening.  she was  l o s i n g her p u b l i c v o i c e .  The  The  security  safe  Over time the gap  between  the goody-two-shoes i n s i d e  Most f r i g h t e n i n g and  d e b i l i t a t i n g of a l l ,  End B went to another school  f o r grade 10.  She  stayed  for  4 days. I don't know why I had ever e n r o l l e d . I skated on a team. So we were c l o s e . A l o t of them went there so t h a t ' s why I thought I ' d go. But, o u t s i d e of s k a t i n g I d i d n ' t r e a l l y have much i n common w i t h them. Even though she had been k i c k e d out to her o l d  i n grade 9,  B  returned  school.  The p r i n c i p a l r e a l l y l i k e d me, even though I was a troublemaker. And I went back and pleaded my case. L i k e , you know, I was a l l gung-ho i n doing school and being so good. You always s t a r t out that way. You've got your notebook, you know. T h i s time around there was  a marked improvement i n her  behavior, although her s p i r i t  seemed to be  withering.  I wasn't as mouthy or cheeky. I was more shy, I was more r e f i n e d . L i k e I wasn't, no, not r e f i n e d , more strong. I'm not sure i f the drugs d i d that to me or what, but I wouldn't speak i n f r o n t of my c l a s s e s anymore. I d i d n ' t r a i s e , you know, any t r o u b l e cause I was too shy. But my grades were h o r r i b l e . Part way She  can't  through the year B was remember how  moved to another  i t came about, but  school.  i t wasn't  her  122  decision.  I t was the f i f t h time she had changed  s i n c e she l e f t  schools  elementary s c h o o l .  At her new s c h o o l , B a p p l i e d h e r s e l f and made i t on the honor r o l e f o r the next r e p o r t i n g p e r i o d .  She couldn't  r e c a l l why she had suddenly found more success other  than  the f a c t that she d i d n ' t have any e s t a b l i s h e d f r i e n d s h i p s . Her  success d i d n ' t  last.  It's r e a l l y stupid. One day I wanted t o go home, I was not f e e l i n g w e l l o r whatever. I s a i d , you know, I'm going t o go home. And he says, no you're not. And I s a i d , yeah, I'm going home. And he s a i d , i f you go home, you can't come back. And I went home and I never came back. I t ' s r e a l l y s t u p i d . L i k e even then I knew i t was s t u p i d . But I wasn't angry. You know, oh f i n e , t h a t ' s your d e c i s i o n . I can move t o another s c h o o l . That's when I dropped out. Then I moved out, again. B's  p r o c e s s of disengagement from school  i s i n some  ways the s t o r y of her u n b r i d l e d independence.  A logical  extension  of her home and school  experience, her s e l f -  r e l i a n c e became a l i a b i l i t y as she moved i n t o the c o n f u s i o n of adolescence.  Though she c o u l d a d j u s t  achieve academically, Not  s o c i a l l y , and  she never l e a r n e d t o t r u s t adequately.  s i n c e her short s t a y i n grade 5 had she encountered an  educator whose d i r e c t i o n she would accept. was much more d i f f i c u l t put  Trusting  than r e l i n q u i s h i n g c o n t r o l .  others As she  i t , "I always have t o be i n c o n t r o l but I don't t h i n k I  l i k e being  controlling".  The more c o n t r o l that she mustered  the l e s s able she was of t a k i n g d i r e c t i o n .  A l i e n a t e d by  circumstance and b l i n d e d by the i l l u s i o n of her own  123  omnipotence, she managed t o s t a y at the wheel u n t i l she drove her s h i p ashore. Commentary. B's disengagement from school i s r o o t e d i n her premature independence, her parent's d i f f i c u l t i e s , substantial a b i l i t i e s .  Elementary  and h e r  school p r o v i d e d h e r w i t h  e x p e r i e n c e s o f success and f e e l i n g s of i n s e c u r i t y . former  The  she took f o r granted; the l a t t e r she t r i e d t o  overcome.  T h i s imbalance  between her academic  accomplishments and her emotional needs was c o m p l i c a t e d by her mother's a l c o h o l i s m , her f a t h e r ' s d e n i a l of the problem, and h e r p a r e n t ' s i n a c c e s s i b i l i t y .  These f a c t o r s f o s t e r e d a  l e v e l o f c o n f i d e n c e and competence that was f a l s e , u n s u s t a i n a b l e and w e l l beyond her emotional  development.  Before she s t a r t e d h i g h school B had developed an intolerance f o r personal f a i l u r e , daunting,  an independence t h a t was  and a sense of a d u l t s as her equals.  keeper and h e r f a t h e r ' s l i t t l e g i r l ,  Her mother's  she e n t e r e d  adolescence  u n f e t t e r e d and unguided. Alone,  i n charge,  with a c t i v i t y .  and confused,  she f i l l e d  the v o i d  When drugs were a v a i l a b l e she took them, as  sex became p o s s i b l e she p a r t i c i p a t e d , and i f t e a c h e r s bothered h e r she c o n f r o n t e d them. not engaged. difficulties  Though a c t i v e ,  she was  Very capable, she was s t a r t i n g t o f a i l . i n math added t o B's f r u s t r a t i o n while  d i s t a n c i n g h e r from her f a t h e r .  Her  further  The many school changes  added t o the sense of being groundless and s t a r t e d t o sap  124  her  spirit.  As the meaninglessness i n c r e a s e d  she became  more a l i e n a t e d and u n c h a r a c t e r i s t i c a l l y s i l e n t .  By the time  she dropped out, l e a v i n g made as much sense as s t a y i n g .  125  Chapter 10 Case Study 7: M I can o n l y remember bad t h i n g s when I was girl.  a little  I had so many i d e a s and I was j u s t walking around and t h e r e was a smile on my face and me and my mom were always so good to each o t h e r . I can remember my mom hugging me and h o l d i n g me and t e l l i n g me she was always going t o be there f o r me. And then when I h i t n i n e , n o t h i n g mattered anymore. I always wanted t o be so c a l l e d normal. Have a normal l i f e , a normal house, a normal dog, and a normal family. But i t doesn't ever work out anymore. Don't get m a r r i e d i f you're going t o get d i v o r c e d . Don't have c h i l d r e n i f you can't take care of y o u r s e l f . You know. I don't want f u c k i n g k i d s . I don't want t o b r i n g somebody i n t o t h i s h e l l - h o l e when I don't even want t o be here. I'm at the p o i n t i n my l i f e where I'm not going to go out and meet people because I don't r e a l l y enjoy being h u r t . I don't r e a l l y have the p a t i e n c e to go through a l l the b u l l s h i t w i t h people and I t h i n k my l i f e has made me that way. I have no f r i e n d s now. Not one. I've got a b o y f r i e n d . I've got my mother. I've got a c o u s i n . And t h a t ' s i t . That's a l l the people I ever t a l k t o . I t ' s p r e t t y f u c k i n g lame at 16 years o l d , you know. I f e e l l i k e I'm f u c k i n g 4 0 o r something. Introduction L i s t e n i n g t o M's l i f e was  s t o r y was  a numbing e x p e r i e n c e .  Her  so r i d d l e d w i t h u g l i n e s s , c r u e l t y , and p a i n that  s e v e r a l o c c a s i o n s I caught myself withdrawing from the interview.  T h i s attempt to p r o t e c t myself by r e t r e a t i n g ,  m i r r o r s i n some ways, M's  e f f o r t s to cope w i t h her  When the i n s a n i t y that was her l i f e  s t a r t e d to s p i l l  s c h o o l , she r e a c t e d by e s c a p i n g to the s t r e e t . the  life. into  Running  s t r e e t was more than the l a s t step i n her p r o c e s s of  to  on  126  disengagement from s c h o o l , i t was act  p r i m a r i l y , the n e c e s s a r y  of a c h i l d t r y i n g t o s h i e l d h e r s e l f from an  unbearable  existence. M e n t e r e d the world as the f i r s t single,  17-year-old mother.  the pregnancy little  and o n l y c h i l d of a  O s t r a c i z e d by her p a r e n t s over  and a l r e a d y a v i c t i m of i n c e s t , M's  more t o o f f e r than good i n t e n t i o n s .  these were l a c k i n g .  Caught up i n her own  mother had  At times even problems and  d r i v e n by her u n f u l f i l l e d needs, she would o f t e n f a i l n u r t u r e or even p r o t e c t her daughter. Born i n t o l i m i t i n g household,  to  this  the n o t i o n of a t t e n d i n g s c h o o l , l e t  alone l e a r n i n g , o f t e n presented i t s e l f as a c r u e l hoax t o M. For  a b r i e f p e r i o d of time, she appeared t o have a chance t o  s u r v i v e i n the system. lived.  T h i s p o s s i b i l i t y though,  In the end disengagement was  was  short  more of a n e c e s s i t y  than a c h o i c e . The  Beginning • M's  e a r l i e s t memory i s of a near death e x p e r i e n c e .  She  and her mother were at C i r c u s C i r c u s i n Los Vegas. I was f l o a t i n g with my c o u s i n and I was i n one of those tubes and I wedged o f f and I f l o a t e d a l l the way t o the bottom, or I sunk a l l the way t o the bottom. And I couldn't breathe and my c o u s i n swam down and got me. He saved my l i f e cause my mom d i d n ' t know how t o swim. She was j u s t screaming. I t was so weird. In  many ways, t h i s a v o i d a b l e i n c i d e n t captured the f l a v o r of  what l i f e  and s c h o o l had t o o f f e r  M.  My second memory was when I was molested. I t was my mom's b o y f r i e n d ' s l i t t l e b r o t h e r . He was a teenager. 1  127 I don't know I always looked a t him l i k e , l i k e f a m i l y or something. Cause I grew up w i t h my mom's b o y f r i e n d s . I c a l l e d him dad and e v e r y t h i n g . And I d i d n ' t t e l l anybody cause he was l i k e f a m i l y . And I d i d n ' t r e a l l y understand a t the time what was going on. And I f o r g o t i t . And then I saw him ( s e v e r a l y e a r s l a t e r ) and the memory came back. M was i n grade 1 when she r e c a l l e d the event. Her memory was t r i g g e r e d by a v i s i t mom's o l d b o y f r i e n d . still she  she and her mother p a i d t o  Though she r e c a l l e d the  i n c i d e n t , she  d i d n ' t a t t a c h any meaning o r s i g n i f i c a n c e t o i t . When  s t a r t e d kindergarten  typical  then, M acted  i n many ways l i k e a  child.  I remember walking i n the doors w i t h my l u n c h k i t and smelling glue. We always used glue, that white paste s t u f f . You had t o use p o p s i c l e s t i c k s t o do i t and macaroni's and s t u f f l i k e t h a t . I j u s t remember that i t was a fun time i n my l i f e Grade 1 was even b e t t e r . care,  Here she encountered a l e v e l o f  compassion and competence that she had never known. She was my f a v o r i t e teacher ever. And, we would have to p r a y on our desk before we s t a r t e d work. And, a t the end of ..the year, we a l l went t o her house and she made us b o u i l l o n . And I l e a r n e d what a "couple" and what a "few" meant. She was always i n t e r e s t e d i n , i n everything. We d i d a p r o j e c t w i t h c h i c k s and they were a l l running around and e v e r y t h i n g . When I l e f t there, she sent me a Christmas card.  In a d d i t i o n t o being k i n d and g i v i n g , her grade 1 teacher a l s o p i c k e d up on M's academic needs. She put me i n t o l e a r n i n g a s s i s t a n c e c l a s s because I was not r e a l l y a l l there. For my reading and s t u f f . Cause I j u s t wasn't i n t e r e s t e d i n doing i t .  128  Two weeks i n t o grade 2 M changed s c h o o l s .  She  remembered i t as a d i s o r i e n t i n g e x p e r i e n c e . They moved me t o JR. JR was l i k e lower c l a s s compared to HS and a l l my f r i e n d s from HS d i d n ' t l i k e me any more cause I went t o JR. And everybody at JR c a l l e d me a snob cause I was from HS. ( S a r c a s t i c a l l y ) So I had l i k e , j u s t so much f u n i n grade 2. M d i d not a d j u s t q u i c k l y .  What s t a r t e d out as  d i s o r i e n t a t i o n ended up as f e a r .  (  I got s c a r e d when I went there cause HS was l i k e , a l l the r i c h k i d s went t h e r e . Like, a l l Persian k i t t i e s and I mean everybody l i v e d i n t h a t , that area, everybody had t h e i r own houses and, and you c o u l d walk to your f r i e n d s house and I mean i t was j u s t a t o t a l l y d i f f e r e n t atmosphere and then when I went t o JR everybody was l i k e , you know, p l a y i n g w i t h f i r e and g e t t i n g i n t o t r o u b l e and, you know, smoking. I mean i t was j u s t too much. In time M would a d j u s t .  Whatever " P e r s i a n k i t t e n "  a s p i r a t i o n s she had soon vanished. a t t e n d s c h o o l from the s t a r t ,  P o o r l y prepared t o  she now found h e r s e l f i n an  environment where b e i n g an a t t e n t i v e student was frowned upon by many of her peers.  While numerous e x p e r i e n c e s would  play a part i n t h i s t r a n s i t i o n ,  the s i n g l e most  significant  event o c c u r r e d when she was nine. The Middle Alone f o r some time, M's mother r e t u r n e d home one day w i t h a new b o y f r i e n d .  She had met him at a H e l l ' s Angels  party. She s t a r t e d going out w i t h t h i s b i k e r guy. And I t o l d my mom I don't l i k e him. He's weird. Even from the v e r y beginning, the v e r y moment I met him I knew t h e r e was something wrong. And she never r e a l l y l i s t e n e d t o  129 me about i t and then, and then the guy's screwing me. But, I k i n d of blame my mom f o r i t I t h i n k . I t would take 2 years f o r the court system t o address the  assault.  Both the event and the due p r o c e s s of law had  a d e v a s t a t i n g e f f e c t on M.  At school, i t a f f e c t e d h e r  a b i l i t y to learn. Ever s i n c e I was molested I had problems, ever s i n c e I was molested I've had problems i n s c h o o l . My grades slipped. B i g time s l i p p e d . Whoosh. You know, i n s u b j e c t s I was normally good a t . Uhm, my l a c k o f c o n c e n t r a t i o n , my l a c k of t r u s t . Socially,  s t o r i e s about the abuse turned h e r i n t o a  freak. I guess i t got around that I was molested and I walked i n t o the g i r l s ' bathroom and these g i r l s were t a l k i n g about i t . And I was s t i l l i n elementary [ s c h o o l ] . I t was embarrassing. Even the p r o c e s s of going t o therapy had i t s p r i c e , e s p e c i a l l y w i t h her peers. I remember him [the t h e r a p i s t ] g i v i n g me bubble gum. But I was always d i f f e r e n t a f t e r t h a t . And I was l i k e , every s i n g l e time I remember I was l i k e "Why do I have to go mom'? I'm okay, I'm normal." You know. But I knew I wasn't. But I d i d n ' t want t o , I d i d n ' t want t o wait i n t h i s o f f i c e with these c r a z y people, you know. I f e l t c r a z y . And at s c h o o l l i k e , i t was always, where are you going, M? No where. Well why do you always leave s c h o o l at two, you know, two h a l f hours e a r l y every [week]? Because. Well because why? Fuck you! And t h a t ' s why I s t a r t e d f i g h t i n g . Because people were always p r y i n g . People always wanted t o know e v e r y t h i n g about me. On a broader s c a l e , the experience took from M any v e s t i g e s of innocence that  remained.  Yeah. Yeah. When I, when I was nine, t h a t ' s when I r e a l i z e d that the system was not t h e r e t o p r o t e c t you.  130  The system i s there t o fuck you over. That's when I knew that I had no reason t o l i v e because, because they say that they're there t o help and p r o t e c t you, why do they l e t these t h i n g s happen t o you then? L i k e my mother! She s a i d she was there t o h e l p me and p r o t e c t me. Why'd that happen t o me then. There i s no excuses. I don't care what anyone says. I t should not have happened but i t d i d anyway. So who's t o blame. Sure as fuck not me! I was j u s t a t o t a l d i f f e r e n t person. In school I mean, I f e l t o l d e r than the r e s t of my peers because I, I mean I had a l r e a d y gone t o c o u r t , I'd a l r e a d y , you know. The process of j u s t i c e added t o and prolonged h e r p a i n . Even those who t r i e d  t o help ended up t r a u m a t i z i n g h e r .  I t was h e l l . I t was h e l l . Well, I, okay I remember, these a r e the memories I have about that whole scenario. Okay. My f i r s t Pap t e s t when I was nine y e a r s o l d . I'm s i t t i n g i n the h o s p i t a l f o r hours and hours. Uhm, s i t t i n g i n the p o l i c e s t a t i o n because he t h r e a t e n e d t o blow our heads o f f . Being at s c h o o l and b e i n g taken away from hop-scotch and s k i p p i n g because t h e r e was a man of h i s d e s c r i p t i o n around the playground and I wasn't allowed t o be o u t s i d e because he had threatened that he was going t o chop o f f my f i n g e r s and my tongue. At a time when she most needed people the world abandoned her. grandparents  Rather than moving t o support her, M's  r e a c t e d with shame and concern about  the f a m i l y  name. And my grandparents t o l d her [my mother] t o put i t i n the c l o s e t . You know, keep i t i n the c l o s e t . And i t was h e l l , with my f a m i l y . And they were a l l embarrassed because of i t and my mother's f r i e n d s were embarrassed. The b i g g e s t hurt though, came from h e r mother.  Once  again, M's needs took on a secondary r o l e t o h e r mother's needs.  The experience l e f t M f e e l i n g alone and abandoned.  Well my mom brought her f r i e n d s t o c o u r t and I hated her f o r t h a t . Fucking hated her f o r that because I d i d not want them t h e r e . Hey man I had t o s p i l l my g u t s .  131  Why should she b r i n g her f u c k i n g f r i e n d s . But i t was an open courtroom so anybody c o u l d go. H i s f a m i l y was there. The guy's f a m i l y who molested me was t h e r e . So, whatever. That was f i n e , my mom s a i d she needed her support too. Nobody f u c k i n g cared about me, you know. I know that the n i g h t that i t happened my c o u s i n was c r y i n g , Diane (mom's f r i e n d ) was c r y i n g . My mom was c r y i n g . I was j u s t s i t t i n g there. L i k e , why i s everyone c r y i n g . I t d i d n ' t happen t o them, i t f u c k i n g happened t o me. That's why I got t h i s rage. I was sad f o r grade 5 and I was a good l i t t l e g i r l because I was s c a r e d f o r my l i f e too. Because he was t h r e a t e n i n g t o k i l l us. Even though her l i f e was i n t u r m o i l , M managed t o s u r v i v e grade 5. went t o c o u r t .  Near the end of her grade 5 year the case  Between the end of her court case and the  s t a r t of grade 6, M entered  puberty.  Accompanying h e r  p h y s i o l o g i c a l change was a profound s h i f t  i n attitude.  L i k e grade 6, you know, I got my f i r s t bra, I got my p e r i o d , I was going t o be a r e a l woman now, r i g h t . So I had t o a c t l i k e a r e a l woman. I had t o do r e a l woman things. And I j u s t changed the way I looked at l i f e p r e t t y much. Grade 6, t h a t ' s when I got my f i r s t b o y f r i e n d and I s t a r t e d f e e l i n g grown up. The  q u i e t and withdrawn M of grade 5 was now  w i t h contempt and rage. new ones. had  filled  She dropped o l d f r i e n d s ' and made  She was no longer an o u t s i d e r i n the school  that  once f r i g h t e n e d her. I remember I got i n t o a l o t of f i g h t s . I was g e t t i n g i n t o f i g h t s l i k e a l l the time, a l l the time. And I was j u s t "So f u c k i n g what! You going t o suspend me? Fuck you! You're going t o do t h i s , you're going t o do t h a t , go f u c k i n g ahead. B i g f u c k i n g d e a l . " You know. That was my whole outlook. I t was j u s t l i k e "So f u c k i n g what! I don't care." And that p i s s e d them o f f r e a l bad.  Her  b e h a v i o r generated a l i t a n y of d e t e n t i o n s and  suspensions.  M's metamorphosis though was not y e t complete.  132  As  the year wore on she became i n c r e a s i n g l y p r e o c c u p i e d w i t h  sex. I thought, everyone i n t h i s world o n l y t h i n k s about sex. And then I s t a r t e d screwing around w i t h everyone because I thought that t h a t ' s how I got a t t e n t i o n . I l o s t my v i r g i n i t y w i l l i n g l y when I was 12. T remember t e l l i n g my mom "Mom I l o s t my v i r g i n i t y l a s t n i g h t . " She was d r i n k i n g , ah, I know, t h i s i s so tacky but she was d r i n k i n g t h i s d r i n k at Knight and Day and she had a c h e r r y i n i t , and she says "Do you want your c h e r r y back?" And I was l i k e "Oh oh." I was dead, (laughing) My mom always r a i s e d me t o t e l l her everything. When they got home her mother responded by grounding M f o r her  sexual  activity.  Her mother's e r r a t i c responses were  p a r t o f a long e s t a b l i s h e d p a t t e r n . Family l i f e sucked because my mom always had d i f f e r e n t b o y f r i e n d s and i t was never s t a b l e . We were always moving and I r e a l l y hated i t , because i t seemed l i k e every year o r every couple of years there would be a new guy and he'd be i n there t e l l i n g me what t o do Part of M's d i f f i c u l t y was that she would become attached  t o these men o n l y t o be abandoned by them.  absence of a b o y f r i e n d M's mother i n c r e a s e d  In the  the hurt and  p a i n i n her daughter's l i f e as she behaved b r u t a l l y towards  She was c r a z y . She'd t r e a t me l i k e s h i t because I was the c l o s e s t person t o her. She'd l i k e , throw e v e r y t h i n g around the house and scream and y e l l and "What the fuck are you l o o k i n g a t ? " I'd c r y and I'd run t o my room. I'd be scared and e v e r y t h i n g . She was abusive, not s e x u a l l y but v e r b a l l y , e m o t i o n a l l y . But I d i d n ' t know, I d i d n ' t r e a l l y see i t then. I thought i t was normal. I thought everyone d i d t h a t . I didn't know t h a t they d i d n ' t . And I got spankings s i n c e I was little. I got the b e l t . The b e l t r e a l l y h u r t . I d i d n ' t t h i n k that was very f a i r .  133  On the o t h e r hand, M's home was o f t e n unpleasant  even  when her mother was with a man. My mom was v i o l e n t w i t h her b o y f r i e n d s . L i k e , I remember w i t h Mike, they were f i g h t i n g and she had one of those butcher knives, those square ones, and she s l i c e d him on the face, l i k e , on the forehead. And he had a b i g cut across h i s forehead and that s c a r e d me so bad. I was l i k e s i x o r seven. That was the f i r s t v i o l e n c e . I ever saw. And then there was Gord. Gord was l i k e an a l c o h o l i c . Gord was a b i k e r . And then my mom got v i o l e n t with him and i t was a nuthouse t h a t we're l i v i n g i n . They were f i g h t i n g and I was t h e r e and umh, my mom took s c i s s o r s . She grabbed a n y t h i n g she c o u l d see, l i k e , and I was s t a n d i n g r i g h t t h e r e and she stabbed him. Right i n the v e i n [ p o i n t i n g at her w r i s t ] there and b l o o d s q u i r t e d out everywhere and i t got on me and on the door. And I was so s c a r e d and I was c a l l i n g the cops and s t u f f but everyone got mad a t me, and the phone got broken. Gord was w i t h my mom when I got molested. Then I saw my mom stab somebody e l s e , I t h i n k i t was Leroy. Leroy beat the f u c k i n g s h i t out o f my mother. Leroy was an e c s t a s y head. Leroy was the guy who s t a l k e d me and my mother. When she turned 12 M responded friend.  Between grade  6 and grade  by moving i n w i t h a 8 she moved back and  f o r t h between her mom's house and her f r i e n d ' s house.  She  went t o s e v e r a l d i f f e r e n t s c h o o l s d u r i n g t h i s p e r i o d .  M  r e c a l l s t h i s p e r i o d of her l i f e w i t h c h a r a c t e r i s t i c frankness. My mom l e t me l i v e [at my f r i e n d s ] because she knew I was growing up, I needed some freedom. But I wish I never moved t h e r e . I don't know, I k i n d of wish I was never born. I fucked up a l o t . I got taken advantage of a l o t . By the time she reached the end of elementary was w e l l on the way t o h i t t i n g the s t r e e t . h u m i l i a t e d throughout  school M  B r u t a l i z e d and  her e a r l i e r years she had l e a r n e d t o  l a s h out, almost h a b i t u a l l y .  By grade  6 she t e r r o r i z e d  134  those who f e a r e d her, and f r u s t r a t e d and i n f u r i a t e d the few who might have helped her.  L i f e at home added t o M's  d i f f i c u l t i e s and hardened her r e s o l v e t o l i v e f o r the moment.  With no f u t u r e o r i e n t a t i o n , the purpose and meaning  of s c h o o l escaped her.  Academically,  she was so f a r behind  her peers t h a t she couldn't manage t o r i s k making an e f f o r t . At the same time she was d e s p e r a t e l y alone.  Physically  mature and e m o t i o n a l l y s t a r v e d she used her body t o f i n d human c o n t a c t .  Soon, t h i s e f f o r t t o cope would a l s o be  undermined. The End M was 12 years o l d when she s t a r t e d h i g h s c h o o l .  Near  the end of grade 7 she had convinced her mother t o s i g n h e r up f o r a new experimental  program i n September.  s c h o o l was t r y i n g out a p i l o t p r o j e c t school) with about 60 grade 8's.  (a school w i t h i n a  M wanted t o a t t e n d because  she l i k e d the i d e a of going on the " b i g f i e l d scheduled  The h i g h  f o r e a r l y i n the school year.  trip"  (Secondary s c h o o l  c o u n s e l l o r s had e x p l a i n e d t h i s when they promoted the new program i n feeder elementary schools the p r e v i o u s May/June). She  a l s o l i k e d the i d e a of being with t h i s group o f people,  though she f e l t out of p l a c e from the s t a r t . They were a l l k i n d of j u s t , d i f f e r e n t , not l i k e me. They were j u s t l i k e "good g r a c i o u s " . L i k e , you know, they were a l l j u s t l i k e normal. You know, l i k e the people t h a t went there had l i k e , good f a m i l i e s and s t u f f l i k e t h a t , that wanted them t o l i k e , you know, go far. That was how i t was. So I wanted t o go cause I wanted t o f i t i n with that good crowd and e v e r y t h i n g , right.  135  In p a r t t h i s d i f f e r e n c e had t o do w i t h the a t y p i c a l f e a r that M c a r r i e d w i t h her d a i l y .  While most grade 8's were  concerned about the t r a n s i t i o n t o h i g h school, M's was a deeper, more permanent a l l encompassing f e a r . V i o l e n c e , t h a t ' s a l l I've ever been scared of was v i o l e n c e , being beaten up, o r pushed around, o r anything. Just abuse. That's a l l , t h a t ' s a l l I ever thought o f . I d i d n ' t care i f I had f r i e n d s o r not. As long as they d i d n ' t beat me up I was f i n e . She  was a l s o out of sync i n terms of her s o c i a l mores.  When, d u r i n g teacher  the f i e l d t r i p she was c h a s t i s e d by a female  f o r her overly provocative  swim a t t i r e , M responded  by s t r i p p i n g . I seem t o remember t h i s i n c i d e n t l i k e i t was y e s t e r d a y because i t p i s s e d me o f f so bad. I was wearing a b l a c k body s u i t and i t looked e x a c t l y l i k e a b a t h i n g s u i t but i t wasn't. And I was more developed than the r e s t o f the g i r l s . And t h i s one teacher p u l l e d me a s i d e and t o l d me t h a t , l i k e probably I should put on a j a c k e t because the boys were young and they've got hormones r a g i n g and t h i s and t h a t , and I t o l d h e r " i t ' s not my fault". And I, I've j u s t been secluded l i k e , taken out of the group, l i k e I f e e l l i k e an a l i e n . L i k e a l l my l i f e I've f e l t l i k e an a l i e n because people made me f e e l l i k e an a l i e n . So I ended up t a k i n g a l l my c l o t h e s o f f and jumping i n the lake, j u s t t o p i s s them off. In what was becoming a t y p i c a l f a s h i o n , M's response simultaneously  drew complete a t t e n t i o n t o her and p a i n t e d  her as odd. Her mother echoed t h i s oddness by complaining to the school board that her daughter had caught "a bad c o l d " as a r e s u l t of the teacher's  behavior.  In c l a s s M  136  stood out because of her s p o r a d i c attendance  and h e r obvious  indifference. I wasn't there a l o t and I walked i n t o math c l a s s and I never brung anything with me and I never d i d a n y t h i n g . I j u s t walked t o the back of room and s a t down and put my f e e t up on the desk and they're a l l l i k e "Oh, what's your name? l i k e they d i d n ' t even know me. Outside of s c h o o l , M was a l s o out of c o n t r o l . environment  Her home  (she was once again l i v i n g w i t h a f r i e n d )  o f f e r e d no d i r e c t i o n o r guidance.  M described her f r i e n d ' s  mother as a woman whose "eyes were c l o s e d " .  Given  free  r e i g n M d i d as she p l e a s e d even though i t f r i g h t e n e d h e r . L i k e once I s t a r t e d g e t t i n g i n t o l i k e sex and drugs (at h i g h s c h o o l ) , l i k e , whoa, I'm fucked up, you know. I don't know how t o r e a c t t o anything. Because I s t a r t e d g e t t i n g myself i n t o t h i n g s I couldn't n e c e s s a r i l y get myself out of and i t scared me. J u s t drugs and the people I was hanging out with, j u s t low l i v e s . People who were a l o t o l d e r than me and knew a h e l l o f a l o t more than I d i d and c o u l d persuade me i n t o a n y t h i n g . L i k e s t u p i d t h i n g s I would never have done on my own. L i k e smoking i n the hallways. Things s t a r t e d b e i n g l i k e , l e t ' s see i f we get caught. And i t was j u s t e x c i t i n g and s t u f f . As h e r l i f e  continued t o spin.out of c o n t r o l she  s t a r t e d t o d r i f t i n t o a meaner and u g l i e r  world.  I s t a r t e d hanging around w i t h t h i s c h i c k and h e r and her b o y f r i e n d jumped people f o r t h e i r s t u f f . So I was s t a r t i n g t o jump people f o r t h e i r t h i n g s , and l i k e , we had k n i v e s and s t u f f . And I remember t h i s one k i d . We f o l l o w e d him from Metrotown. He was walking and i t was so sad because i t was a brand new j a c k e t and I remember him c r y i n g and he was probably l i k e my age now (16) and he was c r y i n g and he was "please don't, I j u s t got t h i s j a c k e t y e s t e r d a y " . And I was l i k e , h o l y fuck, I a c t u a l l y d i d t h a t . You know. L i k e i t made a b i g d i f f e r e n c e i n somebody's l i f e . And I f e l t so bad actually. I t was j u s t l i k e , power. Soon the u g l i n e s s that she was l i v i n g turned on h e r .  137  I was 12 r i g h t . I t o l d my mom that I was going t o a movie w i t h a f r i e n d or something and then I went t o t h i s guy's house and he got me r e a l l y f u c k i n g stoned and I was j u s t t o t a l l y out of i t r i g h t . And a l l of a sudden there are three of them and I was w i t h one of my g i r l f r i e n d s but she had t o go home. So she l e f t and I was j u s t by myself w i t h these three guys and I j u s t thought, they're teenagers, they won't be a b l e t o do n o t h i n g to me. And they were j u s t l i k e , they j u s t jumped on me and they wouldn't l e t me go. And I kept t h i n k i n g l i k e , what happened". And I got my c l o t h e s on and I ran andran and I took a bus and when I got home q u i c k l y had a shower. And my mom's l i k e "What's wrong w i t h you"?. "Nothing don't worry about i t " . Right, l i k e what a weird n i g h t . M's  a s s a i l a n t s were 16 and 17 year o l d s who  her h i g h s c h o o l . concern about  attended  Proximity, r a t h e r than c a u s i n g them any  t h e i r behavior, seemed t o i n v i t e more of i t .  They'd always come up t o me [at school] and l i k e "Hey M, how's i t going. What are you doing a f t e r s c h o o l . L e t ' s go t o the m a l l " . I was so s c a r e d of them and t h i s l a s t e d f o r 2 months. They'd j u s t f o l l o w me everywhere. And rape me, r e g u l a r l y . And I was j u s t too i n s e c u r e and I was, I couldn't t e l l no one because I c o u l d n ' t b e l i e v e that t h i s was happening t o me a g a i n . They would take me wherever and i t would happen. I was raped by f o u r d i f f e r e n t guys. I c o u l d go t o c o u r t again, t h a t ' s why I d i d n ' t t e l l anybody.  M t r a n s f e r r e d to, another school a f t e r being asked t o l e a v e due  t o her s k i p p i n g .  Though attendance had been a  d i f f i c u l t y ever s i n c e she s t a r t e d s c h o o l , s k i p p i n g out now  a l s o a means of p r o t e c t i n g h e r s e l f .  f i n d her they couldn't rape her.  I f they c o u l d n ' t  After transferring,  attended t h r e e h i g h s c h o o l s over the next 2 months. t h e r e she went to l i v e on the s t r e e t .  was  M From  M informed her mother  138  about the rapes 3 years l a t e r when she was h o s p i t l a i z e d after a suicide  attempt.  Commentary. Though her s t o r y i s horrendous,  M process of l e a v i n g  school i s r e l a t i v e l y straightforward. r o o t e d i n her h o m e l i f e .  Disengagement i s  Grounded i n a r a d i c a l l y  different  ethos, the s c h o o l ' s r o l e i n M's disengagement i s c o n f i n e d l a r g e l y t o an i n a b i l i t y t o r e d r e s s long s t a n d i n g f a m i l y difficulties. Born t o a mother whose own needs were always p l a c e d above her daughter's, disadvantage. security, abuse.  M started l i f e  with a d i s t i n c t  Not o n l y d i d her home f a i l  t o p r o v i d e any  i t was a l s o the source of her ongoing  n e g l e c t and  By the time she was nine, M had concluded t h a t her  mother c o u l d not be t r u s t e d , that people she c a l l e d "dad" did to  not stay, and t h a t the world was, at best, her p l i g h t .  Still  i n grade 3, M was bewildered,  groundless, and without guidance. hope f i l l e d her days. orientation, for  emotional  activity.  indifferent  Confusion r a t h e r than  Lacking anything a k i n t o a f u t u r e  she ended up l i v i n g f o r the moment.  c o n t a c t , she g r a v i t a t e d toward sexual  As she entered puberty,  her body became a  commodity and rage became an ever present emotion. unacceptable  activity  (skipping, s t e a l i n g ,  consciousness of her l i v e d experience. and completely s e l f - r e l i a n t ,  Frenetic  i n t i m i d a t i n g ) as  w e l l as sex and drugs o f f e r e d the best defense  afraid,  Longing  against a  Alone, c o n s t a n t l y  she became i n c r e a s i n g l y  139  i n c a p a b l e of a c c e p t i n g d i r e c t i o n o r h e l p .  Pessimism had  replaced confusion.  i n which she  When the amoral world  spent most of h e r time turned on her, M s t a r t e d t o become desperate.  A v i c t i m i n her home and an a l i e n i n the world  of s c h o o l , she d r i f t e d t o the comatose comfort street.  of the  140  Chapter  11  Case Study 8: S Everything I brought me up t h a t and I've d i d the best  can remember has been good. My mom's w i t h morals and b e l i e f s and s t u f f l i k e done church when I was younger. My mom that she c o u l d .  When my b r o t h e r ' s dad was around, he d e a l t , d e a l t weed and s t u f f l i k e t h a t . That was, I remember when I was a l i t t l e k i d , l i k e when I was three or f o u r y e a r s o l d , f i v e y e a r s o l d t h a t , I'd pass the j o i n t around the room, you know. L i k e , I remember i t , l i t t l e t h i n g s l i k e f i l l i n g up a g l a s s with smoke on the c o f f e e t a b l e right. Having the g l a s s turned upside down, doing a hot k n i f e of hash i n t o the g l a s s or something l i k e t h a t and then sucking i t out of the g l a s s . I remember l i t t l e things l i k e that. They'd g i v e me the j o i n t t o pass around the room. I t ' d be l i k e here S, hand t h i s over to so and so across the room. And my b a b y - s i t t e r s would smoke i t and s t u f f l i k e t h a t . My mom d i d n ' t l i k e that and t h a t ' s why I t h i n k they d i v o r c e d . I t ' s kind of been a l i f e s t y l e . A l o t of t h i n g s seemed t o r e v o l v e around i t . L i k e , I n o t i c e I keep t a l k i n g about t h i n g s and t h a t , that one t h i n g (marijuana) keeps r e o c c u r r i n g i n the s u b j e c t . I t wasn't that I decided to stop going [to s c h o o l ] . It k i n d of s l o w l y dropped o f f you know. L i k e , I would go one day here or a day there but i t would be l i k e the whole week I d i d n ' t go except f o r that one day. The weeks would pass by and I'd go a day and i t j u s t s l o w l y dropped o f f to the p o i n t where I j u s t d i d n ' t go anymore. Introduction My  i n t e r v i e w with S was  honest and  straightforward.  open about h i s past.  s c h o o l , h i s r e l a t i v e freedom, and  S's  dwindling  very  interest  in  neighborhood mores p l a y e d  a p a r t i n h i s process of disengagement. c e r t a i n aspects of h i s s t o r y s t r u c k him instance,  He was  At the same time as n o v e l .  For  he seemed s u r p r i s e d by the r o l e that drugs  played  141  in  h i s premature departure  pre-adolescent everyday l i f e .  from s c h o o l .  c u r i o s i t y , drugs became a major focus of h i s Marijuana  and cocaine a f f e c t e d h i s  r e l a t i o n s h i p s , changed h i s h a b i t s , and at The  S t a r t i n g out as a  limited his efforts  school. Beginning S's  elementary school experiences  were mainly  positive.  Elementary school from k i n d e r g a r t e n to about grade 5 was p r e t t y much, seems l i k e i t was a l l the same. I was a l l i n one s c h o o l . I remember I had fun. I was i n the sports s t u f f . My mom put me i n a soccer league. I was p l a y i n g s o c c e r and b a s e b a l l i n those y e a r s . His younger years were p a r t i c u l a r l y p r o d u c t i v e hopeful.  With h i s mother's support,  enjoyable  and  school was  and  both  fun.  It was more of a fun t h i n g back then, In k i n d e r g a r t e n i t was fun. You d i d n ' t have to do work. [Grades] one, two and three, my mom would teach me s t u f f at home, you know. She'd have these books at home t h a t I c o u l d work on to do s c h o o l i n g . My mom always helped me out w i t h that. I d i d n ' t have a problem between k i n d e r g a r t e n and grade 5 and. E v e r y t h i n g was p r e t t y much f i n e . For grade 6 S went to a d i f f e r e n t school because the f a m i l y moved.  The  p e r i o d of h i s l i f e  o n l y s i g n i f i c a n c e t h a t S a t t a c h e d to t h i s was  that " h i s grades were going down".  The move however, exposed S to a segment of s o c i e t y t h a t presented his  him with a r a d i c a l l y d i f f e r e n t l i f e s t y l e to what  mother wanted f o r her  son.  We moved behind t h i s apartment b u i l d i n g . Those apartments are more l i k e run down p l a c e s , [where a number of my f r i e n d s l i v e d ] . Almost a l l the drug d e a l e r s and s t u f f l i k e that happens t h e r e . You know,  142 cops are always showing up there, domestic d i s p u t e s and s t u f f l i k e that r i g h t . That's the k i n d of area t h a t I grew up i n r i g h t . P l a y i n g i n the playgrounds there, doing whatever, having fun, p l a y i n g , r i d i n g our b i k e s . Socially,  s i g n i f i c a n t changes s t a r t e d t o occur i n grade  Up u n t i l grade seven I was j u s t a normal k i d you know. P l a y i n g hockey cards o r doing whatever. In grade 7, about h a l f way through the school year we had t h i s guy named Ron, and he came t o the school and, I guess he f a i l e d a year. So he was an o l d e r k i d , came i n w i t h jeans, the jean j a c k e t , long h a i r , t o t a l , t o t a l , looked l i k e an o u t c a s t i n the room. Just d i d n ' t look l i k e he'd f i t i n . I put up my hand and decided that I'd show him around the s c h o o l . Let him know where e v e r y t h i n g was and so got t o be h i s f r i e n d . He was a smoker and so because of him, you know, I was going t o be f r i e n d s w i t h him so I s t a r t e d smoking and whatever. We smoked, we used t o smoke drugs and he had two o l d e r b r o t h e r s and they were 17 and 19 and they were always doing drugs and a c i d and s t u f f l i k e that r i g h t . So t h a t ' s how I got i n t o that scene. Because of t h i s person and wanting t o impress him and be h i s f r i e n d and you know a f t e r that I s t a r t e d d r e s s i n g the same way, you know. Wearing the jean j a c k e t and wearing the jeans w i t h r i p s i n i t . So that k i n d of d i v i d e d me from the other people i n elementary s c h o o l . I t was j u s t more me and R a f t e r t h a t . Once h i s i n t e r e s t was sparked h i s access t o drugs increased s u b s t a n t i a l l y . I remember one time, we had t h i s l i t t l e Indian k i d [ i n the neighborhood]. He's about nine o r t e n at the time and I was about 12 o r 13, when I was i n grade 7. And I guess t h i s l i t t l e k i d ' s dad was a d e a l e r and he'd (the son) r i p him o f f . L i k e he'd take a whole ounce and he'd take a l l h i s money and he'd come over t o my house f i r s t t h i n g i n the morning and he'd b r i n g t h i s b i g bag of weed and a l l t h i s money. And I'd l i k e s e l l him my toys and s t u f f l i k e t h a t . And he'd pay me f o r i t . I t was l i k e nothing t o him cause i t was s t o l e n money so I had l o t ' s of money. The k i d would g i v e me l o t s of weed so I had l o t s of f r e e weed a l l the time and t h i s happened f o r a long time. I was g e t t i n g f r e e weed and money. So I'd have money t o go out and buy beer and [video] games.  143  As a v a i l a b i l i t y and usage i n c r e a s e d , h i s approach t o s c h o o l changed. I'd s k i p out, not v e r y much because i s t a r t i n g i n t o that phase of l i f e , you I wasn't t h a t type of person who'd go skip. I t s t a r t e d because of the weed you'd get h i g h i n the morning and you go t o s c h o o l .  t was j u s t know. I t wasn't, out and j u s t and i t ' s l i k e wouldn't want t o  By the end of h i s grade 7 year S's grades had t o D's  and E s . 1  dropped  Both h i s approach to s c h o o l and h i s growing  p r e o c c u p a t i o n w i t h drugs were f a c t o r s i n S's  limited  effort.  These d i f f i c u l t i e s were made worse by h i s mother's r e t u r n t o school.  His mother's focus on work and s c h o o l meant t h a t S  had more unsupervised time. a c t i v i t i e s of h i s own  As S f i l l e d h i s days w i t h  choosing, he s t a r t e d h i s d r i f t away  from s c h o o l . The  Middle S remembered the t r a n s i t i o n to h i g h school as  moving on".  He wasn't p a r t i c u l a r l y concerned  maybe g e t t i n g adolescence  "beat up by a grade 10".  "just  o t h e r than  The onslaught  of  o n l y served t o deepen h i s disengagement.  I t seemed t o me that I had a whole l o t of t r o u b l e when I was at B. I used t o take a l l of my f r i e n d s out back d u r i n g s c h o o l time. I t would be l i k e , I'd show up at s c h o o l , I'd have a l l t h i s weed and I'd go a c r o s s the s t r e e t t o where the catwalk was where a l l the r o c k e r s hung out and smoked c i g a r e t t e s . And I'd go, j u s t t o make f r i e n d s you know, I'd o f f e r whoever was t h e r e t o smoke a j o i n t . You know, hey guys you want t o smoke a joint? We'd a l l walk a c r o s s the s t r e e t t o where the park was. And so i n a way that helped me t o make a l o t of f r i e n d s . You j u s t want t o be known. You want people t o r e c o g n i z e you, you know, who you are, you j u s t f e e l important.  144  Making f r i e n d s was  important t o S.  Though he wasn't a  l o n e r , he had experienced some d i f f i c u l t y f i n d i n g a n i c h e . I wasn't always the best at making f r i e n d s . I'm not an outgoing person. I f e e l more outgoing than I used t o be, but then at that time I had r e a l l y bad z i t s and s t u f f l i k e that. I had r e a l l y bad s e l f - e s t e e m and because of that I probably t r i e d harder t o have more friends. That was b a s i c a l l y the reason f o r doing t h a t ( o f f e r i n g drugs t o everybody), j u s t t o f e e l important and wanted, you know. The most important event i n grade 8 was  meeting  D.  Over the next 5 years they developed a f r i e n d s h i p which S remembered was wanted".  l i k e having "the b r o t h e r that I always  T h i s f r i e n d s h i p was  a l s o s i g n i f i c a n t because  the i n c r e a s e d freedom that i t a f f o r d e d  of  S.  In a l o t of ways I'd say h i s mom d i d n ' t r e a l l y c a r e . L i k e she was never t h e r e . I t was always D.'s s i s t e r . That was the c o o l t h i n g , hanging out at D's. Come the weekend, the minute they (D's parents) got home a f t e r work they'd s t a r t packing t h e i r s t u f f , gone w i t h i n a h a l f hour. They'd leave, they wouldn't come home t i l l Monday n i g h t . They'd j u s t go s t r a i g h t t o work from where they l i v e d (on the weekend). And h i s s i s t e r was t h e r e , and h i s s i s t e r was o l d e r so we'd get her b o y f r i e n d s t o go out and b o o t l e g f o r us. D's house was l i k e a p a r t y house. In a l o t of ways I don't t h i n k t h a t h i s parents cared. S's l i f e s t y l e q u i c k l y a f f e c t e d h i s approach t o s c h o o l . He f a i l e d grade 8.  His f i r s t year i n h i g h s c h o o l was  a  w h i r l w i n d of drugs, p a r t i e s , and s k i p p i n g c l a s s .  He took a i s i m i l a r approach t o s c h o o l the f o l l o w i n g September. I went back the next year and t r i e d t o do i t a g a i n . Got through the f i r s t month l i k e , and I was j u s t s k i p p i n g out, smoking weed s t i l l , you know. Wasn't going t o make i t that semester, and so I t r a n s f e r r e d myself out of school without my mom knowing. What happened was, I met t h i s guy named T and he was another  145  r o c k e r , long h a i r , jean j a c k e t , the whole b i t . He took me to Whalley j u s t f o r the day, and I k i n d of hung out w i t h him at the school f o r the day. And i t was l i k e , I was j u s t i n s t a n t l y popular when I got t h e r e . I t was j u s t l i k e , me and T e r r y would walk down the h a l l and we'd be wearing our r i p p e d up jeans and our j e a n j a c k e t s and a l l the c h i c k s would be eyeing us. We're walking down there and people are t a l k i n g to us and s t u f f l i k e t h a t and i t was l i k e r e a l l y c o o l . I t was l i k e being popular, you know. People l i k e d me at t h a t school. I wanted to go to that school j u s t because I had a l o t more f r i e n d s and s t u f f l i k e t h a t . Wanting t o be wanted. So I t r a n s f e r r e d myself i n t h e r e and my mom wasn't too happy about that but e i t h e r way I managed to do i t and e v e r y t h i n g stayed that way. S's  d i f f i c u l t i e s at school were compounded by h i s  growing d i s t a n c e from h i s mother. She's t r i e d e x t r a hard cause there was o n l y one of her to do i t . So she, our r e l a t i o n s h i p was good but I, I wouldn't t a l k to my mom, you know. I guess my mom was female or whatever. I had my f r i e n d s to t a l k t o . I d i d n ' t have my mom to t a l k t o . I wouldn't t e l l my mom p e r s o n a l t h i n g s . I'd w i t h - h o l d i n f o r m a t i o n from my mom and s t u f f l i k e , so we had a good r e l a t i o n s h i p but I t h i n k I've been the one to w i t h - h o l d i t from my mom. In a way i t hasn't been l i k e a v e r y p e r s o n a l relationship u n t i l recently. On those  few occasions when he t r i e d to e x p l a i n h i s  f e e l i n g s , they f a i l e d to  connect.  L i k e I t h i n k at one time I would say I have low s e l f esteem and my mom would be l i k e , "well why do you have a low s e l f - e s t e e m , you know, you've been i n b a s e b a l l , you've been i n soccer, I put you i n g u i t a r l e s s o n s . You've got f r i e n d s . What's the problem?" That's what she couldn't understand. She d i d n ' t t h i n k I had a low self-esteem. When I went i n s i d e I knew how I f e l t , right. So I j u s t l e t i t s l i d e and wouldn't t r y to e x p l a i n i t to her. As he moved i n t o h i s adolescent years the balance power i n S's  r e l a t i o n s h i p with h i s mother seemed  i n c r e a s i n g l y , to be a matter decided by h i s d i s c r e t i o n .  of  146  Well, i f l i k e my mom punished me o r something l i k e t h a t , i f I got grounded uhm, nobody r e a l l y a c c e p t s i t but, you know, I went along w i t h the r u l e s , you know. My mom had power o n l y because I r e s p e c t e d her. Like, my mom's not a b i g person and I mean, t h e r e ' s been times where my mom s a i d "hey s t a y home". I remember when I was i n West W, one n i g h t I was super choked about something and I came home and my mom was by the f i r e p l a c e and she was l i k e "no, you can't go out." She t r i e d t o stop me. She grabbed my arm and I j u s t s a i d "Let me f u c k i n g go". You know, and t o t a l l y k i n d of pushed her away. My mom r e a l l y doesn't have power o t h e r than the f a c t that I r e s p e c t her f o r who she i s and I r e s p e c t the consequences of my a c t i o n s . R e s p e c t i n g the consequences of h i s a c t i o n s however, d i d little  to d i r e c t h i s choices or a l t e r h i s behavior.  each e x p e r i e n c e h i s disengagement  from s c h o o l  With  deepened.  When I was i n W I hooked up w i t h another guy named R and R's b r o t h e r had b i g bags of weed, you know, and he'd s t e a l i t o f f h i s b r o t h e r and he'd b r i n g i t t o school. He'd be l i k e " s i x bucks f o r a gram". You know, what's l i k e s i x bucks, r i g h t . And so a g a i n I had l o t s of weed and was able to say, "hey guys, l e t s go i n t o the park, smoke a j o i n t " . You know, a l l the time, right. I was there from about November t i l l about January and they k i c k e d me out, e x p e l l e d me because yeah, I'd been s k i p p i n g out so much. S was year.  f o r c e d to t r a n s f e r schools h a l f way  through the  L i f e at h i s t h i r d h i g h school d i d not s t a r t o f f w e l l .  Soon a f t e r he s t a r t e d , S got caught smoking hash.  He  remembers i t as another emotional moment i n h i s l i f e w i t h his  mother. I remember her p i c k i n g me up from s c h o o l , d r i v i n g home. It was another one of them emotional times. I don't t h i n k t h e r e was a punishment f o r i t . I t h i n k my mom was understanding. I t was okay, he's t r y i n g drugs, you know, she d i d i t i n her time too, you know so, she was understanding about i t . I don't t h i n k I got punished because of i t but I t h i n k i t was another emotional time. I t h i n k me and my mom were r e a l l y c l o s e i n t h a t  147  way. I'm emotional l i k e my mom i s . We were d r i v i n g home and another emotional issue--how come you're smoking drugs and so on and so f o r t h . The s c h o o l responded by r e s t r i c t i n g h i s freedom.  A  t i g h t e r r e i n t r a n s l a t e d i n t o academic success f o r the f i r s t time s i n c e grade 5. They put me on a school suspension where I had t o go t o s c h o o l but at lunch time and b e f o r e s c h o o l I had t o r e p o r t t o the o f f i c e and s i t there t i l l the b e l l and s t u f f l i k e that. The b a s i c moral t o the s t o r y i s I passed out of grade 8 on the B honor r o l l . I t was because there was nobody there that I r e a l l y knew. I wasn't t r y i n g t o be p o p u l a r . I wasn't t r y i n g t o impress nobody. I was, i t was my l a s t chance. I was actually trying. And when I a c t u a l l y t r i e d , t h a t ' s when I managed t o accomplish. T h i s was S's f i r s t i n high school.  and l a s t r e a l experience of success  He passed i n t o grade 9 .  The End When he r e t u r n e d t o school the f o l l o w i n g September,  he  r e v e r t e d back t o h i s o l d ways. Grade 9, went back t o GP, f a i l i n g b a d l y again. Got trough l i k e the f i r s t month and then d i d n ' t have much, d i d n ' t have anything [completed] b a s i c a l l y . Went t o the c o u n s e l l o r , he s a i d that I wasn't going t o pass that semester. Same p a t t e r n . Just s k i p p i n g out. GP was a l i t t l e ways away so I always had t o c a t c h the bus. I t ' d be l i k e , wake up i n the morning and I'd o n l y have l i k e f i v e minutes t o get t o the bus stop. You know get ready, ahhh the h e l l w i t h i t , you know. Find something b e t t e r t o do today. My mom was never around d u r i n g the days so i t was easy j u s t t o s t a y home andnobody would know, r i g h t . Cause she'd go t o s c h o o l . She l e f t the r e s p o n s i b i l i t y t o us. You know, i t ' s your d e c i s i o n , you're the one who has t o l i v e w i t h the consequences.  148  Bored w i t h school and  i n c r e a s i n g l y i n charge of h i s  time S s t a r t e d to engage i n p e t t y crime. d r i f t e d into using  Along the way  he  cocaine.  I t ' s j u s t one n i g h t , you know, i t ' s l i k e we got no money. Well, l e t ' s go out and see what we can scam. You know, go check out sheds and s t u f f l i k e t h a t . With J . i t was l i k e you c o u l d pawn o f f power t o o l s , s t u f f l i k e that. J . was my f r i e n d ' s mom, the d e a l e r . The one that would s e l l us weed at the ages that we were. L i k e I don't t h i n k that normally most people would be l i k e okay w e ' l l s e l l t h i s k i d weed, cause we were so young. But we had an i n s i d e connection, and i t was l i k e , people would come over to her and they'd, s t o l e n goods went through that house and s t u f f l i k e t h a t , right. She l i k e d c r y s t a l , so i f we ever got our hands on c r y s t a l , or something l i k e that she'd be w i l l i n g to take i t . F o r t y bucks f o r a power saw, here's an eighth. Wow a bonus, smoke, smoke weed a l l day, so we'd go out. We'd s t e a l whatever, you know, weed e a t e r s , lawn mowers, you name i t . You c o u l d p r e t t y much get away with anything. Right around then, I s a i d , pot wasn't seeming to do i t , so s t a r t e d s l o w l y g e t t i n g i n t o coke. Part way school, time. (for  one  through grade 9 S t r a n s f e r r e d to a d i f f e r e n t  that allowed S to a t t e n d p a r t time and work p a r t  Somewhere around 15 S r e p l a c e d h i s p e t t y awhile) w i t h p a r t time work.  however, was  s t i l l very sporadic.  to make any p r o g r e s s . s t e a l i n g , o n l y now due  thievery  His attendance at  school  In three y e a r s he  failed  When he q u i t h i s job he went back to  he was  more s e r i o u s .  In p a r t t h i s  was  to h i s drug h a b i t . I t was n i c e to do i t (coke) every now and then. We ended up r i p p i n g o f f Darcy's mom f o r about 10,0 00 d o l l a r s worth of g o l d and jewelry, emeralds and r u b i e s and s t u f f l i k e t h a t . My mom and the g o l d that she had, i t ' s no longer there.  149  When h i s mother found out he had been s t e a l i n g from h e r she k i c k e d him out of the house. l i v i n g a t a d e a l e r ' s house.  S ended up on w e l f a r e  School  s l o w l y faded  from the  picture.  A year l a t e r S moved t o a s m a l l e r c i t y , got a  part-time  j o b and t r i e d h i s hand a t s c h o o l .  arrangement l a s t e d f o r a month.  When S l e f t  This school as an  e i g h t e e n year o l d he had s u c c e s s f u l l y completed grade 8. Commentary. S's  disengagement from school  was f a c i l i t a t e d by h i s  mom's absence, neighborhood mores, and h i s i n c r e a s i n g i n t e r e s t and u l t i m a t e p r e o c c u p a t i o n  with drugs.  These f a c t o r s would p r o v i d e him with an i n o r d i n a t e amount of freedom,  numerous i n a p p r o p r i a t e ways t o spend h i s time,  and an a n e s t h e t i c t o d u l l h i s p a i n and c o n f u s i o n . L i v i n g with a s i n g l e working mom who was a l s o a t t e n d i n g s c h o o l meant t h a t Given the time delinquency  too o f t e n S was l e f t  t o fend f o r h i m s e l f .  t o wander i n a neighborhood where  was. the norm , i t was o n l y a matter o f time  b e f o r e he adopted the ways of h i s environment. left  elementary school  (skipping, him.  S was d a b b l i n g  Before  he  i n behaviors  s t e a l i n g , drugs) which would serve t o overwhelm  H i s b i g g e s t problem would come i n the form of drugs. S's  engagement  with drugs was v e r y much l i k e h i s  disengagement from s c h o o l .  Each process  f e l t natural,  developed and took h o l d s l o w l y and seemed t o be r e c o g n i z e d o n l y a f t e r the f a c t . father.  As a t o d d l e r he passed j o i n t s f o r h i s  H i s mother o n l y stopped u s i n g drugs because h e r  150  second husband  disapproved.  marijuana i n grade seven.  S first  experimented w i t h  By the time he e n t e r e d h i g h  s c h o o l the experiment had become a h a b i t .  In h i s world  drugs and s c h o o l had a r e c i p r o c a l r e l a t i o n s h i p ,  the more S  engaged w i t h drugs the more he disengaged from s c h o o l . Drugs f i l l e d  an emotional v o i d , were used as a c u r r e n c y f o r  p r o c u r i n g acquaintances, and p r o v i d e d him w i t h a purpose. Near the end of h i s school career, graduated t o cocaine,  attaining  by which time he had h i s chosen form o f escape  was the major p r e o c c u p a t i o n of h i s e x i s t e n c e .  By t h i s p o i n t  s c h o o l had about as much meaning as the spent ash at the t i p of  his cigarette.  151 Chapter  12  Case Study 9: B L i f e , l i k e at home, i t was good u n t i l grade 8. No. T i l l grade 7, we got i n t o t h i n g s l i k e do the d i s h e s no I don't want t o . Well go t o your room. M o s t l y my mom but then once t h i n g s got out of c o n t r o l and he heard i t , then my dad would jump i n and t h a t would be the end of me. My mom always t r i e d to help me w i t h my s c h o o l work but I had ADA, ADD or whatever i t ' s c a l l e d , my e n t i r e l i f e , so I wouldn't l i s t e n p r e t t y much when she'd' l i k e , t r y to s i t down w i t h me and I'd do i t [school work] f o r about ten minutes and then she'd t h i n k t h a t I got i t and I'd j u s t f o r g e t i t . That would be i t . They d i d n ' t f i n d out u n t i l , they d i d n ' t f i g u r e t h a t out u n t i l p r o b a b l y about two years now. But my mom f i g u r e d t h a t I've had i t p r e t t y much ever s i n c e I was born. Introduction At 17 B was together. to  w e l l on the way  She was  school.  to p u t t i n g her l i f e  l i v i n g i n her own  For the f i r s t  s t a b i l i t y i n her l i f e .  back  p l a c e and had r e t u r n e d  time i n a long while t h e r e  T h i s s t a b i l i t y was  was  a marked c o n t r a s t  to her l i f e experience d u r i n g her e a r l y teen y e a r s .  Between  the ages of 12 to 15, B's world was  alone  and l a r g e l y out of c o n t r o l .  c h a o t i c ; she was  Engulfed i n t h i s confusion  s c h o o l became an i m p o s s i b l e task t o manage.  B was  kicked  out of s c h o o l near the end of her grade 10 year, she was  15  years o l d . The  Beginning B's  She  first  two years i n school were q u i t e s a t i s f y i n g .  l o v e d her K i n d e r g a r t e n and her grade 1 t e a c h e r and d i d  w e l l both i n and out of c l a s s . experience was  Her f i r s t  a s s o c i a t e d with grade 2.  negative  152 She was h o r r i b l e . We were i n a s p l i t grade 2-3 c l a s s . My c o u s i n was i n my c l a s s w i t h me and the t e a c h e r was just horrible. She was a wicked t e a c h e r . I can't remember what my c o u s i n d i d , but she got so mad she threw a c h a l k brush at her and she had a r e a l temper problem. She wasn't mean t o me but o t h e r k i d s she was mean t o . L i k e , troublemaker k i d s . You'd have t o be p o l i t e o r e l s e she'd be mean t o you. Even though she was apprehensive around h e r grade 2 teacher, the year turned out f i n e . that B r a n i n t o any s e r i o u s  I t wasn't u n t i l grade 4  difficulty.  I passed i n e v e r y t h i n g except f o r Math. I passed but just barely. I was r e a l l y bad i n math. I t was l i k e • embarrassing p r e t t y much cause, t h e r e ' s s t u f f everybody e l s e knew how t o do except me. L i f e at s c h o o l continued t o d e t e r i o r a t e i n grade 5 and  Grade 5, Mr. C. was p r e t t y much one o f my worst teachers. When i t came t o Math, he sometimes would w r i t e s t u f f on the board and you'd have t o go up and do it. Well, I remember one time he p i c k e d on me t o do something and I couldn't f i g u r e i t out. I got i t wrong and uhm, he l i k e kept on making me do i t over and over and over again. I couldn't do i t and he j u s t got me so upset that I c r i e d . L i k e he r a i s e d h i s v o i c e cause I c o u l d n ' t do i t , l i k e he got mad cause I c o u l d n ' t do i t . And so he took me down t o the paper room and he a p o l o g i z e d and e v e r y t h i n g . And he's l i k e I ' l l never do i t a g a i n . I ' l l never t r y t o embarrass you and then he comes back i n t o the c l a s s and t e n minutes l a t e r he p i c k e d Meghan t o go up. He made Meghan c r y . He was just horrible. And then I had him f o r grade 6 a g a i n . He was the same way. He c a l l e d a meeting w i t h my mom j u s t t o t a l k about my s c h o o l i n g and he made my mom so upset, l i k e he was c a l l i n g me s t u p i d and I was j u s t h o l d i n g i n my t e a r s . And he made my mom c r y . I hated him. I t o t a l l y d e s p i s e d him. My mom knew that I hated him. We both hated him. Grade 7 was a b e t t e r year. they got along.  Her t e a c h e r was k i n d and  L i f e at home was s t i l l  quite  stable.  153 I l i k e d grade 7. Mr. B. was a great t e a c h e r . I don't know, s c h o o l work was p r e t t y good except f o r math. I can't r e a l l y remember doing v e r y much homework at a l l . I wasn't i n t o the homework t h i n g . I'd r a t h e r do something e l s e . But my mom, she'd make us do a h a l f hour of homework before we c o u l d go anywhere. S o c i a l l y , B's l i f e was s t i l l  very  uncomplicated.  We decided we'd get a l i t t l e a i r b a n d because the boys that were ahead of us always had airbands i n the summertime, so we decided we'd get one going. So t h a t ' s p r e t t y much what we d i d a l l summer o f grade 6 and grade seven. We j u s t got out my tape r e c o r d e r i n my room every day, and I f o r g e t which song i t was, but we d i d l i t t l e dances t o i t and e v e r y t h i n g . We never got i n t o t r o u b l e . B's  elementary  school experience d i d not prepare her  well f o r high school. be avoided. And,  Math had c r y s t a l l i z e d as a s u b j e c t t o  One of her teachers had l a b e l l e d her  stupid.  r e g a r d l e s s of her mother's e f f o r t s B remained a  reluctant  student.  As e a r l y as grade 4 I t h i n k t h a t I j u s t gave up, not gave up but j u s t l i k e s l a c k e d o f f . The  exact r o l e t h a t her ADD p l a y e d i n B's work e t h i c i s  difficult  t o surmise.  diagnosed  and medicated  The  She d i d r e c a l l t h a t p r i o r t o b e i n g she "couldn't c o n c e n t r a t e " .  Middle B's  t r a n s i t i o n t o h i g h school i n v o l v e d both a n x i e t y and  some unexpected  comfort.  Yeah p r e t t y s c a r y at f i r s t . I don't know, I was e x p e c t i n g some huge s c h o o l . A f r a i d of, j u s t l i k e , the new people, so many new people. I wasn't sure i f I'd get along w i t h the new people. But uhm, the f i r s t day uhm, was p r e t t y good a c t u a l l y . I couldn't f i n d a couple of c l a s s e s but that was no problem, j u s t ask somebody. The teachers were a l l good and i t was p r e t t y good. L i k e I l i k e d i t a c t u a l l y . I liked i ta lot b e t t e r than elementary s c h o o l .  154  While  B may have l i k e d the students and f e l t  comfortable w i t h teachers she had l i t t l e s c h o o l work.  What s t a r t e d out as comfort  i n t e r e s t i n her q u i c k l y turned t o  buffoonery. I was p r e t t y mouthy towards the t e a c h e r s . L i k e I wouldn't swear at them o r anything but I would p i s s them o f f on purpose. I was p r e t t y much the c l a s s clown. Cause I thought i t was funny. I thought i t was a r i o t t o p i s s teachers o f f . Some t e a c h e r s seemed t o p l a y i n t o B's i d e a o f f u n and were t r e a t e d as i f they were p a r t of the game.  Others, she  regarded w i t h much more c a u t i o n , even r e s p e c t . L i k e Mr. R., he was funny. L i k e he'd take i t at f i r s t , and he'd j u s t get so angry I j u s t thought i t was a riot. He'd get so mad he'd j u s t k i c k me out i n t o the hall. L i k e whoopeyding. I'm not i n c l a s s , good. That's a l l I p r e t t y much wanted. I d i d n ' t l i k e s c h o o l . I was l a z y I guess. A d i f f e r e n t B emerged w i t h Mr. K. Well i n Math, I was w i t h Mr. K. and me and him d i d n ' t get along. But I never caused t r o u b l e w i t h him. He was a p r e t t y s t r i c t teacher. Cause he doesn't take nothing. I t ' d be l i k e s t r a i g h t t o the o f f i c e . S t r a i g h t t o the o f f i c e . L i k e b a r e l y ever he'd say s i t i n the h a l l cause he j u s t d i d n ' t put up w i t h me cause he knew how I was. Yeah I worked, I worked i n h i s class. Beyond math c l a s s though, B d i d v e r y l i t t l e work.  school  She c o u l d not r e c a l l ever doing any homework d u r i n g  her f i r s t year i n h i g h s c h o o l .  While her academic e f f o r t s  at s c h o o l were coming t o a s t a n d s t i l l , her l i f e  at home was  s p i n n i n g out of c o n t r o l . Grade 8, t h a t ' s when my parents j u s t couldn't handle me any more. I was j u s t , I d i d n ' t care about anything a t home. L i k e I chose my f r i e n d s over home. I t was j u s t s t u p i d t h i n g s l i k e , do the d i s h e s , no. Or I'd j u s t s i t  155 t h e r e and keep on watching T.V. and my dad would get r e a l mad and t h a t ' s when he s t a r t e d h i t t i n g me and stuff. He'd j u s t g i v e me a s l a p i n the head and whatever and I'd get p i s s e d o f f , r i g h t , and I'd swear at him and he'd h i t me more and he'd l i k e drag me to the d i s h e s and say do them. So I'd do them or e l s e I'd j u s t take o f f to my room and p u l l the d r e s s e r i n f r o n t of the door so he couldn't get i n . I don't know, my dad, me and him have the same temper. What s t a r t e d o f f as i n c i d e n t a l arguments q u i c k l y t u r n e d i n t o a way  of being.  Most weeks there were "three of f o u r "  v i o l e n t exchanges between B and her f a t h e r . I remember one time I was s i t t i n g there, M. some f r i e n d s were v i s i t i n g me. We were j u s t s t a n d i n g o u t s i d e and I was e a t i n g an orange and they were l e a v i n g and I can't remember i f my dad came by or he was j u s t t h e r e or something. And I threw orange p e e l s o f f the balcony. He's l i k e go p i c k them up. And I was l i k e , why? Why bother p i c k i n g them Up? The b i r d s are going to eat them and t h e y ' l l j u s t d i s i n t e g r a t e . He's l i k e go p i c k them up now. And I kept going on w i t h l i k e why. So he grabbed my h a i r and dragged me down the s t a i r s and l i k e pushed my face i n them and t o l d me to p i c k them up. Once she s t a r t e d f i g h t i n g with her parents opportunities for conflict  the  seemed e n d l e s s .  Me and N. were the head c h e e r l e a d e r s f o r our team and we t o l d everybody to meet a the park f o r a 7 o ' c l o c k meeting. My mom d i d n ' t want me to go t h a t e a r l y f o r some reason. And I was l i k e have to go, I t o l d the whole team to be t h e r e . And she s a i d , no, no, no, and I was f i g h t i n g with her. And she s a i d t h a t ' s i t , I'm going to get your grandmother. And I went and grabbed my lunch and my grandmother beat me to the door. Beat me to the door and t i e d me to the r o c k i n g c h a i r w i t h these scarves and she's l i k e t h a t ' s i t . And I kept on y e l l i n g and she's t h a t ' s i t , I'm going to get the stick. T i e d to the c h a i r . My arms and f e e t were t i e d to the c h a i r . And l i k e , thank god, N. came by, l i k e when my grandmother was o u t s i d e [ g e t t i n g the s t i c k ] , N. came by and u n t i e d me and we ran out the f r o n t door.  156  Part way  through grade e i g h t one of B's  Social Services.  friends  S h o r t l y t h e r e a f t e r B moved out.  awhile s h e . l i v e d with a f r i e n d .  I t was  called  For  the s t a r t of a v e r y  unsettled existence. I moved from M.'s back to my parent's p l a c e . My p a r e n t ' s l a s t e d about a week and then I t h i n k I moved i n t o my b o y f r i e n d ' s house. I stayed w i t h him f o r about a month. His mom was never around. She'd l e a v e us money f o r d i n n e r and t h i n g s were good, but uhm, he cheated on me. And I was r i g h t downstairs. He was l i k e my f i r s t r e a l b o y f r i e n d that I cared about and I thought I had something s e r i o u s w i t h him. And so I phoned up my [paternal] grandparents and they, l i k e everybody was w o r r i e d because nobody knew where I'd been f o r about a month. So I d i d n ' t go t o s c h o o l much around the end of grade 8. I missed l i k e maybe two or t h r e e months. B moved i n w i t h her grandparents the r e s t of grade d i f f i c u l t year.  8.  and l i v e d t h e r e f o r  Academically, grade  8 was  She b a r e l y passed the year.  a very  B recalls  her  mother's r e a c t i o n to the r e p o r t c a r d . She wanted me t o get a t u t o r but I was t o t a l l y a g a i n s t i t , I thought I had b e t t e r t h i n g s t o do. I t was more the fun years.- L i k e , screw s c h o o l . L i f e w i t h her grandparents  q u i c k l y became p r o b l e m a t i c .  I moved i n with my grandparents and t h i n g s were good t h e r e at f i r s t . Cause my grandparents they, they used to s p o i l me, they're r i c h and e v e r y t h i n g . But once I moved i n there they d i d n ' t s p o i l me as much. They t r e a t e d me l i k e I was t h e i r own k i d . Except f o r they'd never g i v e me money, ever. L i k e I was always broke. So I was p r e t t y bummed f o r money. I remember I t o l d my grandpa that I was going t o go i c e s k a t i n g so I c o u l d get money. There was a whole bunch of us and we a l l j u s t d e c i d e d we'd go eat at McDonald's or something. So I spent my money on a pack of smokes and McDonalds and I got busted. They were upset f o r me l y i n g . They d i d n ' t want me l y i n g . I guess t h a t ' s when t h i n g s got a l i t t l e rough at my grandparents. My grandma always hated a l l my f r i e n d s . She'd always b i c k e r about my friends. Friends t h i s , friends that. Stop hanging  157 around with them and I'd be l i k e Mind your own business. So t h a t ' s what we always fought about, my friends. At the s t a r t of grade 9 B was again l i v i n g with her parents.  Academically,  she continued t o d r i f t .  Grade 9 was p r e t t y much a l l the same [as grade 8 ] . I was s t i l l p i s s e d o f f with teachers and s t u f f . Getting suspended and s t u f f . S h o r t l y a f t e r the s t a r t of the school year B l e f t  home  and c o n t i n u e d moving from p l a c e t o p l a c e . I l o v e d i t . I c o u l d do anything wanted t o except f o r , when I was l i v i n g under a f r i e n d ' s r o o f I'd always l i k e , go by the parent's r u l e s and e v e r y t h i n g . I'd always, l i k e I t o t a l l y r e s p e c t e d them and e v e r y t h i n g and would l i s t e n t o them. I'd be l i k e t h e i r dream c h i l d p r e t t y much, l i k e I was r e a l l y good t o whoever l e t me s t a y . These l i v i n g arrangements were u s u a l l y good f o r a few weeks.  When she wasn't s t a y i n g with f r i e n d s B l i v e d i n  group homes. The f i r s t group home that I moved i n t o was WH so I was p r e t t y much l a t e every day f o r s c h o o l . I f I even showed up, I'd show a f t e r lunch o r at lunch. I was l i k e s c a r e d at f i r s t t o move i n t o a group home cause i was e x p e c t i n g l i k e t o t a l j u v e n i l e d e l i n q u e n t s . Like I thought I'd get beat up and s t u f f . When I got t h e r e they i n t r o d u c e d me t o t h i s g i r l S. She was r e a l l y n i c e to me. And they took me downstairs and they're l i k e t h i s i s D. and she looks up and i t ' s DT. So i t ' s l i k e , r i g h t on. I hadn't seen her i n two y e a r s . I was supposed t o be there f o r a month but I was t h e r e f o r l i k e t h r e e o r f o u r months. Then I moved t o L. house. I l o v e d L. house. There was a g i r l named S. She was l i k e a b i k e r c h i c k . She went around with an o l d e r b i k e r type guy. Grade 9 ended i n much the same f a s h i o n as i t had started.  B b a r e l y passed the year.  During her f i r s t two  years i n h i g h school B spent much of her energy h a r a s s i n g  158  teachers, off.  g e t t i n g k i c k e d out of c l a s s , and g e n e r a l l y  As h e r school had a "no f a i l "  to the next grade l e v e l . complicated  p o l i c y she was advanced  Her approach t o school was f u r t h e r  by her ever-changing l i v i n g arrangements.  Having severed, parents  goofing  i n a v e r y p r a c t i c a l way, the bonds w i t h h e r  B was l a r g e l y under her own d i r e c t i o n .  Her  stewardship took her f u r t h e r away from s c h o o l . The End At the s t a r t of her grade 10 year B was again l i v i n g at home.  In e a r l y September she went camping i n a l o c a l  park  w i t h a group o f h e r new f r i e n d s . My mom d i d n ' t want me t o go out that n i g h t . I t was a F r i d a y n i g h t , I d i d n ' t understand why. We'd go s l e e p at a f r i e n d ' s I was t e l l i n g her and uh, so I took o f f and she s a i d i f I took o f f I was g e t t i n g k i c k e d out. And I t o l d M. t h i s and she's l i k e oh you can come s t a y at my p l a c e . The next n i g h t a f t e r we stayed i n the park I went t o M.'s house and we t a l k e d non-stop f o r l i k e 6 o r 7 hours. I t was j u s t l i k e u n b e l i e v a b l e t h a t I'd be able t o s i t down and t a l k t o somebody f o r t h a t long. L i k e we were, l i k e s i s t e r s r e u n i t e d l i k e , together a l l the time. That's when the s t o n e r c l u b got s t a r t e d , a f t e r that n i g h t , a f t e r the camping t r i p . The  camping t r i p marked the s t a r t of the "stoner  and B's i n c r e a s i n g use of drugs. her l a s t  s t i n t at home.  club"  I t was a l s o the s t a r t o f  She was now l i v i n g with M. who had  l i m i t l e s s freedom and had l i v e d on the s t r e e t as a 12 year old.  The s t o n e r ' s  school.  c l u b soon i n f l u e n c e d her'behavior a t  Going t o school now seemed t o be an e x t e n s i o n o f  her camping  trip.  We would smoke dope a l l the time. A l l the time. We'd go t o c l a s s e s once i n a while but we'd p r e t t y much, we  159  were a l l i n d i f f e r e n t grades so we'd say w e ' l l meet i n the bathroom a t one o ' c l o c k o r whatever. That was the l i f e I thought except that school went t o t a l l y downhill. We were j u s t always p a r t y i n g . L i k e t h a t was the p a r t y year. A l l we d i d was party, p a r t y , p a r t y . We'd go t o s c h o o l , we'd meet up, we'd smoke j o i n t s i n the morning, then we'd go home e a r l y . Probably I t h i n k we'd wander the h a l l s f o r the f i r s t p e r i o d and then we'd go out on break and smoke another j o i n t and lunch, we'd j u s t s i t there smoke j o i n t s , and l i k e we were always stoned. B continued  to d r i f t  from home t o home.  The o n l y  constant  i n h e r l i f e was drugs. I was i n t o a c i d a l o t i n grade 10. We were a c i d f r e a k s on the weekends. L i k e we l o v e d the s t u f f . Most of the time she got her drugs f r e e from f r i e n d s who s t o l e a c i d and grass from t h e i r p a r e n t s . sources  When these  d r i e d up she turned t o her own r e s o u r c e s .  I pawned l o t s of s t u f f . We'd break i n t o c a r s and we'd s t e a l tapes and l i t t l e t h i n g s and we'd pawn them. B left  school s h o r t l y a f t e r Christmas of her grade 10 year.  She was 16 years o l d . Commentary. At the age of 16, s h o r t l y a f t e r she was diagnosed, B s t a r t e d t a k i n g medication Her  a b i l i t y t o concentrate  medical life.  for Attention Deficit  Disorder.  improved d r a m a t i c a l l y .  c o n d i t i o n a f f e c t e d both her school l i f e  B's  and h e r home  The degree t o which ADD a f f e c t e d h e r a b i l i t y t o l e a r n  and h e r a b i l i t y t o cope i s d i f f i c u l t a negative  i n f l u e n c e on her l i f e  t o surmise; t h a t i t had  seems c e r t a i n .  B's s t o r y of disengagement s t a r t e d i n grade 4. was the f i r s t  This  year t h a t she f a i l e d Math. I t was a l s o the  160  first  time t h a t she s t a r t e d to " s l a c k o f f " at s c h o o l .  By  the time she l e f t elementary school Math had become a problem to be avoided, duress,  and  school work was  some teachers had been experienced  untrustworthy.  Before  s t a r t i n g to d r i f t  exponentially.  becoming a joke, l i f e at home was  f e a r of b e i n g  While l i f e  at s c h o o l  s p i n n i n g out of  through the year she was  home by S o c i a l S e r v i c e s . been present  was  disengagement  Once she got over her i n i t i a l  Part way  she  away from s c h o o l .  i n h i g h s c h o o l , B became a p r a n k s t e r .  control.  as mean and  she became an adolescent  High s c h o o l a c c e l e r a t e d B's  was  o n l y done under  removed from her  Whatever v e s t i g e s of c o n t r o l had  i n her l i f e vanished.  The vagabond  lifestyle  that f o l l o w e d s t a r t e d to put school out of reach. chance of s u r v i v i n g i n the system vanished when her c u r i o s i t y about drugs became a h a b i t .  Any  161  Chapter 13 Case Study 10: C I was the type of person, who i f he [ v i c e - p r i n c i p a l ] had anything t o say t o me that was derogatory towards what I'm doing o r t r y i n g t o do o r anything, I would jump r i g h t back.- Anytime I was caught smoking o r whatever, he'd g i v e me a l e c t u r e , he'd be screaming at me about something, I'd be screaming r i g h t back at him. L i k e I d i d n ' t stand, I d i d n ' t take i t s i t t i n g down. I was v e r y mouthy I guess you'd say. Introduction C a p t u r i n g C's s t o r y of disengagement was d i f f i c u l t . p a r t t h i s was due t o a l a c k of d e t a i l . participant,  In  A willing  she at times couldn't r e c a l l s p e c i f i c s and  t h e r e f o r e some of her n a r r a t i v e remained vague and u n c l e a r . The nature of the events r e c a l l e d a l s o c o n t r i b u t e d t o the difficulty. age  For the most p a r t they were o r d i n a r y ,  a p p r o p r i a t e experiences, a s o r t of "every  life  at s c h o o l .  successes  C was a good student  s c h o o l , had some d i f f i c u l t i e s and some  i n j u n i o r h i g h and dropped out a f t e r her f i r s t  semester i n s e n i o r h i g h . shift  student's"  M i s s i n g , are any overt d i s t u r b a n c e s t h a t  might e x p l a i n her f a i l u r e t o graduate. i n elementary  typical,  The n o n d e s c r i p t nature of t h i s  from success t o f a i l u r e made her s t o r y a c h a l l e n g e t o  articulate.  The ease with which f a i l u r e came about was  d i s t u r b i n g ; i f C c o u l d f i n d the system overwhelming so c o u l d any  student.  162  The  Beginning C's  elementary  school experience was mainly  Although h e r memories of the f i r s t  positive.  few years were vague she  remembered l i k i n g school and g e t t i n g along q u i t e w e l l . I remember being teacher's pet i n grade 1. That was about the best t h i n g about the whole t h i n g . She'd g e t me t o do t h i n g s f o r her. U s u a l l y l e t me get away w i t h things. She had something s e t up about r u l e s i n the classroom. Uhm, l i k e speeding, s t o p p i n g and you know l i k e r e g u l a r t r a f f i c r u l e s that were put t o g e t h e r i n the classroom and she l e t me get away w i t h a l o t o f that. Grade 2 p r o v i d e d a s i m i l a r l e v e l of comfort.  I t was not  u n t i l grade 3 that C experienced any d i f f i c u l t y at s c h o o l . I was i n a s p l i t c l a s s i n grade 3. Grade 2 and grade 3 i n one c l a s s . I remember that was r e a l l y d i f f i c u l t . I don't know i f t h i s classroom was any b i g g e r than normal but you know i t was, you had t o f o l l o w your own l i t t l e path even though something e l s e was going on. I mean I c o u l d f o l l o w i t but she was doing something w i t h one group while I'm l e f t t o do something on my own. Her o t h e r memory of grade 3 was that the teacher wasn't warm or f r i e n d l y .  C's grade 4 teacher was e q u a l l y unimpressive.  The t e a c h e r was, she wasn't c o l d , she wasn't warm, she was j u s t s o r t , s o r t of there I guess. Grade 4 was a l s o s i g n i f i c a n t because i t was the year t h a t the f a m i l y moved. I d i d n ' t change schools but I changed the area t h a t I l i v e d i n . That made a b i g d i f f e r e n c e . The f r i e n d s t h a t I would walk home from school w i t h were going i n the o p p o s i t e d i r e c t i o n . I d i d get t o know people t h a t were i n the area that I moved t o but the people t h a t I knew from the p r e v i o u s p l a c e d i d n ' t , they s o r t of kept to themselves. I t was hard being f a r apart, from one f r i e n d s h i p t o the other. A l s o , l e t t i n g go was hard. I d i d n ' t have much of a problem making f r i e n d s . Letting go of the o l d ones that was about the o n l y problem.  163  Over the next few years school l i f e the same pace.  Grade 5 was  c a r r i e d on at about  remembered f o n d l y .  My grade 5 teacher was r e a l l y n i c e . She was n i c e t o everyone. She got to know everyone and s o r t of dipped a l i t t l e i n t o p e r s o n a l l i v e s or whatever. She was more involved. The next year had a s i m i l a r f e e l of easy  comfort.  The t e a c h e r t h a t we had she wasn't v e r y f r i e n d l y but between her and the c l a s s , she was, she was r e a l l y fun. I remember t u r n i n g o f f a l l the l i g h t s , h i d i n g behind her desk, the whole group of us and she walks i n the room. She was l i g h t hearted about i t a l l . I know i t got t o the p o i n t where i t got to be too much, but she laughed through the whole t h i n g Grade 7 stood out as an enjoyable year. I had a r e a l l y good teacher that year. He was, he joked a l l the time. He was young. Not too young but younger he was always laughing, always j o k i n g always, you know, always having a good time. Putting his humour i n t o what we were l e a r n i n g as w e l l . It  was  a l s o a good year  socially.  I got a l o t of new f r i e n d s that year. One faded away and another came up. J u s t something that happened. I t was i n t e r e s t i n g , fun. Meeting new people. That was when, I guess at that p o i n t was, I had g i v e n up on my f r i e n d s i n the o l d neighborhood. A c a d e m i c a l l y , C had always been a good student. [At school] I was doing w e l l . I d i d what I had t o do. I t h i n k e v e r y t h i n g was measured i n numbers at t h a t point. From 1 to 6. I was u s u a l l y i n the h i g h one's or two's. The  success and comfort  that she experienced at s c h o o l  seemed t o be matched at home. s t a b l e , s u p p o r t i v e , and  She remembered her parents  as  predictable.  L i f e at home was good. Yeah, i t was, you know, g e t t i n g around the d i n n e r t a b l e , what d i d you do today, t h a t s o r t of t h i n g . Other than every year, t r y i n g t o t r i c k my mom, she i s v e r y g u l l i b l e , that I f a i l e d a l l the grades. I'd do that every year. But my mom f e l l f o r  164  i t every year. I t was dumb but well,..1 had always done w e l l , so at that time, i t was never an i s s u e . The  summer between grade 7 and 8 was the s t a r t o f a  substantial  transition.  I got i n t o a l o t of t r o u b l e that summer b e f o r e s c h o o l . I got i n t o smoking, drugs and t h a t s o r t of t h i n g . I s t a r t e d out with one f r i e n d and s o r t o f moved on w i t h others. I was more of a f o l l o w e r . The  s h i f t t h a t s t a r t e d d u r i n g the summer continued when she  s t a r t e d grade 8. That year t o t a l l y changed me. I was good i n s c h o o l i n elementary school but high school was t o t a l l y different. I d i d n ' t have a l o t of problems but I guess my i n t e r e s t s were elsewhere f o r t h a t p o i n t i n time. So I ended up with Cs, C+s. For the whole year, yeah. I was more i n t e r e s t e d i n f r i e n d s and s o c i a l i z i n g and t h a t s o r t o f t h i n g than going t o s c h o o l . While she was making new f r i e n d s and f i n d i n g new i n t e r e s t s C encountered some s o c i a l  difficulties.  I was always the one that was p i c k e d on. They were a l l i n the same area. Walked home the same way. There was a church next door t o the school and p a r k i n g l o t which was where we used t o gather, you know, and have our lunch and whatever. She would harass and t h r e a t e n me, to the p o i n t where i f she came around I'd be t r y i n g t o sneak out the back door s o r t of speak. What made matters worse was t h a t C's appeals  f o r help  were not a c t e d on. U n f o r t u n a t e l y there wasn't a l o t they [the school] c o u l d do. They were sympathetic but i f I got i n t o a f i g h t , the r u l e was that both of us would get suspended. There wasn't l i k e an i n s t i g a t o r p e n a l t y o r anything l i k e t h a t so there wasn't a whole l o t t h a t they c o u l d do without, without p r o o f . I remember m i s s i n g s c h o o l , not wanting t o go. [So t h a t l e f t me f e e l i n g ] h e l p l e s s . You know there wasn't t h a t much I  165  c o u l d do. Except change my ways or you know, go d i f f e r e n t way to school every day or something. Her p a r e n t s were not e f f e c t i v e i n addressing  a  the s i t u a t i o n  either. Well they'd d r i v e me to s c h o o l . For them i t was common because of my b r o t h e r . You know he, boys get i n t o f i g h t s a l l the time. For them i t ' s , you know, i t s o r t of f l a t t e n s i t s e l f out as time goes by so I guess t h a t ' s what they were expecting. They cared but t h a t ' s about a l l they c o u l d do at that p o i n t . T h i s s i t u a t i o n went on f o r the e n t i r e year. r e s o l v e d because C grew t a l l e r and to i n t i m i d a t e p h y s i c a l l y .  I t was  t h e r e f o r e was  finally  not  as easy  While p h y s i c a l m a t u r a t i o n  r e s o l v e d some of her d i f f i c u l t i e s ,  other problems  surfaced.  Although I t h i n k the o n l y reason why she d i d i t , she was more of a user. There were a l o t of t h i n g s that I had that she wanted, that she got. So I t h i n k that was the o n l y reason why she became f r i e n d s . She d i d n ' t see any reason to p i c k on me anymore. She found other t h i n g s t h a t I was u s e f u l f o r I guess. Other f r i e n d s a l s o l e t her down. My g i r l f r i e n d set me up to t e s t my f r i e n d s h i p . And I guess I f a i l e d . She put me through a t e s t . J u s t to see i f I'd l i e to her. I can't r e a l l y remember e x a c t l y what i t was about but o b v i o u s l y I f a i l e d the t e s t . you know i f you i f you have p a i r of pants, you go to your f r i e n d , your r e a l l y c l o s e f r i e n d and say w e l l how do these pants look. I f they look hideous on you, you'd hope that they'd say something i n s t e a d of s a y i n g they look okay on you. Well that was s o r t of the s i t u a t i o n and she took i t that I l i e d to her. And so I ended up, she beat me up p r e t t y badly she and her f r i e n d s . They both d i d . That was tough. She was the one I got to know i n grade 7. She was a c l o s e f r i e n d . In some ways however, grade 8 was  a good year.  I went to every dance. I was i n v o l v e d i n the t r a c k team and I t h i n k I was i n v o l v e d i n b a s k e t b a l l .  166  Academically,  C's i n t e r e s t s were l i m i t e d .  Math was a s t r o n g s u b j e c t f o r me. But as f a r as E n g l i s h and Science, I never l i k e d those s u b j e c t s . Her grades dropped t o C's and C-'s,  but C was p e r c e i v e d as  t r y i n g and h e r r e p o r t c a r d comments i n d i c a t e d t h a t she was making a good e f f o r t . I had a l o t of G's [good e f f o r t ] so my p a r e n t s saw low grades but a "G", they were happy. Yeah, They weren't r e a l l y s t r i c t parents. They weren't e x p e c t i n g A's and B's out o f me. You know, I guess they s o r t of understood what i t was l i k e . [And I was] s o r t o f , ah who cares, i t ' s not a h a s s l e so I won't t h i n k about i t C's  a t t i t u d e towards school was a l s o s l i p p i n g out  through some of her behavior. Me and a g i r l f r i e n d , w e l l there were t h r e e o f us and we'd s i t together. We'd s i t there long enough f o r r o l l c a l l t o be taken and then we'd sneak out the door and go on our way. The teacher was so, he was v e r y o l d , v e r y slow, he d i d n ' t pay much a t t e n t i o n t o what was going on around him. You know, he j u s t s o r t o f gave us d i r e c t i o n s and that was i t . He d i d n ' t even n o t i c e . We j u s t t r i e d t o see how f a r we c o u l d get away with t h i s . If we c o u l d get away with i t - f i n e . Before the year ended, C was suspended s e v e r a l for  s k i p p i n g s c h o o l and f o r smoking on school  These suspensions suspension  had s e v e r a l r e p e r c u s s i o n s .  was accompanied with a grounding  u s u a l l y executed  by her mother.  times  property. Each  from home,  For the most p a r t  this  tended t o be a short term a f f a i r that c u r t a i l e d her s o c i a l activity.  A longer l a s t i n g consequence came about through  her r e l a t i o n s h i p with the v i c e - p r i n c i p a l , suspended h e r .  the person  who  167  The v i c e - p r i n c i p a l , he tended t o make t h i n g s out t o be a l o t worse than they were. And between my mom and I we'd c a t c h him l y i n g to her about t h i n g s t h a t I had done. The  sense of i n j u s t i c e that C experienced added  s i g n i f i c a n t l y t o her growing disengagement.  I t was  problem t h a t would grow worse i n her grade 9 year.  a For the  time b e i n g however, l i f e went on r e l a t i v e l y u n d i s t u r b e d . C passed grade 8 w i t h C's and C+'s.  While  t h i s was  a  s i g n i f i c a n t drop i n her l e v e l of performance, i t posed no r e a l problems at the The  time.  Middle During the summer between grade 8 and 9 C's  became more a c t i v e .  Her c i r c l e of f r i e n d s and  social  acquaintances  i n c r e a s e d as d i d her consumption of a l c o h o l and drugs. the pace and breadth of her s o c i a l l i f e  life  As  i n c r e a s e d her major  concern c e n t e r e d around the l i m i t a t i o n s t o her freedom. I mean, my parents, l i k e probably d i d n ' t t r u s t me cause of a l l the problems I had i n school but, but t h a t was about the o n l y problem area I had. I t bothered me, that my parents d i d n ' t t r u s t me, because I f e l t t h a t I was t r u s t w o r t h y . When I was going to s c h o o l , t h a t was a t o t a l l y d i f f e r e n t t h i n g but, they d i d n ' t t r u s t me on anything. In  p r a c t i c e t h i s l a c k of t r u s t t r a n s l a t e d i n t o r u l e s about  dating.  Strong w i l l e d and r e s o u r c e f u l , C found i t r a t h e r  easy t o get around these e x p e c t a t i o n s . I was good at l y i n g . My mom's g u l l i b l e so, she f e l l f o r i t every time. I'd t e l l her, l i k e I wasn't a l l o w e d b o y f r i e n d s u n t i l I was 16 or something so I had make b e l i e v e f r i e n d s l e f t r i g h t and c e n t e r t h a t I was g o i n g to and uh, my mom never s a i d anything. She s o r t of, r a t h e r than a s k i n g me why my f r i e n d s never came over t o  168  the house, she'd s o r t of, she'd never bother me about that. I was, I guess, j u s t a c c e p t i n g i t the way i t was and h i d i n g my b o y f r i e n d s a l l over the p l a c e . Although her f a t h e r represented f o r c e , she had  more of a  disciplinary  to d e a l with him o n l y o c c a s i o n a l l y .  My dad wasn't around. L i k e , my mom would d e a l w i t h me and ground me or do whatever she had to do but she would, sometimes she wouldn't even t e l l my dad. She would s o r t of keep i t from him and there were times when she would t e l l him and you know, he'd come out and he'd y e l l and scream at me, t h a t would be i t . The  r e l a t i v e freedom that C a c q u i r e d allowed  pursue her s o c i a l i n t e r e s t s . boys, continued attended  She  her  became more i n v o l v e d  to i n c r e a s e her c i r c l e of f r i e n d s  most of the s o c i a l f u n c t i o n s .  life.  Most of her drug and  l i m i t e d to weekends.  with  and  At the same time, C  managed to keep her p a r t y a c t i v i t i e s q u i t e separate school  to  from her  a l c o h o l consumption  was  Although her marks d e t e r i o r a t e d  slightly,  she d i d not a t t r i b u t e t h i s to her  increased  freedom.  Increasingly uninterested i n school,  success  seemed to ^depend most on the q u a l i t y of her r e l a t i o n s h i p s with  teachers. I enjoyed t y p i n g and I enjoyed band. the t e a c h e r was a l i t t l e Chinese man. I can't remember h i s name but he was r e a l l y n i c e and r e a l l y , you know, always, I don't know, he had p e r s o n a l i t y , you know, he was r e a l l y quick, r e a l l y , you know, always happy and always. He was easy to, to l e a r n from, easy to be i n the room with. He always gave us s o r t of o u t s i d e p r o j e c t s t o work on to help our grades, that s o r t of t h i n g . o t h e r teachers p o t e n t i a l l y p o s i t i v e experiences and  feed her sense of  injustice.  turned  169 I had a s c i e n c e teacher, not a s c i e n c e , s o c i a l s , who, he accused me of doing something that I d i d n ' t do. I took too long between breaks between c l a s s e s t o g e t t o h i s c l a s s and he accused me that I was s o c i a l i z i n g w i t h my f r i e n d s o r something and I l i k e d him at that p o i n t and then once I r e a l i z e d , I t h i n k he even swore a t me at that p o i n t and at that p o i n t f o r me, t h a t , you know. I was r e a l l y shocked and a f t e r that I hated him throughout the whole year. Her  b i g g e s t problem though was the v i c e - p r i n c i p a l . The v i c e p r i n c i p a l took every person who had ever been i n t r o u b l e with him i n grade 9 and made the math c l a s s . I was not pleased. I c o u l d not stand t h i s guy and he made i t so that we couldn't get out of the c l a s s , we couldn't switch o r anything, we were stuck. And f o r me I guess math was one of my b e t t e r s u b j e c t s and I guess because of what he had done, i t was f o r c e d upon us, I hated i t . I t o t a l l y hated i t , I hated going, I hated p l e a s i n g him, I hated e v e r y t h i n g . I f a i l e d i t , I think I f a i l e d i t . Yes I d i d , I f a i l e d i t .  In a d d i t i o n t o f a i l i n g math, C was suspended f i v e times throughout h e r grade 9 year. smoking on school p r o p e r t y  Her o f f e n c e s  once again were  and s k i p p i n g s c h o o l .  She  r e c a l l e d t h a t d u r i n g grade 9 she would s k i p c l a s s a l i t t l e more o f t e n .  L i k e grade 8, C's grade 9 year was a mix o f  p o s i t i v e and negative  experiences.  increasingly successful.  Socially,  she was  New f r i e n d s h i p s were formed,  p a r t i e s and dances were attended r e g u l a r l y , and the freedom d e s i r e d was made a v a i l a b l e . slide.  Academically, C continued t o  Her main academic i n t e r e s t (math) was undermined as  a r e s u l t of her a n t a g o n i s t i c r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h the v i c e principal. her  Other s u b j e c t s and teachers  interest.  f a i l e d t o capture  Academic engagement was i n c r e a s i n g l y  dependant on the q u a l i t y of her r e l a t i o n s h i p s w i t h  teachers.  170  A l b e i t at a b a r e l y p e r c e p t i b l e pace, grade 9 f u r t h e r e d her disengagement. The summer between grade 9 and 10 added t o her s o c i a l life. I was i n v o l v e d , there was a boy's and g i r l ' s c l u b and I guess a couple of f r i e n d s , we ended up going t h e r e . You know, v i d e o games, pool t a b l e s , t h i n g s l i k e t h a t . The most s i g n i f i c a n t event of the summer c e n t e r e d  around a  new r e l a t i o n s h i p . I met t h i s guy. I t a f f e c t e d me b i g time. Cause t h a t was the f i r s t r e l a t i o n s h i p , the f i r s t l o v e s o r t of thing. On the s t r e n g t h of t h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p C t r a n s f e r r e d s c h o o l s . In a d d i t i o n t o being with her b o y f r i e n d , C r e k i n d l e d o l d friendships. A l o t more f r i e n d s . There were a l o t of f r i e n d s I had had i n elementary school that I never saw through grade 8 and grade 9 that were at my new school t h a t I got t o know again. Probably a group of about 8 0 people t h a t a l l knew each other. So i t was a l o t more fun. The s t a r t of grade 10 a l s o presented p o s s i b i l i t y f o r academic engagement. i n t e r e s t s were dormant,  a genuine  While C's  there was a new  academic  resolve to attend  regularly. Well a t t e n d i n g school was something that my b o y f r i e n d and I a c t u a l l y agreed that we would, we would go t o school a l l the time together. We knew the importance of i t so we made an e f f o r t . I always knew s c h o o l was important, i t depended on whether I cared o r not.  171  Unfortunately,  when her r e l a t i o n s h i p ended so d i d C's  resolve to attend  regularly.  She went back t o s k i p p i n g once  i n a w h i l e and here and there came t o school under the i n f l u e n c e of drugs. the year. and  Nevertheless C s t i l l  managed t o pass  Near the end of grade 10 she met a new b o y f r i e n d  once again attempted t o change her l i f e s t y l e . It j u s t happened. Well the guy that I was with, he was, I wanted t o walk away from i t [ a l c o h o l and d r u g s ] . I t ' s j u s t d i f f i c u l t when you're c o n s t a n t l y around i t . And he wanted me, you know he wanted t o make sure t h a t e v e r y t h i n g was c l e a n and you know that s o r t of t h i n g . L i k e not i n t o drugs, he d i d n ' t l i k e a l c o h o l , d i d n ' t l i k e anything l i k e t h a t .  Even though they argued r e g u l a r l y about her d r i n k i n g , the r e l a t i o n s h i p gave C a sense of being  s e t t l e d and she found  the summer a l o t more r e l a x e d . The End When she s t a r t e d grade 11 t h i s p o s i t i v e tone accompanied her. I don't t h i n k that I had any c l a s s e s t o s t a r t w i t h t h a t I didn't l i k e . I d i d a guitar class just f o r a point of i n t e r e s t . That was fun. I had an economics c l a s s t h a t I r e a l l y enjoyed. I t was i n t e r e s t i n g . I t was the f i r s t time i t was, I guess i t was a s o c i a l s s t u d i e s c l a s s , and i t was, i t was fun, I c o u l d understand i t . I t was, the person t e a c h i n g i t made i t v e r y interesting. Before long however, t h i n g s s t a r t e d t o crumble.  The f i r s t  academic d i f f i c u l t y that arose was her foods c l a s s . I was not a morning person. I d i d n ' t l i k e t o get up e a r l y i n the morning, that s o r t of t h i n g and I was l a t e f o r h e r c l a s s a few times. And I remember she t o l d me t h a t i f I was ever l a t e again, not t o show up, so I was  172  l a t e every day. So I never showed up t o any of the r e s t of h e r c l a s s e s . I ended up dropping her c l a s s . Socially, past. three  life  was not as comfortable as i t had been i n the  Her new school was a s e n i o r h i g h w i t h a p o p u l a t i o n times that of her previous  school. C f e l t  l o s t and  confused. It was j u s t too b i g of a change I t h i n k . I think i t [ f e e l i n g l o s t and confused] s t a r t e d almost r i g h t away. I was j u s t so overwhelmed t o see people that I hung out w i t h who wouldn't even acknowledge me. You know people would be hanging with people that I d i d n ' t even know, you know, i t j u s t seemed so strange cause e v e r y t h i n g [used t o be] so n i c e and t i g h t l y k n i t . I mean everyone was doing t h e i r own t h i n g . I had my c l o s e f r i e n d and my b o y f r i e n d but n e i t h e r of them went t o s c h o o l . C's  school  experience ended i n c o n f u s i o n .  In h e r f i r s t  semester i n grade 11 she f a i l e d every c l a s s except g u i t a r . I have no i d e a what happened. I t j u s t , e v e r y t h i n g f e l l apart I guess. I t was so d i f f e r e n t I guess, such a b i g jump. L i k e t h i s school, i t ' s three l e v e l s , i t ' s huge and I went from a small one l e v e l s c h o o l . I dropped out halfway, i t was the s t a r t of the l a s t semester. During what turned  out t o be her l a s t school meeting the  c o u n s e l l o r informed C's parents that t h e i r daughter was the type of person who couldn't w i t h anyone.  stand school and r e f u s e d t o work  C agreed w i t h t h i s a n a l y s i s .  I d i d n ' t l i k e the r u l e s . I d i d n ' t l i k e the way e v e r y t h i n g was s e t up so p e r f e c t l y , you know w i t h a l l the b l o c k s and you get an hour here, and 5 minutes between c l a s s e s . I j u s t , I d i d n ' t l i k e i t . J u s t the s t r u c t u r e d system and the teachers, the way they t r e a t e d you, I mean you're, j u s t about, you're v e r y c l o s e t o being an a d u l t and you're not q u i t e there but as f a r as you're concerned you are and they're t r e a t i n g you l i k e l i t t l e k i d s . You've got t o b r i n g i n your l i t t l e note from your mother, you know, and that s o r t of t h i n g .  173  At  the s t a r t of grade 11 C d i d n ' t have a c l a s s that she  didn't l i k e .  Four months l a t e r she dropped out, completely-  overwhelmed. Commentary. C's s t o r y o f disengagement q u a l i t y about i t .  has an e e r i e ,  illusional  On the s u r f a c e she appeared a c a d e m i c a l l y  capable, and, f o r the most p a r t , s o c i a l l y s u c c e s s f u l .  Her  home seemed s t a b l e and s u p p o r t i v e . At d i f f e r e n t times, C p r e s e n t e d as q u i t e mature and independent. her  The nature of  demise and departure as a student however, suggests t h a t  she was never r e a l l y q u i t e  grounded.  Her academic a b i l i t y was most evident i n elementary school.  Here she was a b e t t e r than average student.  waning academic her  C's  i n t e r e s t and s o c i a l p r e o c c u p a t i o n e x p l a i n e d  l i m i t e d academic accomplishment  i n j u n i o r high.  Her  f a i l u r e and premature departure i n grade 11 was more a matter of s o c i a l a l i e n a t i o n than academic It in  i s i n h e r s o c i a l l i f e however, that the f i r s t  t h i s veneer of success s t a r t e d t o appear.  moved and found i t d i f f i c u l t In  limitation. crack  In grade 4 she  t o leave her o l d f r i e n d s h i p s .  grade 8 C seemed both t o have many f r i e n d s and t o be  p i c k e d on r e g u l a r l y .  Popular and s o c i a l l y v e r y a c t i v e , she,  n e v e r t h e l e s s , changed schools so that she c o u l d be w i t h h e r boyfriend.  When she reached grade 11 she was o s t r a c i z e d  even though she knew many people, and had p r e v i o u s l y e x p e r i e n c e d them as p a r t of a t i g h t l y k n i t group.  Combined  174  these episodes present the p o r t r a i t of a person who was more needy and alone than grounded and i n charge. T h i s aloneness o r i g i n a t e d i n C's home and was the g r e a t e s t source of her d i f f i c u l t i e s . absent.  C's f a t h e r was o f t e n  When he was a v a i l a b l e h i s involvement was c u r t a i l e d  by h i s w i f e ' s i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of what was prudent.  According  to C, h e r mother was most concerned that t e n s i o n r e s u l t i n g from h e r daughter's behavior at s c h o o l not impede on the r e l a t i o n s h i p between f a t h e r and daughter.  C's mom, on the  o t h e r hand, was g u l l i b l e and e a s i l y managed when C d e s i r e d more freedom.  The p a r e n t s ' l i m i t e d s k i l l s t r a n s l a t e d  into  an i n o r d i n a t e amount of c o n t r o l and freedom b e i n g p l a c e d i n t o C's i n e x p e r i e n c e d hands.  Unguided  and l a r g e l y  r e s p o n s i b l e f o r her own a f f a i r s she grew i n c r e a s i n g l y dependent on f r i e n d s h i p s and b o y f r i e n d s f o r emotional support.  When she found h e r s e l f i n a s c h o o l without  support she l o s t her w i l l t o make an e f f o r t .  this  The o n l y way  to b r i n g the r e i g n i n g chaos t o an end was t o withdraw from school.  175  Chapter  14  Introduction N a r r a t i v e accounts were analyzed i n order t o compare disengagement p a t t e r n s and the meanings d e r i v e d from experiences.  The  c e n t r a l q u e s t i o n was  whether premature  departure from school f o l l o w e d common p a t t e r n s of or u n i q u e l y i n d i v i d u a l ones. i n t e r v i e w s , the co-authored  these  experience  I n i t i a l and f o l l o w up s t o r i e s , and the r e s e a r c h e r ' s  r e c o l l e c t i o n s were u t i l i z e d i n t h i s p r o c e s s . During the i n i t i a l  i n t e r v i e w s , there was  d i f f e r e n c e i n p a r t i c i p a n t s ' accounts. s t o r i e s were r i c h i n d e t a i l ,  a qualitative  For i n s t a n c e , some  d e l i v e r e d with passion,  and  o f t e n c o n t a i n e d images and metaphors t h a t e n c a p s u l a t e d n a r r a t o r ' s experience. articulate.  Other speakers were not  the  as  These r e n d i t i o n s were at times bland, more  o f t e n d e l i v e r e d i n a monotone, and tended t o l a c k c l a r i t y and  precision. Another g e n e r a l d i s t i n c t i o n was  the p a r t i c i p a n t s '  p o s i t i o n i n g i n r e l a t i o n to t h e i r n a r r a t i v e s .  Those whose  language allowed f o r a r i c h e r n a r r a t i v e appeared  more i n  c o n t r o l and seemed to have come to terms w i t h some of t h e i r memories.  These p a r t i c i p a n t s presented as i f t h e i r  of disengagement was  an h i s t o r i c a l event.  process  They would  recall  a p a r t i c u l a r moment, capture and present the poignancy the experience, and continue w i t h the s t o r y .  A  of  certain  sense of peace accompanied t h e i r s t o r i e s even though some  176  c o n f u s i o n and p a i n remained. articulate, the p a s t .  seemed i n some way  Gestures,  who  were l e s s  to be s t i l l  s t r u g g l i n g with  Some would d e s c r i b e an i n c i d e n t and appear to get  caught up i n t h e i r own powerful  Others,  musings.  Memories would  f e e l i n g s and cause p a r t i c i p a n t s to become a g i t a t e d . s i g h s , reddening  of the face, and  swearing were  e v i d e n t u n t i l a p p r o p r i a t e words c o u l d be found the h e l p of the researcher) times  generate  (often with  to d e s c r i b e t h e i r memories.  At  they would l i n g e r i n the moment, become q u i t e sad,  and  end w i t h a shrug or an "oh w e l l " . Interviews events  a l s o v a r i e d i n terms of the magnitude of  described.  p a r t i c i p a n t s had The  Most of the more p a s s i o n a t e , s t o r i e s with gruesome, v i o l e n t  the  articulate, episodes.  l e s s a r t i c u l a t e group's n a r r a t i v e s tended to f o l l o w a  less v o l a t i l e plot line.  The degree to which t h i s was  matter of language as opposed to experience  a  i s a question  t h a t remains to be answered. N a r r a t i v e s t y l e s and a b i l i t i e s coupled w i t h the of  a c t u a l events  and the r e l a t i o n s h i p s formed d u r i n g  nature the  study p r o v i d e d t h i s r e s e a r c h e r with a v a r i e t y of c h a l l e n g e s . The  first  three p a r t i c i p a n t s (case study 1,2,3) o f f e r e d  d e t a i l e d i n t e r v i e w s which r e a d i l y t r a n s l a t e d i n t o s t o r i e s of disengagement. for  D i s t i n c t memories of s p e c i f i c events  r e l a t i v e l y c l e a r - c u t paths to be c h a r t e d q u i c k l y .  sense of progress generated accomplishment. and awkwardness.  f e e l i n g s of s a t i s f a c t i o n  At the same time there was S e v e r a l times d u r i n g the  allowed This and  some c o n f u s i o n initial  177  interviews,  n a r r a t i v e s i n v i t e d probes that would have l e d  the c o n v e r s a t i o n  i n t o areas of the p a r t i c i p a n t s ' l i v e s  beyond the scope of t h i s r e s e a r c h . there was  At these i n t e r s e c t i o n s  the p o t e n t i a l that r e s e a r c h would d r i f t  domain of l i f e planning, psychotherapy.  personal  well  counselling,  i n t o the  or  Such moments were made even more  difficult  by some p a r t i c i p a n t s ' w i l l i n g n e s s to engage i n a more  formal  therapeutic  their  r e l a t i o n s h i p . Since my  research  rekindled  p a i n f u l memories I f e l t drawn to p a r t i c i p a t e i n any movement towards a r e s o l u t i o n . addressed a p p r o p r i a t e l y  Although these s i t u a t i o n s were ( r e f e r r a l s , d i s c u s s i o n s about  the  l i m i t e d nature of our r e l a t i o n s h i p ) remnants of d i s s a t i s f a c t i o n remained. On first  a research  l e v e l however, these  i n t e r v i e w s were most encouraging. In c o n t r a s t to the sense of s a t i s f a c t i o n accrued from  the f i r s t three  interviews,  the next two  (case study 4 & 5)  generated i n i t i a l f e e l i n g s of f r u s t r a t i o n i n me.  Having  completed i n t e r v i e w s w i t h more a r t i c u l a t e speakers, I had adjust  to p a r t i c i p a n t s whose n a r r a t i v e s were more  to g a t h e r .  These i n t e r v i e w s  counselling s k i l l s more o f t e n . c l a r i t y and  difficulties unfolding  (paraphrasing,  difficult  to draw on  my  c l a r i f y i n g , probing) much  Being a more a c t i v e l i s t e n e r helped b r i n g d e t a i l to general  what s t a r t e d o f f as f l e s h e d out  r e q u i r e d me  to  statements.  "grade 8 was  i n t o a context i n various  instance,  b o r i n g " might have been  that i n c l u d e d academic  subject areas,  i n the home, and  For  confusing  events  a compromised sense of s e l f as a  178  12 y e a r o l d .  T h i s process sometimes helped p a r t i c i p a n t s  make connections between what had f o r m e r l y been d i s p a r a t e p a r t s of t h e i r l i v e s . mixed emotions.  For me  these experiences generated  While t h i s more d e t a i l e d s t o r y helped meet  my needs as a r e s e a r c h e r , I s t r u g g l e d w i t h q u e s t i o n s of invasiveness.  E s p e c i a l l y d u r i n g these two  i n t e r v i e w s , I had  an almost constant d e s i r e t o seek p e r m i s s i o n and a p p r o v a l f o r my  l i n e of i n q u i r y .  I t took some time t o accept t h a t  the type of n a r r a t i v e being o f f e r e d had more t o do w i t h the speaker's n a r r a t i v e s t y l e and r e l a t i v e i n a r t i c u l a t e n e s s as opposed t o r e l u c t a n c e or d e s i r e d p r i v a c y . expected,  As might be  these experiences s u b s t a n t i a l l y i n c r e a s e d my  as an i n t e r v i e w e r .  By the end of the f i f t h s t o r y ,  I  range was  more c l e a r about which i s s u e s were mine and which were the participants'.  I had l e a r n e d to be more t r u s t i n g of  a b i l i t y t o pursue d i f f i c u l t invasive. trust  And perhaps  q u e s t i o n s without  my  feeling  most i m p o r t a n t l y , I had l e a r n e d t o  i n the p a r t i c i p a n t s ' a b i l i t i e s t o take care of  themselves. Some n a r r a t i v e s brought address. was  problems that were harder t o  Of the 10 i n t e r v i e w s the most d i f f i c u l t  the seventh.  M's  narrative  so much u g l i n e s s and p a i n , was d e s t i n e d t o be a dropout kindergarten.  (case study 7), f i l l e d overwhelming.  She  s t a t i s t i c while she was  The l a c k of hope conveyed  n a r r a t i v e reminded me of the many my  17 y e a r s as an educator.  t o conduct  through  with  seemed still  in  her  o t h e r s I'd witnessed i n  After this interview I f e l t  179  saturated  and withdrew from the study.  Unlike  other  u n p r o d u c t i v e times i n the course of the r e s e a r c h , withdrawal was f u t i l i t y and q u e s t i o n my  a d e l i b e r a t e act of s e l f - p r o t e c t i o n .  work as an educator and my I l i n g e r e d f o r months.  After several  a b l e to review my  i n t e r v i e w w i t h M.  I was  more aware of M's  anger than her p a i n .  anger to r e k i n d l e my  attempts  T h i s time around I used  i n t e r e s t i n the process and  When I  the study.  to  e f f o r t s as a  was  in  The  l a c k of hope that f i l l e d her l i f e caused me  researcher. I  this  d i d attempt to w r i t e her  her  re-engaged  s t o r y i t came  quite quickly. The  l a s t phase of the study, comparing the n a r r a t i v e s ,  reminded me  about how  else's story.  difficult  i t was  to hear somebody  Working through the n a r r a t i v e s I  had  developed a b i a s i n favor of the more a r t i c u l a t e speakers. Their experiences I  a s s o c i a t e d with g r e a t e r  pain,  t r u t h f u l n e s s and worth.  I  somehow l e s s s i g n i f i c a n t  f o r the q u i e t e r group.  imagined that l e a v i n g s c h o o l  p r o c e s s of being misjudged m i r r o r e d some of the p a r t i c i p a n t s had school.  Too  often,  This  the i n d i g n i t i e s  i n a p p r o p r i a t e motives had For i n s t a n c e ,  been failure  complete an assignment might be a t t r i b u t e d to low A r r i v i n g l a t e f o r c l a s s was  w i t h poor a t t i t u d e or i n d i f f e r e n c e .  easily  ease w i t h which I was  to  career  associated  Assumptions of  s o r t o f t e n exacerbated an a l r e a d y problematic The  that  s u f f e r e d w h i l e d i s e n g a g i n g from  a t t r i b u t e d to t h e i r behaviors.  aspiration.  was  this  situation.  w i l l i n g to a s c r i b e a f a u l t y motive  180  to b e h a v i o r c o n s t i t u t e d my most embarrassing study.  L e f t unchecked, my  assumption  s e v e r a l p a r t i c i p a n t s ' experiences.  would have  minimized  On the o t h e r hand,  r e c o g n i z i n g t h i s b i a s helped b r i n g c l a r i t y analyses.  moment i n the  and focus t o the  Through t h i s s t r u g g l e some common ground t o the  p a r t i c i p a n t s ' disengagement process s t a r t e d t o emerge. While  the 10 p a r t i c i p a n t s ' s t o r i e s of disengagement  c o n s t i t u t e d unique  i n d i v i d u a l experiences, t h r e e o v e r r i d i n g  movements towards dropping out were d i s c o v e r e d . p a r t i c i p a n t s experienced: problems;  Each of the  (1) an e s c a l a t i n g cumulation  (2) i n c r e a s e d school maladjustment; and  i n c r e a s e d engulfment i n a s p o i l e d i d e n t i t y . movements were grounded i n f a m i l y and circumstances,  of  (3) an  These t h r e e  environmental  i n d i v i d u a l s ' i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s of experience,  and the nature of the school system. The  circumstances of the i n d i v i d u a l p a r t i c i p a n t s '  c o n t r i b u t e d t o the a t t i t u d e s and behaviors t h a t they out at s c h o o l . abilities  Family d i f f i c u l t i e s  lives  lived  undermined p a r e n t s '  t o guide and support t h e i r c h i l d r e n which i n t u r n  had a d i r e c t e f f e c t on t h e i r sons' and daughters' s u r v i v i n g and t h r i v i n g i n the school system.  chances of  Participants'  i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s of l i f e events and t h e i r i n h e r e n t makeup a l s o p l a y e d a r o l e i n t h e i r school experience. i n s t a n c e , some would respond  For  t o t h e i r school experience  becoming angry and h o s t i l e , while others faded q u i e t l y seemed t o accept t h e i r l o t .  by and  The d e s t r u c t i v e c o n t r i b u t i o n  t h a t p a r t i c i p a n t s ' i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s p l a y e d i n t h e i r demise as  181  students was  f e l t p r i m a r i l y at the secondary  t h e i r elementary  level.  school years most were managing  Some were v e r y s u c c e s s f u l .  During  to.cope.  In p a r t , t h i s can be  attributed  to the s o f t e r , more p r o t e c t i v e and watchful atmosphere t h a t i s o f t e n a p a r t of elementary f a c t o r t h a t made elementary age of the c h i l d r e n .  school c u l t u r e .  Another  school l i f e manageable was  Though a number of i n d i v i d u a l s  the  had  e x p e r i e n c e d and witnessed s u b s t a n t i a l p a i n and disappointment,  much of t h i s was  v e n t u r e d i n t o the world y e t . s o j o u r n i n t o adolescence different  still  buried.  Few  Poised to embark on  had  their  and h i g h s c h o o l , they were i n  stages of preparedness.  Some were a c a d e m i c a l l y  s k i l l e d and had known success; o t h e r s were not as f o r t u n a t e . All  however, were q u i t e alone.  Though i t had not y e t become  manifest, each of the i n d i v i d u a l p a r t i c i p a n t s was  charged  w i t h a degree of r e s p o n s i b i l i t y and freedom t h a t would to be overwhelming.  prove  T h e i r e f f o r t s to manage and t o make  sense of t h e i r i n d i v i d u a l circumstances would i n c r e a s e t h e i r d i f f i c u l t i e s at school and would r e s u l t i n the c r e a t i o n of spoiled identities.  The end r e s u l t was  personal  failure.  T h i s f a i l u r e c r y s t a l l i z e d i n the p a r t i c i p a n t s ' premature departure from s c h o o l ; i t was  the f i n a l act i n a long and at  times p a i n f u l p r o c e s s . E s c a l a t i n g Cumulation  of Problems  As c h i l d r e n , each of the p a r t i c i p a n t s experienced a v a r i e t y of problems t h a t , over a p e r i o d of time, e s c a l a t e d i n scope and i n t e n s i t y .  These d i f f i c u l t i e s had a number of  182  sources, and became manifest  i n d i f f e r e n t ways.  Some  (like  p h y s i c a l and sexual abuse) were obvious and were e x p e r i e n c e d as immediately  devastating.  Other d i f f i c u l t i e s  (lost  f r i e n d s h i p s , moments of n e g l e c t , i n a p p r o p r i a t e r o l e models) l i n g e r e d i n the background v i r t u a l l y i n v i s i b l e ; taken i n f i r s t as l i t t l e  h u r t s and c o n f u s i o n s , but o f t e n  ended up becoming powerful One lives.  f o r c e s of d i s r u p t i o n .  group of problems emanated from t h e i r Six participants  (case study 1, 3, 4,  came from homes where a d u l t r e l a t i o n s h i p s had badly f a l t e r i n g . abuse. his  M  these were  parents  1  5, 7, & 8) f a i l e d or were  Other i s s u e s arose out of drug and a l c o h o l  (case 1) has v i v i d memories of coming home to  mother passed out on the couch.  R's  find  (case 3) f a t h e r  would become v i o l e n t when he drank and he d i d so o f t e n . Well b e f o r e she entered adolescence,  B  t e n d i n g to her mother's drunken body.  (case 6) remembered One  e a r l i e s t memories i s of p a s s i n g a l i t j o i n t adult.  A key problem area f o r some, was  preoccupation with career.  B's  of S's  (case 8)  from a d u l t to  their  parents'  (case 6) s u c c e s s f u l p a r e n t s  o f t e n l e f t her i n the hands of s i t t e r s u n t i l w e l l i n t o evening.  A's  (case 2) parents were u n a v a i l a b l e to her when  she needed them. difficulties  the  Still  other unresolved parental  i n v o l v e d sexual abuse and mental i l l n e s s .  (case 1) mother was  schizophrenic.  been s e x u a l l y abused and  M's  (case 7) mother had  raped.  These a d u l t problems c r e a t e d numerous, hardships f o r t h e i r c h i l d r e n .  M's  specific  Some p a r t i c i p a n t s  felt  183  neglected  Others became p r o t e c t i v e and  took  on the r o l e s of p a r e n t s .  F e e l i n g s of confusion,  and  uncertainty  Regardless of the s p e c i f i c  of the  and  abandoned.  were common.  f a m i l y problem, each p a r t i c i p a n t was  environment where the parents' a b i l i t i e s and  nature  exposed to  an  to o f f e r guidance  d i r e c t i o n were compromised. The  convergence of i n d i v i d u a l tendencies, mannerisms,  shortcomings, and  a b i l i t i e s w i t h i n the school  generated another set of d i f f i c u l t i e s . made school and  fear,  G  (case  l i f e more d i f f i c u l t f o r M  milieu,  Being short (case  1).  A  statured (case  (case 4) both s u f f e r e d from extreme shyness. 6) academic success r e s u l t e d i n her  B's  s k i p p i n g a grade,  an experience that l e d to f e e l i n g s of displacement. academic a b i l i t y  left R  exposed and v u l n e r a b l e . f a t h e r had  teachers,  By the age  of 10,  L's  (case  5)  needed  engagement  was  i n f l u e n c e s beyond the c o n t r o l of parents, or the p a r t i c i p a n t s themselves. (case 2,  4,  & 7) were s e x u a l l y  Others s u f f e r e d p h y s i c a l or emotional abuse.  (case 3) was  M  (case  1) was  q u a l i t y of guidance and  o s t r a c i z e d and  The  neglected.  to some p a r t i c i p a n t s '  socioeconomic environment that  r e s i d e d i n a f f e c t e d both S's  was  support a v a i l a b l e , through  peer f r i e n d s h i p s a l s o c o n t r i b u t e d difficulties.  R  o f t e n h i t by h i s drunken f a t h e r ; h i s mother  beaten r e g u l a r l y . The  Limited  (case 4) f e e l i n g  In some circumstances school  A number of p a r t i c i p a n t s abused.  G  l a b e l e d her as a problem c h i l d who  discipline. l i m i t e d by  (case 3) and  2)  (case  8 )and M's  they  (case  7) views  184  of s c h o o l .  Each grew up i n neighborhoods where v i o l e n c e  drugs were commonplace.  School success c a r r i e d  status  A l a c k of s u s t a i n e d  i n this culture.  made the world more f r i g h t e n i n g regularly.  and  little  friendships  f o r those who moved  B (case 6) was s h i f t e d from group t o group  because o f her p a r e n t s ' d e s i r e experiences  t o expose her t o d i f f e r e n t  (French immersion, g i f t e d programs).  M's  (case  1) e f f o r t s t o f i t i n were undermined by changing s c h o o l s and by h i s u n c l e ' s summertime e f f o r t s t o rescue him from h i s mother.  M,  displaced  (case 7) and C (case 10) r e p o r t e d f e e l i n g  due t o r e l o c a t i n g .  a p p r o p r i a t e and s u s t a i n e d escalating  In short,  friendships  added t o p a r t i c i p a n t s '  cumulation of problems.  Left unsettled,  time o n l y served t o compound  p a r t i c i p a n t s ' o r i g i n a l problems. translated  a l a c k of  into inordinate  responsibility.  backgrounds  degrees of p e r s o n a l freedom and  Lacking h e l p i n g  f a i l e d t o l e a r n how t o r e s o l v e difficulties.  Dysfunctional  relationships,  children  p e r s o n a l and s c h o o l  Thrust i n t o r o l e s that  required  m a t u r i t y and c a p a b i l i t y , p a r t i c i p a n t s became  related  f a r more increasingly  overwhelmed and confused. P r o g r e s s i v e i n c a p a c i t a t i o n and d i s i n t e g r a t i o n of t h e i r life had  structure  r e s u l t e d i n a l i n g e r i n g p e r s o n a l chaos.  This  a d e t r i m e n t a l o r at l e a s t s t u l t i f y i n g e f f e c t on t h e i r  trust,  c o n f i d e n c e and s e c u r i t y .  v a r i e t y of forms.  M's  I t s e x p r e s s i o n took a  (case 1) e a r l y r e c o l l e c t i o n s are  f i l l e d w i t h f e e l i n g s of being an o u t s i d e r  i n h i s own  family.  185  By the time he l e f t  elementary s c h o o l he had developed a  deep and desperate need t o belong. seeming  bravado and independence  A (case 2) saw her  as an a c q u i r e d means o f  a d d r e s s i n g her aloneness and sexual abuse.  Over time she  became caught up i n her own facade, a process t h a t deepened and i n t e n s i f i e d her a l i e n a t i o n .  R's (case 3) major escape  from h i s f a t h e r ' s a l c o h o l - d r i v e n v i o l e n c e was the hockey rink. the  Other forms of escape came i n the form o f drugs and  r o l e o f the c l a s s clown.  Molested, a s s a u l t e d , raped and  exposed t o the court system by the time she was ten, M (case 7) f i r s t withdrew and then became i n c r e a s i n g l y d e f i a n t . the  time she was twelve, o n l y l i f e on the s t r e e t c o u l d  her comfort and support.  By offer  Others responded t o t h e i r p e r s o n a l  circumstances i n q u i e t e r l e s s n o t i c e a b l e ways, some by withdrawing,  some through c h r o n i c and m i s d i r e c t e d rage,  o t h e r s through drugs. T h e i r e x p e r i e n c e s p l a c e d each of the p a r t i c i p a n t s a uniquely paradoxical position.  into  To v a r y i n g degrees they  were o v e r l y d i s t r u s t f u l of a d u l t s and v e r y much i n need o f adult d i r e c t i o n .  As they e n t e r e d h i g h s c h o o l the e f f e c t s of  t h e i r i n c r e a s i n g l y t r o u b l e d p e r s o n a l circumstances s t a r t e d to  appear.  In g e n e r a l , p a r t i c i p a n t s '  debilitating  e x p e r i e n c e s r e s u l t e d i n f e e l i n g s of reduced agency and increased v u l n e r a b i l i t y . vagaries l e f t Subsequent  T h e i r exposure t o the world's  them with a reduced a b i l i t y t o t r u s t .  m a n i f e s t a t i o n s of t h i s reduced t r u s t came i n the  form of an i n c r e a s e d s e l f r e l i a n c e o r a more d e f i a n t  186  a t t i t u d e towards a u t h o r i t y .  At s c h o o l , success would depend  more o f t e n on the q u a l i t y of t h e i r r e l a t i o n s h i p s t e a c h e r s than on academic i n t e r e s t s . o f f e r e d the emotional f a i l e d to p r o v i d e . b e l o n g i n g and  with  These r e l a t i o n s h i p s  support t h a t t h e i r backgrounds  had  Contact p r o v i d e d a temporary sense of  f o s t e r e d academic engagement.  A l a c k of  r e l a t i o n s h i p on the other hand, f o s t e r e d disengagement. Poor or weak contact made f o r a somewhat more complicated, s l i g h t l y more v u l n e r a b l e and d i f f i c u l t  to reach  adolescent.  W i t h i n the classroom context they might be c h a r a c t e r i z e d as overly d i f f i c u l t , 6,  & 9) on the one  the o t h e r  argumentative,  or b e l l i g e r e n t  5,  extreme or withdrawn, l o s t or unknown on  (case 2, 3, 4,  7, & 10) .  Each stance,  f u e l e d by a d e s i r e to engage and belong, was d i s t a n c i n g manner.  (case 1,  Although  though  clothed i n a  i t e x i s t e d o u t s i d e of  their  realm of c o n t r o l , t h i s manner added to t h e i r s c h o o l problems and decreased  t h e i r chances of success.  d i f f e r e n t ways, over time there was t h a t emerged.  While m a n i f e s t e d  a discernible pattern  I t s t a r t e d with a g e n e r a l i z e d f r u s t r a t i o n  t h a t grew i n t o f e a r and ended i n r e s i g n a t i o n .  This  w i t h e r i n g of hope, endemic to the disengagement p r o c e s s , f o s t e r e d by the e s c a l a t i n g cumulation the f i r s t movement then, there was  of problems.  possibility.  was  During  a s u s t a i n e d l o o s e n i n g of  the s u p p o r t i v e backdrop that makes school success a practical  in  187  Increased The  School  Maladjustment  p a r t i c i p a n t s ' s t r a i n e d personal  f u r t h e r complicated  foundations  and r u f f l e d by the nature  system, the l o c u s of the second movement. s c h o o l s have a task to accomplish complete i t . Regardless  of the  and a time w i t h i n which to  of t h e i r good i n t e n t i o n s , s c h o o l s  What systemic  secondary school system i s present phenomenon.  school  Regular p u b l i c  can o n l y t o l e r a t e a l i m i t e d amount of p e r s o n a l the p a r t of students.  were  ambiguity  on  t o l e r a n c e e x i s t s i n the  o n l y as an  isolated  Personal u n c e r t a i n t y and c o n f u s i o n t h e r e f o r e ,  have a l i m i t e d time i n which to be r e s o l v e d .  Each of  p a r t i c i p a n t s ran out of time; the demands of the  system  o u t s t r i p p e d the p a r t i c i p a n t s ' a b i l i t i e s to a d j u s t . t r a n s i t i o n from c h i l d h o o d to adolescence  the  Their  therefore,  was  marked by growing f r u s t r a t i o n and s e l f - d o u b t .  These  t r o u b l e s were now  uncertainty  and  added to the a l r e a d y present  confusion. S o r t i n g out who  they were and  identifying,  finding,  or  c r e a t i n g t h e i r niche i n the school system became a t a s k of major p r o p o r t i o n s .  From one  a q u e s t i o n of balance.  The  p e r s p e c t i v e i t can be viewed as need to f i t i n and belong  out of p r o p o r t i o n to the p a t i e n c e ,  trust,  support,  was  and  f l e x i b i l i t y r e q u i r e d to s u s t a i n the search and s u c c e s s f u l l y complete the task.  Nonetheless, numerous e f f o r t s to ground  themselves were made. One  type of e f f o r t  i n v o l v e d academic engagement.  v a r i o u s p o i n t s during- t h e i r high school years  each  At  188  i n d i v i d u a l attempted  t o devote h i m / h e r s e l f t o s c h o o l work.  Some d i d so because they were threatened w i t h e x p u l s i o n i f they d i d n ' t change t h e i r ways. themselves  Others would apply  i n s u b j e c t s where they had e s t a b l i s h e d  comfortable and t r u s t i n g r e l a t i o n s h i p s w i t h t e a c h e r s .  A few  had known academic accomplishment when they were younger and found i t easy t o e x c e l when they managed t o a p p l y themselves. V a r i o u s l e v e l s of success were r e a l i z e d as a r e s u l t of these e f f o r t s .  Some improved o r even e x c e l l e d i n a  p a r t i c u l a r subject.  Others made i t on the honor r o l e .  These achievements however, were at best, temporary. Regardless of the i n d i v i d u a l nature of t h e i r success, none were a b l e t o s u s t a i n i t .  Success  f a i l e d t o generate o r  promote any long s t a n d i n g sense of membership. associations  The p o s i t i v e  (approval, r e c o g n i t i o n , p r a i s e ) which  accompanied academic achievement, somehow f a i l e d t o be internalized.  In p a r t t h i s f a i l u r e can be a t t r i b u t e d t o  circumstance.  For some p a r t i c i p a n t s , e f f o r t and achievement  were not p a r t of a deeply r o o t e d a t t i t u d e nursed and c u l t i v a t e d by f a m i l y mores. success was expected,  With o t h e r s , although academic  there was no s u p p o r t i v e s t r u c t u r e t o  facilitate their efforts.  E f f o r t and achievement t h e r e f o r e  had the appearance of a f r e e f l o a t i n g phenomenon  seemingly  drawn upon at w i l l one day but i n a c c e s s i b l e the next. actual fact, it  In  school success was a c o n t e x t u a l i z e d experience,-  came about when o t h e r f a c t o r s  (friendships,  teacher's  189  support, temporary peace at home) were taken care o f . t h e i r emotional started  context changed however, t h e i r  to wither.  participants achievement.  Regardless of t h e i r  positive  success  accomplishments,  continued t o have a pawn-like  relationship  No i n t e r n a l mechanism had developed  would enable them t o a c t w i t h agency.  As  Over time  academic experiences decreased,  their  with  which their  failures  i n c r e a s e d and t h e i r r e s o l v e t o achieve weakened. Other e f f o r t s t o ground themselves orientation.  had a s o c i a l  Here, school c l u b s , a c t i v i t i e s ,  were some of the v e h i c l e s t o membership.  and a t h l e t i c s  S e v e r a l of the  participants  took these routes and f o r a time seemed t o  settle in.  Others never e x p l o r e d these avenues o r never  f e l t welcomed when they made an e f f o r t .  Whatever t h e i r  immediate experience, a sense of b e l o n g i n g was not a t t a i n e d . In the long r u n the common f e e l i n g was  emptiness.  These f a i l e d e f f o r t s t o a d j u s t need t o be c o n s i d e r e d i n the context of the p a r t i c i p a n t s '  troubled l i v e s .  e f f o r t t o cope, over time each p a r t i c i p a n t defensive posture.  In an  adopted a  Regardless of t h e i r a b i l i t i e s o r  successes t h e r e f o r e , each s t r o v e t o make sense o f h i s / h e r world w i t h i n the context of a reduced emotional  resiliency.  Where o t h e r students might bounce back from the d a i l y ( r e a l o r imagined) that f i l l participants  barbs  adolescent s c h o o l l i f e , the  c o u l d not do so s u f f i c i e n t l y t o a t t a i n a sense  of peace and b e l o n g i n g .  Instead of being a new s t a r t , a l l  too q u i c k l y h i g h school became a c o n t i n u a t i o n of t h e i r  190  troubled past.  Grounded i n a p r o b l e m - r i d d l e d s t o r y l i n e  l a c k i n g access to a p e r s p e c t i v e that might h e l p to  and  absorb,  d e f l e c t , or i n t e r p r e t some of t h e i r p a i n i n a more u s e f u l manner, p a r t i c i p a n t s l e a r n e d to expect,  a n t i c i p a t e , and •  o f t e n prepare  f a i l e d to r e g i s t e r ,  f o r the worst.  Successes  whereas f a i l u r e s deepened t h e i r p a i n and reduced resolve to t r y .  Making an e f f o r t at school became  increasingly d i f f i c u l t . meaning as f a i l u r e ,  Since success was  as v o i d of  i n d i f f e r e n c e took h o l d .  e x t e r n a l support and guidance, insurmountable.  Lacking  t h i s i n d i f f e r e n c e became  "Whatever" became the  articulated,  p h i l o s o p h i c a l bottom l i n e and the best means of a g a i n s t the system's request Mood r u l e d the day.  f o r e f f o r t and  Simultaneously,  i n t e r p r e t e d by t h e i r educators indifferent  their  students.  defending  commitment.  they were too o f t e n  as l a z y , unconcerned or  Behavior was  regularly  i n a p p r o p r i a t e l y t r a n s l a t e d i n t o motive.  Now,  and f e e l i n g s of  i n j u s t i c e were added to the long s t a n d i n g p a i n and growing c o n f u s i o n . direction,  the  Lacking adequate i n t e r v e n t i o n and  t h e i r d e f e n s i v e postures s t a r t e d to s h i f t  into  what would become more permanent, d e f e n s i v e styles., Some began to experiment w i t h an a g g r e s s i v e s t y l e . (case 6) became i n c r e a s i n g l y rude and b e l l i g e r e n t .  B  She  s t a r t e d to s p e c i a l i z e i n h u m i l i a t i n g teachers by making them look s t u p i d . b e r a t i n g them. style.  R  M  (case 1) moved from c h a l l e n g i n g t e a c h e r s to Others  (case 3), G  s t a r t e d to adopt a more p a s s i v e (case 4), S  (case 8), and B  (case 9)  191  used drugs to d i s t a n c e themselves. become more s t i l l ,  A  (case 2) l e a r n e d t o  making i t i n c r e a s i n g l y d i f f i c u l t  system t o n o t i c e her.  C  (case 10) was  f o r the  b e l l i g e r e n t when  c o n f r o n t e d and i n d i f f e r e n t when ignored. Considered as a whole, the second movement was of  wavering.  At i t s most obvious l e v e l ,  c a p t u r e d through o v e r t behavior.  a period  the wavering  was  Hope was w i t h e r i n g ,  problems were i n c r e a s i n g , and d e f i a n t and d i s t a n c i n g t e n d e n c i e s were c r y s t a l l i z i n g , yet most p a r t i c i p a n t s were still  managing t o h o l d on.  They attended s c h o o l most of the  time; once i n a while they made an e f f o r t . was  a matter of h a b i t .  t h e i r l i v e s ; t h e r e was  To a degree t h i s  They had gone to s c h o o l f o r most of nowhere e l s e t o go.  At the same  time, t h i s h a b i t r e f l e c t e d t h e i r hopes and d e s i r e s . in  a world where e d u c a t i o n was  belong and t o succeed.  valued, they yearned  Raised to  At a deeper l e v e l t h i s h a b i t  c o n s t i t u t e d t h e i r f i n a l and most desperate defense.  Worse  than the sense of f a i l u r e and defeat that would accompany dropping out, was  the t e r r o r of freedom.  They had been  students ever s i n c e they c o u l d remember; they had no  other  identity. An Increased Engulfment i n a S p o i l e d I d e n t i t y The  t h i r d movement i n v o l v e d a c r y s t a l l i z i n g of p r e v i o u s  experiences and a t t i t u d e s w i t h i n the context of complex p e r s o n a l demands.  increasingly  These demands i n v o l v e d a deeper  and e v e r p r e s e n t d e s i r e to belong and a y e a r n i n g f o r T  meaning, both of which manifested themselves  in a striving  192  for identity.  Couched i n f e a r , rage, and  reactivity, this  p r o c e s s of becoming was  i n c a p a b l e of meeting the  demands of the  At the  system.  needed a r e s o l u t i o n of the embroiled.  The  increased  same time, each p a r t i c i p a n t  troubles  i n which they were  s p o i l e d i d e n t i t y that was  was  the best a v a i l a b l e s o l u t i o n to the  was  the  brought i n t o b e i n g  reigning  o n l y a v a i l a b l e means of p r e s e r v i n g  chaos; i t  dignity.  In an attempt to make sense of t h e i r l i v e s , participants and  interpreted  s t r e e t experiences.  and  alone.  o t h e r types of membership.  actions  not  Experiences i n  i n personal distancing  mainstream school a c t i v i t y .  Out  felt  E f f o r t s to f i t i n f a i l e d  sense of b e l o n g i n g d e s i r e d .  academic f a i l u r e r e s u l t e d  however, was  school,  By e a r l y adolescence, most  exposed, unprotected, and to reap the  f i l t e r e d t h e i r home,  from  of t h i s arose a s e a r c h f o r  T h i s change of d i r e c t i o n  a deliberate  act of agency.  Rather, t h e i r  were more i n keeping w i t h a r i v e r that has  i t s banks; unleashed, the water i s merely l o o k i n g  overflown for a  new  p l a c e to s e t t l e . As hold,  t h e i r disengagement from school deepened and  took  p a r t i c i p a n t s employed a v a r i e t y of means to manage  pain associated drugs.  with a f a l t e r i n g i d e n t i t y .  excitement and  money, c r i m i n a l a c t i v i t y a l s o  belonging.  New  anesthetic. offered  i d e n t i t i e s became a v a i l a b l e  through membership i n f r i n g e groups people).  Many opted f o r  Crime o f t e n accompanied t h i s c h o i c e of  Beyond p r o v i d i n g  the  (thieves,  dopers,  More time became a v a i l a b l e f o r p e r s o n a l  street  193  r e l a t i o n s h i p s and sexual involvement.  S k i p p i n g c l a s s became  a u s e f u l way t o minimize the d a i l y p a i n of s c h o o l . Whatever the chosen means of d i s t a n c i n g from s c h o o l ( p h y s i c a l , emotional,  or i n t e l l e c t u a l ) ,  the common e f f e c t  was an i n c r e a s e d sense of s e c u r i t y , a l b e i t a f a l s e one. D i s t a n c e made school success l e s s l i k e l y . p o s s i b i l i t y came a s a v i n g of f a c e .  With d e c r e a s i n g  F a i l u r e c o u l d now be  a s s o c i a t e d not with an i n a b i l i t y t o cope but r a t h e r w i t h a lifestyle. pain  One simply had b e t t e r t h i n g s t o do.  (embarrassment, f a i l u r e ,  through v a r i o u s l i e s  The i n i t i a l  s o c i a l r e j e c t i o n ) was managed  ( i n d i f f e r e n c e , anger, drugs,  crime)  which i n t u r n r e s u l t e d i n a deadening of the s p i r i t .  This  deadening of the s p i r i t was by now synonymous w i t h a t t e n d i n g school.  L i k e refugees, they had t o leave i n o r d e r t o l i v e .  Where they ended up s e t t l i n g v a r i e d .  The course o f  l e a s t r e s i s t a n c e was a major f a c t o r f o r S (case 8 ) . finally  He  gave way t o the world of drugs which he had f i r s t  encountered  as a t o d d l e r .  G's  (case 4) success and  p o p u l a r i t y as a p a r t y g i r l was too d i f f i c u l t t h i s r o l e she was comfortable, a p a r t y she knew no shyness. t h e i r rage t o the s t r e e t . nonexistence.  to r e s i s t .  In  s u c c e s s f u l and powerful.  At  M (case 1) and M (case 7) took  A (case 2) withered  into  virtual  B's (case 6) a c e r b i c tongue l o s t i t s  g u n s l i n g e r q u a l i t y but her rage was not tamed.  Given a  c h o i c e t o e i t h e r comply o r leave, she opted t o l e a v e .  C  (case 10) simply buckled under the weight of her aloneness. Regardless  of the i n d i v i d u a l v a r i a t i o n s , the i d e n t i t y each  194  person forged i d e n t i t y had First,  was  s i m i l a r i n that  s e v e r a l common i t was  i t was  no  accomplishment as a g o a l .  of agency.  by  S u r v i v a l had  Second, t h i s new  and  s t r e e t t h e i r sense of potency. became immersed i n b u f f e t e d  freedom.  identity  was  illusion  common-law r e l a t i o n s h i p s A sense of abandon  l i v i n g by one's w i t s gave those who  the p a i n of f a i l u r e and  there  replaced  f a l s e f r o n t s which c a r r i e d an  Drugs, sex,  The  sense of s t r i v i n g ,  supported t h i s f a l s e agency f o r some. and  spoiled  marked by a sense of r e s i g n a t i o n .  sense of having a r r i v e d .  often buttressed  A  features.  p o s i t i o n s adopted were v o i d of any was  spoiled.  The  had  turned to  a c t i v i t i e s that  each  p a r t i c i p a n t s temporarily  the h o r r o r  of t h e i r new  F i n a l l y , t h i s s p o i l e d i d e n t i t y can be  c r y s t a l l i z a t i o n of a process that had  the  from  found seen as  the  s t a r t e d when t h e i r  p a r e n t s r e l i n q u i s h e d or l o s t c o n t r o l of t h e i r c h i l d r e n . most cases t h i s break had anxiety  of adolescence had  o c c u r r e d b e f o r e the c o n f u s i o n set i n .  As  moved i n t o t h e i r adolescent years and redefine little  the  turned i n t o a rout.  s t a r t e d to r e b e l  required,  or  with  What should have been a Confused by t h i s premature  agency, y e a r n i n g to belong, and e f f o r t which school  and  participants  r e l a t i o n s h i p s with t h e i r parents, they met  effective resistance.  struggle  In  unable to make the  they f e l l  would undermine t h e i r a b i l i t i e s to cope.  sustained  into i d e n t i t i e s that Out  of t h i s  p e r s o n a l chaos emerged i d e n t i t i e s that at l e a s t enabled them to  survive.  195  The Meaning o f Dropping Out Dropping out of school c a r r i e d with i t a host o f meanings.  I t was both a beginning  and an end.  Dropping out  was a s s o c i a t e d with hope and p o s s i b i l i t y as w e l l as shame and d e f e a t .  For some i t was the c o n t i n u a t i o n of a s l i d e  i n t o a pawn-like e x i s t e n c e , f o r others i t was the p o i n t a t which a r e - p o s i t i o n i n g i n t o agency s t a r t e d t o occur.  Still  o t h e r s used i t as a temporary r e s t i n g p l a c e i n a long, meandering, and s t i l l present  confusion.  Where s c h o o l had been a p a i n f u l experience, welcomed p r i m a r i l y as r e l i e f .  l e a v i n g was  M (case 1) was g l a d t o leave  an environment which f o r him was l i k e a tomb.  A's (case 2)  e x i s t e n c e at school had become empty and shadow-like. her,  For  l e a v i n g c a r r i e d with i t the p o s s i b i l i t y and hope t h a t  she might become v i s i b l e again.  To C (case 10) l e a v i n g  meant an end t o f e e l i n g s of aloneness these cases though, dropping opportunity.  and c o n f u s i o n .  In  out a l s o o f f e r e d a new  A f t e r they f i n i s h e d with what had become t h e i r  o r d e a l of h i g h s c h o o l , each of the three p a r t i c i p a n t s c o l l e c t e d t h e i r e n e r g i e s , addressed a f t e r some time,  t h e i r problems and,  took charge of t h e i r  For some, dropping  lives.  out r e s u l t e d i n f e e l i n g s of  inadequacy, i n c r e a s e d s e l f - d o u b t , and a growing sense of shame.  For these students premature departure  with personal f a i l u r e .  R (case 3)  l e f t as the worst day i n h i s l i f e .  was l i n k e d  remembered the day he In some cases the r e g r e t  and p a i n took some time t o take h o l d .  Here, premature  196  departure  brought i n s t a n t r e l i e f ,  deeper, more poignant left of  f o l l o w e d l a t e r by a  f e a r and c o n f u s i o n .  s c h o o l she c o u l d stop f e e l i n g l i k e ,  a freak.  relative,  When M (case 7) and l i v i n g the l i f e  On the s t r e e t she found acceptance and a  though temporary peace.  When the b r u t a l i t y o f h e r  new l i f e became overwhelming, she was stuck between two i m p o s s i b l e worlds.  She s t i l l  resides i n this  " n e i t h e r here  nor t h e r e " l o c a l e .  In A's (case 4) s i t u a t i o n , b e i n g f r e e d  from the u n r e a l i z a b l e and embarassing demands o f the system t r a n s l a t e d i n t o a r a t h e r lengthy s t r e a k of e x h i l i r a t i o n . Her d e n i a l l a s t e d u n t i l she became a s i n g l e mother.  Faced  w i t h the r e s p o n s i b i l i t y of r a i s i n g her daughter, A (case 4) s t a r t e d t o face her past f a i l u r e s and i s making an e f f o r t t o f i n i s h h e r education.  At t h i s p o i n t i n her l i f e  dropping  out i s a s s o c i a t e d with shame and r e g r e t . In some circumstances  dropping  out was a s s o c i a t e d most  w i t h c o m p u l s i v i t y and bewilderment.  N e i t h e r B (case 6 ) nor  L  (case 5 ) c o u l d q u i t e b e l i e v e how t h e i r f i n a l  departure  B (case 6 ) f e l t her behavior was s t u p i d ; L  came about.  (case 5 ) s a i d she would have r e t u r n e d i f somebody had c a l l e d her back.  Both l e f t on the spur of the moment.  N e i t h e r has  come t o terms w i t h how o r why they dropped o u t . With B (case 9 ) , dropping her raucous,  out i s a s s o c i a t e d most w i t h  drug r i d d l e d behaviour.  Recently,  she has  s t a r t e d t o wonder about the r o l e that A t t e n t i o n D e f i c i t D i s o r d e r may have p l a y e d i n her experience.  197  Of S  the  10,  (case 8).  He  perhaps the most confused and  sees h i m s e l f as the prime, i f not  a r c h i t e c t i n h i s demise as a student. he was  thinking  overwhelmed i s  When we  last  of g i v i n g school another t r y .  C h a r a c t e r i s t i c a l l y , h i s tone b e l i e d h i s  the  intention.  sole  talked,  198  Chapter 15 Discussion Introduction In t h i s study the r e s e a r c h e r i n t e r v i e w e d 10 p a r t i c i p a n t s i n d i v i d u a l l y on two separate  occasions.  P a r t i c i p a n t s v a r i e d i n age from 16 t o 22. product  was twofold.  First,  i t r e s u l t e d i n 10 s t o r i e s of  disengagement from school which captured p a r t i c i p a n t s ' l i v e d experiences p r o v i d e d a context the process  The r e s e a r c h  individual  of dropping  out.  Narratives  f o r the numerous v a r i a b l e s i n v o l v e d i n  of disengaging  c u l m i n a t i n g a c t of dropping  and o f f e r e d some i n s i g h t out.  i n t o the  Second, a comparative  a n a l y s i s o f the 10 s t o r i e s y i e l d e d three common movements o r p a t t e r n s o f disengagement: problems,  (a) e s c a l a t i n g cumulation of  (b) i n c r e a s e d school maladjustment; and (c) an  i n c r e a s e d engulfment i n a s p o i l e d i d e n t i t y . t h a t the m u l t i f a c e t e d complexity i s perhaps best understood  These i n d i c a t e d  i n v o l v e d i n disengagement  from a broader  ecological  perspective. Disengagement o r i g i n a t e d from a l o o s e n i n g o f s u p p o r t i v e s t r u c t u r e s and i n c r e a s e d through an i n t e n s i f i c a t i o n of p r i v a t e c o n f u s i o n and growing academic demands. Disengagement culminated  i n a process best d e s c r i b e d as a  s t r i v i n g f o r d i g n i t y that went awry.  The three  movements  i n v o l v e d home, s c h o o l , and community experiences and i n c l u d e d a combination  of circumstance  and i n d i v i d u a l  acts  199  of i n t e r p r e t a t i o n .  Dropping  out, the f i n a l p u b l i c a c t i n  t h i s process, h e l d a v a r i e t y of meanings. Aloneness,  coupled w i t h a dwindling sense of p e r s o n a l  agency, was a common i n t r a p e r s o n a l experience. R e l a t i o n s h i p s w i t h parents and f r i e n d s r e s u l t e d i n f e e l i n g s of i n c r e a s e d h e l p l e s s n e s s and c o n f u s i o n .  As the need t o f i t  i n and belong a t school i n c r e a s e d , dependence on the q u a l i t y of r a p p o r t w i t h teachers became a touchstone i n s t i t u t i o n a l existence. e x t e r n a l world,  of a t e n t a t i v e  I n c r e a s i n g l y u n p r o t e c t e d from the  i n d i v i d u a l s became overwhelmed and opted t o  leave. L i m i t a t i o n s of the Study T h i s study generated and c l a r i f i e d t h r e e streams o f movement t h a t r e s u l t e d i n premature departure from s c h o o l f o r the t e n p a r t i c i p a n t s .  The degree t o which these themes  c a p t u r e d the disengagement process warrants investigation.  further  More r e s e a r c h i s r e q u i r e d i n o r d e r t o  confirm, broaden, o r r e v i s e the s t a t e d p a t t e r n s . The  study was a l s o l i m i t e d by p a r t i c i p a n t s '  abilities  to a r t i c u l a t e t h e i r i n d i v i d u a l experiences o f disengagement. Some appeared  t o have a f i r m grasp and a c l e a r  recollection  of t h i s p o r t i o n of t h e i r l i v e s and p r o v i d e d r i c h ,  detailed  accounts. Others were f a r l e s s a r t i c u l a t e and o f f e r e d s t o r i e s t h a t were more sparse.  On the other hand, a l l  n a r r a t i v e s were a f f e c t e d by p a r t i c i p a n t s ' b i a s e s , l e v e l s o f self-awareness,  and memory.  200  Another  l i m i t a t i o n was  the number and the source of  participants.  A l l 10 p a r t i c i p a n t s were r e c r u i t e d from a  lower mainland  suburb of Vancouver,  B r i t i s h Columbia.  How  r e p r e s e n t a t i v e t h e i r s t o r i e s of disengagement are of the g e n e r a l p o p u l a t i o n of dropouts, remains t o be The  study was  perspective.  established.  a l s o l i m i t e d by the r e s e a r c h e r ' s  The r e s e a r c h t r i e d t o address p o t e n t i a l b i a s e s  by u t i l i z i n g the f o l l o w i n g procedures.  Each n a r r a t i v e  reviewed by the i n d i v i d u a l p a r t i c i p a n t , by two reviewers, and by the s u p e r v i s o r .  was  external  Through t h i s p r o c e s s  c o r r e c t i o n s were made, some b i a s e s were removed and  stories  were v e r i f i e d as a c c u r a t e p o r t r a y a l s of i n d i v i d u a l  lives.  I m p l i c a t i o n s f o r Theory The present study supported the broad range of reasons a s s o c i a t e d w i t h dropping out that have been documented i n previous research.  Across the 10 s t o r i e s t h e r e i s evidence  l i n k i n g dropping out with low socioeconomic et a l . ,  1986;  K o l s t a d & Owings, 1986;  family structure 1986;  Joyce, 1994),  and  Lamborn et a l . , al.,1989).  Rumberger,  (Astone & McLanahan, 1991;  G i l b e r t et a l . ,  1993),  1983),  (Page &  (Dornbusch et a l . ,  Rumberger, 1995;  Dropping out was  a l s o connected t o a number of  s c o r e s , poor attendance and unacceptable b e h a v i o r 1993;  1987;  S t e i n b e r g et  s c h o o l r e l a t e d f a c t o r s such as poor achievement,  et a l . ,  (Ekstrom  Ekstrom et a l . ,  family functioning  parenting style  1991;  status  N a t r e i l l o et a l . ,  1988).  low  (Gilbert  Other s c h o o l  e x p e r i e n c e s that p a r t i c i p a n t s s a i d c o n t r i b u t e d t o  test  201  disengagement  i n c l u d e d a l i e n a t i o n from peers  p e r c e i v e d l a c k of teacher  interest  s c h o o l p o l i c y and classroom previous between  research  (Newman, 1981),  (Wehlage & Rutter,  s t r u c t u r e (Fine, 1987).  (Wehlage & Rutter,  s e l f - e s t e e m and dropping  1986), As w i t h  1986), the r e l a t i o n s h i p  out was mixed.  Some o f the  n a r r a t i v e s i n d i c a t e d a l o s s of s e l f - e s t e e m as a r e s u l t o f l e a v i n g s c h o o l , other i n d i v i d u a l s experienced positive,  self-asserting act.  In a s i m i l a r f a s h i o n , the present support  l e a v i n g as a  study o f f e r e d l i m i t e d  f o r two t h e o r i e s of disengagement:  (a) the  f r u s t r a t i o n - s e l f - e s t e e m model, and (b) the p a r t i c i p a t i o n i d e n t i f i c a t i o n model  (Finn, 1989).  The need f o r a t h e o r y of  disengagement has been a r t i c u l a t e d by v a r i o u s (Finn, 1989; Rumberger, 1987).  researchers  A framework of disengagement  would h e l p i l l u m i n a t e how v a r i o u s p e r s o n a l ,  s o c i a l , and  e d u c a t i o n a l f a c t o r s c o n t r i b u t e d t o premature departure school.  from  The three movements towards disengagement  i d e n t i f i e d i n t h i s study o f f e r e d some q u a l i f i e d support f o r e x i s t i n g t h e o r i e s of disengagement.  Specifically,  support  was found f o r r e l a t i o n s h i p s between disengagement and d i f f e r e n t c a t e g o r i e s of f a c t o r s but not f o r e i t h e r t h e o r y as a whole. The f r u s t r a t i o n - s e l f - e s t e e m model p o s t u l a t e d t h a t 3 g e n e r a l c a t e g o r i e s c o n t r i b u t e d t o the a c t of dropping o u t : (a) s c h o o l performance (b) s e l f view  (Bloom, 1976; Ford & N i c k o l s , 1987;),  (Ford, 1987; Bloom, 1976; Byrne, 1984; Gold &  Mann, 1984; Hansford & H a t t i e , 1982 and Shavelson & Bolus,  202  1982), and (c) o p p o s i t i o n a l behavior  (Ford, 1987; Gold &  Mann, 1984, Polk & H a l f e r t y ,  The three movements  1972).  i n d i c a t e d t h a t a s s o c i a t i o n s e x i s t between s c h o o l performance and s e l f view Hattie,  (Bloom, 1976; Ford & N i c k o l s , 1987; Hansford &  1982); between school performance and the i n f l u e n c e  of f a m i l y and peers  (Shavelson & Bolus, 1982); and between  o p p o s i t i o n a l behavior and s e l f view Ford, 1987; Polk & H a l f e r t y ,  (Gold & Mann, 1984;  1982).  T h i s study a l s o o f f e r e d q u a l i f i e d support  f o r the two  g e n e r a l c a t e g o r i e s of the p a r t i c i p a t i o n - i d e n t i f i c a t i o n model:  (a) i d e n t i f i c a t i o n with school  (Firestone &  Rosenbloom, 1988; Gold & Mann, 1984; Polk & H a l f e r t y ; and  (b) p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n school  1972),  (Ekstrom et a l . , 1986; Kerr  et a l . , 1986; McKinney et a l . , 1975).  The second  and t h i r d  movements supported the r o l e of i d e n t i f i c a t i o n w i t h s c h o o l (Gold & Mann, 1984; F i r e s t o n e & Rosenbloom, 1988) and p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n school 1986,  (McKinney et a l . , 1975, Kerr et a l . ,  and Ekstrom et a l . , 1986) as  contributing factors i n  the disengagement p r o c e s s . While my study d i d support the being important  g e n e r a l c a t e g o r i e s as  t o the disengagement process, i t q u e s t i o n e d  s e v e r a l assumptions i n such r e s e a r c h .  First,  this  study  r a i s e d doubts about the p o s s i b i l i t y of s e p a r a t i n g v a r i o u s i n f l u e n c e s l i k e s c h o o l , community, and peers.  Second, i t  i n d i c a t e d t h a t though a search f o r f a c t o r s and c a t e g o r i e s may be an ecomomical way t o conduct p o t e n t i a l l y misleading.  research, i t i s  203  I t i s not easy t o separate the i n f l u e n c e s of s c h o o l , community and peers on the disengagement p r o c e s s . i n s t a n c e i n the f i r s t  For  case study M, d u r i n g a grade 10 drama  c l a s s , a g g r e s s i v e l y c o n f r o n t e d h i s teacher and ended up g e t t i n g suspended.  Outbursts of t h i s type p l a y e d a  s i g n i f i c a n t r o l e i n M's premature departure from s c h o o l .  To  what degree t h i s moment (or many others) can be a t t r i b u t e d to  anger towards h i s mother o r h i s school as opposed t o the  p u l l of h i s f r i e n d s on the s t r e e t though, i s d i f f i c u l t t o say.  At the same time i t i s v i r t u a l l y i m p o s s i b l e t o see  t h i s exchange as the r e s u l t of anything o t h e r than the i n f l u e n c e s of the v a r i o u s r e l a t i o n s h i p s i n h i s l i f e .  He was  d i s g u s t e d w i t h h i s mother, and school was e x p e r i e n c e d as meaningless alluring,  and abusive.  inviting,  The s t r e e t , on the o t h e r hand, was  and e x c i t i n g .  A l l of h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p s  c o n t r i b u t e d t o a r e i g n i n g sense of what he d e s c r i b e d as "an anarchy w i t h i n " .  W i t h i n the context of t h i s anarachy a l l  causes o r i n f l u e n c e s are fused. influences the anarchy, grapes  An a n a l y s i s of the v a r i o u s  as separate e n t i t i e s can o n l y occur o u t s i d e o f t h a t i s o u t s i d e of M.  Like d i f f e r e n t  types o f  t h a t have been made i n t o a wine, the i n d i v i d u a l  c o n t r i b u t i o n s are s i g n i f i c a n t but no longer d i s t i n c t . o r d e r t o understand  In  the moment i n q u e s t i o n , M's b e h a v i o r and  the i n f l u e n c e s of h i s d i f f e r e n t r e l a t i o n s h i p s must be c o n s i d e r e d and taken as a whole. experience can o n l y be grasped  J u s t as w i t h metaphor, the  i n i t s entirety.  d i f f i c u l t y of attempting t o p a r t i t i o n the process  Beyond the into  204  v a r i o u s i n f l u e n c e s o r f a c t o r s there i s a l s o a danger w i t h such an approach. The problem w i t h f a c t o r s o r c a t e g o r i e s i s that they cannot convey the s t o r y .  Without the s t o r y t h e r e i s a l o s s  of i n d i v i d u a l experience, understanding, and meaning, a l l of which are r e q u i r e d i f disengagement  i s t o be understood and  i f engagement i s t o be g i v e n an o p p o r t u n i t y t o o c c u r . Moreover,  a focus on any g i v e n c a t e g o r y o r f a c t o r i s apt t o  be m i s l e a d i n g .  Take f o r i n s t a n c e the i d e a t h a t poor  academic achievement school.  i s a cause of students dropping out of  Several p a r t i c i p a n t s ' s t o r i e s i n d i c a t e d that while  poor academic achievement  furthered t h e i r  disengagement  p r o c e s s , a number of these same p a r t i c i p a n t s  (case 1, 6,  and 10) r e a l i z e d s u b s t a n t i a l academic s u c c e s s .  8,  During  d i f f e r e n t p o i n t s i n t h e i r h i g h school c a r e e r s each of these students e x c e l l e d a c a d e m i c a l l y  (GPA of 3.00  Three of the f o u r students demonstrated t h i s a b i l i t y s h o r t l y b e f o r e they dropped out.  or b e t t e r ) . academic  At the same time  each of them went through bouts where they p r e s e n t e d as i f they were poor s t u d e n t s . individual l i f e , make sense of how disengagement  Only w i t h i n the context of an  conveyed through s t o r y , i s i t p o s s i b l e t o t h i s mix of accomplishment  could co-exist.  might l i n k disengagement  A focus on f a c t o r s alone  w i t h poor performance which would  be m i s l e a d i n g , or, from a d i f f e r e n t disengagement  and growing  perspective  c o u l d a l s o be t i e d to academic success--which  s t r i k e s one as absurd.  205  The s t o r i e s c o l l e c t e d i n t h i s study i n d i c a t e d t h a t a comprehensive theory of disengagement must be b u i l t on a h o l i s t i c perspective.  To be understood, dropping out needs  to be seen as the cumulation of a whole l i f e up t o the p o i n t of premature departure.  Beyond the events and  t h a t c o n s t i t u t e an i n d i v i d u a l e x i s t e n c e ,  experiences  questions  of  i n d i v i d u a l i n t e r p r e t a t i o n and meaning must a l s o be considered.  T h i s study set out to capture  lived  experience  i n the hope t h a t i t would be r i c h e r i n context  than the  cumulation of c o n s t r u c t s .  out t o be the  case.  Capturing  In f a c t t h i s turned  t h i s context  r e q u i r e s a broader e c o l o g i c a l  approach t h a t i n c l u d e s f a m i l y , s c h o o l , and community. multigenerational different  r e l a t i o n s h i p s w i t h i n and between  The  these  systems are a l l p a r t of the 5-year- o l d  kindergarten  student  entering school.  i n s t a n c e , why one student  Comprehending,  responds t o d i s c i p l i n e  renewed v i g o r and a determination  t o t r y harder  for  with while  another moves towards r e s i g n a t i o n r e q u i r e s , at the v e r y l e a s t , a s u b s t a n t i a l t o l e r a n c e of ambiguity.  A theory of  disengagement must have the p l a s t i c i t y t o h o l d and illuminate a multifaceted,  l i v i n g e n t i t y that i s grounded i n  i n d i v i d u a l comprehension and c o n s t r u c t i o n of r e a l i t y . Implications  for Practice  A critical  f e a t u r e i n the disengagement process  was the  q u a l i t y of p a r t i c i p a n t s ' r e l a t i o n s h i p s with both parents teachers.  Sound r e l a t i o n s h i p s with teachers were o f t e n  accompanied by academic success  and the p o s s i b i l i t y of  and  206  f i n d i n g a sense of b e l o n g i n g at s c h o o l .  Poor  relationships  w i t h t e a c h e r s were l i n k e d with decreased academic performance,  growing behavior problems,  indifference.  and i n c r e a s e d  Weak r e l a t i o n s h i p s i n the home generated a  f a l s e agency that l e d t o c o n f u s i o n , f r u s t r a t i o n , and resignation.  E s t a b l i s h i n g r a p p o r t and b u i l d i n g  r e l a t i o n s h i p s p r o v i d e a major v e h i c l e f o r e n t r y i n t o p o t e n t i a l dropouts' s t o r i e s .  I n c r e a s i n g the q u a l i t y of  t e a c h e r - s t u d e n t c o n t a c t c o u l d be accomplished  through  v a r i o u s means. The  s i g n i f i c a n c e of teacher-student r e l a t i o n s h i p s t o  l e a r n i n g c o u l d be e x p l o r e d and a r t i c u l a t e d through the development of a comprehensive  guidance program.  The d e s i g n  and implementation of such a program would have s e v e r a l goals.  First,  the l i v e d experiences of some o f today's  youth should be c o l l e c t e d so that t h e i r d i v e r s e and complex needs might be b e t t e r understood.  Such i n f o r m a t i o n would  enable us both t o understand the nature of the problem and the scope of the c h a l l e n g e .  Second, the program would aim  to i n f o r m t e a c h e r s about how best t o address the emotional needs of t h e i r students.  For i n s t a n c e , i t would be u s e f u l  f o r t e a c h e r s t o become aware of which s i t u a t i o n s t o address d i r e c t l y , which s i t u a t i o n s t o address i n d i r e c t l y , to r e f e r t o o t h e r p r o f e s s i o n a l s .  Finally,  and which  the e x i s t e n c e of  such a program would l e g i t i m i z e s p e c i a l t r a i n i n g so that t e a c h e r s c o u l d be p r o v i d e d with the s k i l l s t o address some of the d i v e r s e needs that they encounter i n the classroom.  207  Towards t h i s end, teachers' t r a i n i n g programs might i n c l u d e courses  i n listening skills,  group processes,  career  c o u n s e l l i n g , and f a m i l y dynamics. Another way t o f a c i l i t a t e r e l a t i o n s h i p b u i l d i n g i s by c o n t r o l l i n g school s i z e . being  3-4  With a t y p i c a l secondary s c h o o l  times the s i z e of an elementary s c h o o l ,  p o t e n t i a l dropouts have an i n c r e a s e d chance of going unnoticed. enables  L i m i t i n g the s i z e of secondary  school personnel  students  institutions  t o i n v e s t more time i n engaging  i n s t e a d of c o n t r o l l i n g them.  Also, a smaller  s t r u c t u r e allows f o r more immediate contact among a d u l t s . For i n s t a n c e i n a school of 500 the needs of a p a r t i c u l a r student  o r group can be d e a l t with immediately, whereas i n a  school of 1500 i s s u e s are more o f t e n addressed through a bureaucratized, to  time consuming process.  address students'  Having the c a p a c i t y  needs as they a r i s e i n c r e a s e s a d u l t s '  o p p o r t u n i t i e s t o make and s u s t a i n c o n t a c t . p o t e n t i a l dropouts,  In the case o f  t h i s contact i s a l i f e l i n e .  Another way t o address p o t e n t i a l dropouts'  needs f o r  c o n t a c t and guidance i s by r e c o g n i z i n g the s i g n i f i c a n c e o f the teacher-student  r e l a t i o n s h i p t o student  secondary classroom  l e v e l a more h o l i s t i c ,  approach t o t e a c h i n g ,  success. child  At the  centered  l e a r n i n g , and e v a l u a t i o n i s r e q u i r e d .  Teachers need t o f i n d ways t o c r e a t e more t a n g i b l y c a r i n g and  supportive  s t r u c t u r e s l i k e those o f f e r e d t o elemenatary  school students. level  student  P a r t i c u l a r l y at the j u n i o r h i g h  engagement, belonging,  school  and s e c u r i t y need t o  208  become more of a p r i o r i t y . student agency.  A common g o a l might be i n c r e a s e d  B u i l d i n g r e l a t i o n s h i p s that f o s t e r  agency would r e q u i r e a s h i f t  i n focus among educators, a r e -  b a l a n c i n g of p r i o r i t i e s and a b e t t e r understanding audience.  student  of the  Such changes c o u l d o n l y come about w i t h the  a c t i v e support of both c o u n s e l l o r s and a d m i n i s t r a t o r s . C o u n s e l l o r s c o u l d f a c i l i t a t e changes of t h i s type at both an i n d i v i d u a l and a group l e v e l . support  A touchstone  of  such  i s the q u a l i t y of the r e l a t i o n s h i p between  c o u n s e l l o r s and i n d i v i d u a l t e a c h e r s .  T h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p must  be grounded i n the l i v e d experience of the teacher.  classroom  Whatever ideas, comments, or suggestions t h a t  c o u n s e l l o r s make, they need to take i n t o account  both the  p e r s o n a l i t y of the i n d i v i d u a l a d u l t and the makeup of the p a r t i c u l a r classroom. understanding audience,  A r e s p e c t f u l approach b u i l t on  an  of the s t r e n g t h s and c h a l l e n g e s of the  models the type of p l a s t i c i t y r e q u i r e d to meet the  needs of some of today's  students.  C o u n s e l l o r s c o u l d a l s o p l a y a u s e f u l r o l e i n the c o n s t r u c t i o n of group norms and p r a c t i c e s at the level.  classroom  In c o n j u n c t i o n w i t h teachers, c o u n s e l l o r s c o u l d h e l p  c o n s t r u c t and implement group p r a c t i c e s that would serve t o meet i n d i v i d u a l student needs of belonging, s a f e t y , and security. School a d m i n i s t r a t o r s c o u l d f a c i l i t a t e  relationship  b u i l d i n g through goal s e t t i n g and t i m e t a b l e m a n i p u l a t i o n . By a r t i c u l a t i n g the q u a l i t y of teacher-student c o n t a c t as a  209  l e g i t i m a t e s c h o o l g o a l , the s i g n i f i c a n c e of r e l a t i o n s h i p to students  1  success and sense of b e l o n g i n g c o u l d be b e t t e r  understood.  Once the p r o f i l e was  improved and  i n c r e a s e d contact c o u l d be p r o v i d e d  timetable manipulation.  raised, opportunity f o r through  A g o a l here might be to reduce the  number of students t h a t a h i g h school teacher i s r e s p o n s i b l e for  (eg. from 200  to 100).  Such a s t r u c t u r e would  i n t e r e s t e d a d u l t s to forge more meaningful w i t h at r i s k  enable  relationships  students.  The p a r t i c i p a n t s ' s t o r i e s a l s o have i m p l i c a t i o n s f o r the s t r u c t u r a l l y l i m i t e d r e l a t i o n s h i p s t h a t e x i s t between institutions.  Since engulfment i n a s p o i l e d i d e n t i t y o f t e n  r e s u l t e d i n problems with the law,  the r e l a t i o n s h i p between  the j u s t i c e system and the e d u c a t i o n system i s worthy of consideration.  S t r u c t u r a l l y , each i n s t i t u t i o n i s q u i t e  s i m i l a r . Both conduct to  business i n a s p e c i a l i z e d ,  difficult  access language. N e i t h e r i s known f o r i t s h o s p i t a l i t y  towards or acceptance  of o u t s i d e r s .  c h a r a c t e r i z e d as f a i r l y r i g i d impenetrable  boundaries.  O v e r a l l , each can  and e n g u l f e d by  virtually  I f these boundaries  were more  permeable, the needs of p o t e n t i a l and a c t u a l dropouts be more e f f e c t i v e l y met. youth t o form new  be  could  For example r a t h e r than a s k i n g  r e l a t i o n s h i p s with j u s t i c e  personnel,  p r e v i o u s l y e s t a b l i s h e d school r e l a t i o n s h i p s c o u l d be drawn upon. Informed c o u n s e l l o r s c o u l d help c o n t e x t u a l i z e c r i m i n a l a c t i v i t y by p r o v i d i n g the j u s t i c e system w i t h understanding  of the dropouts'  life  story.  an  By drawing on  210  the e s t a b l i s h e d r e l a t i o n s h i p , c o u n s e l l o r s c o u l d f a c i l i t a t e a d i a l o g u e , perhaps  even understanding, between the young  o f f e n d e r and the l e g a l system.  At the v e r y l e a s t ,  c o u n s e l l o r s c o u l d o f f e r t r o u b l e d youth much needed support and understanding at such a c r i t i c a l lives.  juncture i n t h e i r  More permeable boundaries then,  disengaged youth by stemming growing i n s t i l l i n g hope and p o s s i b i l i t y ,  would h e l p  a l i e n a t i o n , by  and by becoming a  c e n t e r p i e c e i n the process of engagement. I m p l i c a t i o n s f o r Future  Research  Further research i s required i n order to e s t a b l i s h whether the accounts of disengagement gathered i n t h i s are r e p r e s e n t a t i v e of a broader p o p u l a t i o n . different  Dropouts  study from  s c h o o l d i s t r i c t s and p r o v i n c e s need t o be  i n t e r v i e w e d , t h e i r s t o r i e s c o l l e c t e d , and a process o f disengagement a r t i c u l a t e d .  Beyond a d d i t i o n a l case  studies,  f i n d i n g s of the present r e s e a r c h need t o be q u e r i e d and extended  through surveys. For example, a survey c o u l d be  designed t o c o l l e c t data about  the context of disengagement.  Questions would need t o generate data about r e l a t i o n s h i p s , meaningful  significant  experiences, and i n d i v i d u a l  i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s of events. I f the r e s u l t s of the present study are r e p l i c a t e d , i n t e r v e n t i o n e f f o r t s need t o be implemented that would a l l o w r e s e a r c h e r s t o e v a l u a t e and v a l i d a t e data w h i l e p r o v i d i n g p o t e n t i a l dropouts w i t h support.  In a s c h o o l d i s t r i c t  this  might i n v o l v e l a r g e s c a l e , ongoing c o - o r d i n a t i o n , o f many  211  d i f f e r e n t people i n the f i e l d . the views of educators,  parents,  By s i m u l t a n e o u s l y  on  and p o t e n t i a l or a c t u a l  dropouts a m u l t i f a c e t e d , d e t a i l e d p e r s p e c t i v e of disengagement process  drawing  the  c o u l d be generated.  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The  School Journal,89(2) ,13 5-145 .  Srebnik, D.S. & E l i a s , M.J. (1993) An e c o l o g i c a l , i n t e r p e r s o n l a l k i l l s approach t o drop-out  prevention.  American J o u r n a l of O r t h o p s y c h i a t r y , 63, 526-535. S t e i n b e r g , L . , Elmen, J.D.,& Mounts, N.S.  (1989).  A u t h o r i t a t i v e p a r e n t i n g , p s y c h o s o c i a l m a t u r i t y , and academic success among a d o l e s c e n t s . V i c k e r s , H.S.  C h i l d Development, 60, 1424-1436  (1994).  Young c h i l d r e n at  risk:Differences i n family functioning. E d u c a t i o n a l Research,  J o u r n a l of  87(5), 262-270.  Wehlage, G.G., Rutter, R.A., Smith, G.A., Lesko, N. & Fernandez, R.R.,  (1987).  Communities o f Support.  Reducing the R i s k : S c h o o l s as New York:The Falmer P r e s s .  Wehlage, G. & Rutter, R.A.  (1986). Dropping  out:  much do s c h o o l s c o n t r i b u t e t o the problem? Teachers Record, 3, 374-392.  How  College  223  Weis, L., F a r r a r , E. & P e t r i e H.G.  (1989).  from S c h o o l : I s s u e s , Dilemmas, and S o l u t i o n s . Albany,New York:State U n i v e r s i t y of New Wells,S.  (1990).  Dropouts  (Eds.)  York P r e s s .  A t - r i s k youth: I d e n t i f i c a t i o n ,  programs, and recommendations. Englewood, CO:Teacher Idea Press. Y i n , R.K. Methods.  (1984).  Case Study Research: Design and  Beverlly Hills:Sage  Publications.  224 Appendix A  Recruitment  Notice  Researcher:  I am a d o c t o r a l student i n the Department of  C o u n s e l l i n g Psychology Columbia.  at the U n i v e r s i t y of B r i t i s h  I have worked i n school c o u n s e l l i n g f o r the past  6 y e a r s ; i n e d u c a t i o n f o r the past 18. for  t h i s p r o j e c t i s Dr. L a r r y Cochran  Study: My  The  faculty advisor  (822-613 9.  r e s e a r c h study i s aimed at b e t t e r understanding  the p r o c e s s of disengagement from school as e x p e r i e n c e d students who  l e f t before g r a d u a t i n g .  by  The i n f o r m a t i o n  gathered i n t h i s study w i l l be i n c l u d e d i n my  Ph.D.  dissertation.  P a r t i c i p a n t s : I am study.  The  seeking v o l u n t e e r s to p a r t i c i p a t e i n t h i s  requirements  are that he or she l e f t  school  b e f o r e g r a d u a t i n g , and i s w i l l i n g and able t o d i s c u s s the experience.  Time: The  study w i l l  c o n s i s t of two  interviews.  p r i v a t e i n t e r v i e w s w i t h o n l y the p a r t i c i p a n t and researcher present. to be convenient will  take 3 - 5  the study at any  The  time.  the  l o c a t i o n and time w i l l be  f o r the p a r t i c i p a n t . hours.  These are  The two  arranged  interviews  V o l u n t e e r s are f r e e t o withdraw  from  225  For f u r t h e r i n f o r m a t i o n p l e a s e  Researcher: Mel  Telephone:  contact:  Loncaric  936  8513  (H)  588  1248  (w)  226  Appendix B P a r t i c i p a n t Consent  Form  Research Study about the Process of Disengagement from Secondary School  I_ , agree t o p a r t i c i p a t e i n a r e s e a r c h p r o j e c t about my experience of dropping out of h i g h school. I understand that p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n t h i s study i s v o l u n t a r y , that I am f r e e t o withdraw at any time and t h a t I may r e f u s e t o answer any q u e s t i o n s . I am aware t h a t the r e s e a r c h e r w i l l answer any q u e s t i o n s that I may have at any time c o n c e r n i n g the r e s e a r c h p r o j e c t . I understand that t h i s p r o j e c t w i l l r e q u i r e me t o t a l k w i t h the r e s e a r c h e r f o r about three hours about my experience of dropping out of h i g h s c h o o l . In a d d i t i o n I w i l l be c o n t a c t e d f o r a f o l l o w up i n t e r v i e w t o c o n f i r m the researcher's findings. The t o t a l time commitment w i l l be t h r e e t o f i v e hours. I a l s o g i v e p e r m i s s i o n t o have these i n t e r v i e w s audio taped w i t h the understanding that the contents of the i n t e r v i e w w i l l be kept c o n f i d e n t i a l and used f o r r e s e a r c h purposes only. These taped i n t e r v i e w s w i l l be l a b e l e d w i t h a randomly s e l e c t e d number and erased upon completion. I understand that the r e s e a r c h p r o j e c t i s b e i n g conducted Mel L o n c a r i c as p a r t of h i s d o c t o r a l d i s s e r t a t i o n .  S i g n a t u r e of P a r t i c i p a n t  Telephone  S i g n a t u r e of Researcher  Telephone  Date  Random #  I hereby acknowledge the r e c e i p t of a copy of t h i s Thank you f o r your  form.  assistance  Mel L o n c a r i c ( R e s e a r c h e r and PhD C a n d i d a t e i n C o u n s e l l i n g Psychology)  Dr. L a r r y Cochran ( A d v i s o r : D e p t . of C o u n s e l l i n g P s y c h o l o g y , UBC)  by  227  Appendix  C  Sample T r a n s c r i p t M: Where were you born? And what do you remember about b e i n g a k i d and a l l t h a t ? C: Okay, I was M:  born i n England and...  Whereabouts?  C: In Ledes, Y o r k s h i r e . M: Okay. C: And then I guess f o r the f i r s t couple of y e a r s we in Ireland.  lived  M: Uh-huh. C: And then we came back t o Canada. dad's from. M: Okay.  Cause that s where my 1  So were your b r o t h e r s born here o r back i n . . .  C: No. Uhm, my o l d e s t b r o t h e r was born i n London i n the hospital. Duncan was born i n I r e l a n d , and I was born i n Ledes i n my grandmother's house. M: Ah,  neat.  C: Yeah, they s t i l l have the same house too, so when I went back i n 83, I t h i n k . I went and I saw the room that I was born i n which was k i n d of neat. M: Yeah, I was born i n Y u g o s l a v i a i n a, i n a l i t t l e v i l l a g e , l i t e r a l l y f i v e houses and I remember going back t h e r e , oh gees, when I was about 19. I t was wonderful and a l l s o r t s of memories f l a s h e d i n . I remember b i t i n g i n t o a f i g and j u s t a f l o o d of memories came back. C: (laughter) M:  I t was  really,  r e a l l y weird, but neat.  C: Yeah. I d i d n ' t have any memories but i t was i n c r e d i b l e to go and v i s i t the c a s t l e s and the c o u n t r y s i d e .  228 M: A d i f f e r e n t C: T o t a l l y . M: Yeah. C: Uh, 72. three.  world eh.  I t ' s r e a l l y neat t h e r e .  So you were born, when were you born, what year? In the summer.  And we moved here when I was  M: Okay. C:  We came over by boat.  M: Do you remember anything of the t r i p ? C: No, not r e a l l y . train.  I knew we came by boat and then by  M: Uh-huh. C: And that we were a l l w e l l behaved. M: (laughter) C: Which my mom was v e r y proud o f . M: So those were s t o r i e s behaved.  you've heard.  That you were w e l l  C: Yeah. And I saw a p i c t u r e and i t looked l i k e we had f u n . But I myself don't remember i t . M: Okay.  So then you landed i n Montreal.  C: Yeah. M: Okay. C: Or...I t h i n k i t was Montreal. M: Back east somewhere, i t c o u l d have been H a l i f a x . C: Yeah. M: And you took a t r a i n out to...? C: Out t o Surrey. M: Oh  really!  C: We l i v e d w i t h my dad's parents f o r a w h i l e .  229  M: So, you took a t r a i n out to Surrey. C: Yeah, somewhere, we got out to Surrey. months, which a p p a r e n t l y was d r e a d f u l .  for 6  L i v e d there  M: Yeah. What was d r e a d f u l about i t ? What s t o r y d i d you hear about that? C: Uhm. Well I d i d n ' t l i k e my grandmother's cooking t o b e g i n w i t h and I wouldn't eat i t . M: Uh-huh. C: And my grandmother used t o get r e a l l y mad and my mom would s t i c k up f o r me and she would b r i n g me something t o eat every once i n a while. M: Do you get any memories of that or i s that a s t o r y  still?  C: Those are s t o r i e s s t i l l . But I can b e l i e v e i t because I've gone back and I s t i l l don't l i k e her cooking. M:  (laughter)  C: Uhm.  Does she s t i l l  Not t h a t .  hold i t against  you?  She t r i e d t o get us t o be r a c i s t .  M: Oh,, okay. C: Cause she has t h i s strong b e l i e f that oh, p r o b a b l y anybody who's not i n the immediate f a m i l y i s e v i l . M: Okay. C: So, I d i d n ' t go f o r i t , and my o l d e r b r o t h e r f o r i t , but the middle one d i d .  didn't  go  M: So t e l l about, t e l l me about t h a t , t h a t ' s i n t e r e s t i n g , about what do you remember about her t r y i n g t o make you racist. C: Oh God, uhm...East Indians are bad, C a t h o l i c s are bad. Uhm, I have a c o u s i n who married someone who's C a t h o l i c . M: Uh-huh. C: And she wouldn't go t o the wedding u n l e s s they got m a r r i e d i n a C h r i s t i a n church. They couldn't have a C a t h o l i c wedding.  230 M: What's C h r i s t i a n , cause C a t h o l i c i s C h r i s t i a n too, i n my mind. C:  Uhm.  M: What would she t h i n k was  Christian?  C: P r o t e s t a n t , Lutheran o r . . M: Oh,  okay.  C: Something t h a t ' s not  Catholic.  M: Non-roman, r i g h t , r i g h t , C:  (laughter)  Yeh,  right.  and uh,...  M: So do you remember any s p e c i f i c s t o r i e s of her t r y i n g t o s o r t of t u r n you i n t o a r a c i s t . Do you remember any i n c i d e n t s or events? C: When I was 17 or 18 I was d a t i n g a man who was b l a c k . And my grandmother d i d n ' t know t h i s . And up u n t i l t h a t p o i n t she had heard about him and she s a i d "Well, he sounds l i k e a wonderful person" and t h i s and t h a t . And I don't know how i t got out but somehow i t got out that he was b l a c k , and she s a i d "Don't bother, h e ' l l cheat on you, he's no good f o r you, he's j u s t w o r t h l e s s . " And I d i d n ' t speak to him f o r , e r speak t o her f o r about a year. M: Okay. C: And then I went back and she mentioned something e l s e and I t o l d my dad t o t e l l her that i f she wants t o have a granddaughter or t h i s p a r t i c u l a r grand-daughter, she can't go making comments l i k e t h a t . M: Yeah. C: Cause t h a t ' s j u s t not  right.  M: How d i d she take t h a t , how to her? C: Uhm,  d i d she take you s t a n d i n g up  w e l l I t h i n k she expected i t from  M: How come? That's i n t e r e s t i n g , expected i t from you?  me.  she suspected,  she  231 C: Yeah, because uhm, I guess because I used t o stand up t o her and wouldn't eat her cooking uhm, I d i d n ' t understand how she c o u l d be r a c i s t when I was l i t t l e . M: Uh-huh. C: L i k e I was, l i k e what? Why i s that person bad because o f t h e i r c o l o r , why? M: Oh, so even when you were l i t t l e C: Yeah, I never, it. M:  just  you..  I never understood i t , got the grasp o f  I t d i d n ' t make sense.  C: No. M: Okay. So you're i n Surrey and you're l i v i n g w i t h your grandmother who's cooking you don't l i k e , who's t r y i n g t o t u r n you i n t o a r a c i s t . And you're t h e r e f o r 6 months? C: Yeah.  And then we moved to A l d e r g r o v e .  M: So what were you now,  about 3 1/2,  C: Three and a h a l f probably. -three.  4 or?  We moved j u s t b e f o r e I t u r n e d  M: Okay, so what's your e a r l i e s t memory of A l d e r g r o v e ? C: Uhm, p r o b a b l y when I was 4, I d i d n ' t want t o wear any c l o t h e s and so I was walking o u t s i d e w i t h no c l o t h e s on and the neighbor was over. M: Uh-huh. C: And my b r o t h e r was t a l k i n g t o the neighbor and I go t r o t t i n g up t o them cause I wanted t o t a l k too, and my mother y e l l e d at me t o come back i n the house and put my c l o t h e s on and I go "No, why mommy, why?" M: So "Why mommy, why?" was t h a t , were you always a k i n d o f questioning sort of child? L i k e you d e s c r i b e w i t h your grandmother you k i n d of stood up t o her and... C: Yeah, yeah. Well my mom d e s c r i b e d i t as I always walked to the beat o f my own drummer. I always had a v e r y s t r o n g sense o f what was r i g h t and what I thought was r i g h t .  232 M: Okay. When you s i t there and you can you see i t c l e a r l y ?  t h i n k of t h a t memory,  C: Yeah. M:  Sunny day?  Foggy day?  C: Oh, i t was sunny, i t was summer. I was walking w i t h shoes. I can s t i l l f e e l the grass between my t o e s . M:  no  Is t h a t r i g h t ?  C: Yeah. M: Now  d i d you  l i v e i n the suburb or i n the  country?  C: In the country. Very much country. There was l i k e , of l a n d . We used to go p l a y i n g i n the woods, p i c k i n g h u c k l e b e r r i e s and b l a c k b e r r i e s and i t was g r e a t .  lots  M: So you're 4 years o l d and t h a t ' s your e a r l i e s t memory. What do you remember about, when d i d you s t a r t k i n d e r g a r t e n or d i d you go to Sunday school? C: No,  I went to a p r e s c h o o l .  M:  Okay, how  C:  Four.  M: What was  o l d were you when..  that l i k e ?  T e l l me  about p r e s c h o o l .  C: I l i k e d p r e s c h o o l . I l i k e d my p r e s c h o o l teacher, Mrs. Peacock, I t h i n k her name was. No, P e t r i e , Peacock was grade one. Mrs. P e t r i e , she was wonderful. She would take us out and show us t h i n g s out i n the, i n her back y a r d or something. M: M-hmm. C: And I s t i l l have, i t ' s j u s t a p i e c e of bark with 2 mushrooms on i t . And I was so proud of i t because I went and I c o l l e c t e d i t myself. M:  Yeah, yeah.  C: So I had M: Wow! C: Yeah.  i t up u n t i l  I t h i n k about a year  ago.  R e a l l y a meaningful t h i n g f o r you. Yeah, and  I a l s o met  my  f i r s t best  friend  there.  233  M: Who  was,  who  is?  C: J u l i e . M:  Okay.  C: And I kept i n touch w i t h her up u n t i l grade 3. But we d i d n ' t go to the same s c h o o l . She went to a s c h o o l a few m i l e s away. M: What made J u l i e a best  friend?  C: Uhm....we t a l k e d , we had c h i l d r e n do. M: You  just clicked  fun.  We  related  as young  together.  C: Yeah. M:  So you're,  how  o f t e n d i d you go to p r e s c h o o l ?  C: I don't remember. I f f e e l s l i k e every day. i t was o n l y 2 or 3 times a week. M: Okay. C:  No.  M:  I t was  C: Yeah.  Any  But  I think  negative memories of preschool?  a good time. Yeah, p r e s c h o o l was  M: R i g h t .  And  fun.  I l i k e d preschool.  then you went from p r e s c h o o l to  kindergarten?  C: Yeah. M: What was  that  like.  C: Uhm. ... k i n d e r g a r t e n was was good.  okay.  K i n d e r g a r t e n to grade 3  M: What do you remember about that? school?  Do you remember the  C: Yeah, yeah. M: Where d i d you  go?  C: I went to County L i n e Elementary. I t was r i g h t up the road, so we c o u l d walk back and f o r t h . I t was a good  234 school. I t was s m a l l , v e r y i n t i m a t e , had 17 people at the most,. I t h i n k . M: And  what d i d you  the c l a s s e s .  My  class  l i k e about i t , what made i t good?  C: Uhm, the t e a c h e r s . that I had and...  They were very n i c e , the f i r s t  couple  M: Now what does n i c e mean? When you t h i n k back or when you remember the f e e l i n g s , what's n i c e amount to? . C: They l i s t e n e d , they cared  i f you  M: So t h e r e ' s a f e e l i n g of being of s e c u r e . . . .  had  a problem.  attended to and,  Uhm,  and. k i n d  C: Yeah I remember, uhm. '. .. a c t u a l l y I d i d n ' t remember t h i s u n t i l r e c e n t l y , when I was i n grade 2, I d i d n ' t l i k e t o wear shoes and socks. M:  Okay.  C: And I'd go out i n w i n t e r i n s h o r t s and walk up to s c h o o l l i k e i t was nothing and so I was i n grade 2 and I took o f f . my shoes and socks and I l e f t them i n the cloakroom. And Mrs. Erisman, my teacher at the time, she found them t h e r e and asked who's they were. I d i d n ' t say anything, I was j u s t k i n d of h i d i n g i n my seat and M:  Yeh,  yeh.  C: And she n o t i c e d that I had no shoes on and she asked 'me why. And I r e a l l y d i d n ' t have an answer. I t ' s j u s t , I ; d i d n ' t l i k e them. And I never r e a l i z e d that I d i d t h a t u n t i l , u n t i l my mom mentioned i t because she was t a l k i n g t o my school teacher. M:  Uh-huh.  C: And  I thought that was  r e a l l y neat.  M: How d i d your teacher respond to your not having shoes on? D i d she take i t any f u r t h e r than what you j u s t s a i d or..? C: No, because I was v e r y stubborn and I t h i n k I s t i l l am. But I wouldn't have put them on i f she had asked me t o . M: So, i t f e e l s neat j u s t that you d i d n ' t have these shoes on cause you d i d n ' t want to have them on and you d i d n ' t r e a l l y have a reason f o r i t and that f e e l s n i c e , you l i k e that.  235  C: Yeah. M: Yeah. but. . .  What do you l i k e about that?  I like  i t too,  C: Because, because i t ' s my d e c i s i o n . Because i t ' s something, i t ' s not a f f e c t i n g anybody e l s e , i t ' s not h u r t i n g anybody i f I don't wear them and.... M: You d i d i t and i t f e l t r i g h t and t h a t ' s a l l the reason you need. C: Yeah.  Nobody e l s e d i d i t .  M: Yeh, yeh.  Okay.  C: I wasn't causing anybody e l s e t o do i t . harm i n i t .  I d i d n ' t see any  M: Okay. D i d you have any r e c o l l e c t i o n of the t e a c h e r ' s response? Was she okay with i t or...? C: I t h i n k she was. Yeah. I t h i n k she j u s t l e t i t go. She s a i d "Oh, okay." and l e t i t go.... I was j u s t t h a t way. I'd go and make up s t o r i e s and have the other k i d s a c t them out and.... M: Very  imaginative.  C: Yeah. Yeah, I was. We had a trampoline I made up a bunny game.  and there was a,  M: Uh-huh. C: Where you'd go up, I don't know i f you remember the trampolines they had b i g holes i n the corners, M: Yeah, yeah,  yeah, yeah.  C: You'd hop up. M: Oh yeah, okay, okay. ground. C: Yeah.  L i k e a bunny coming out of the  Yeah.  M: Yeh, oh neat. C: And t h e r e ' s a l l s o r t s of l i t t l e t h i n g s t h a t I made up. Me and my f r i e n d , when i t was f r o s t y , we were at her house  236 and you know how t h e r e ' s b i g i c i c l e s that form on the ground, i n the mud. M: Yeh, yeh. C: We had, we had whole towns and c a s t l e s and c i t i e s made up and a dog came tromping i n t o our l i t t l e world and we got so upset because our l i t t l e world was gone. M: T h i s monster dog.. C: Yeah,  (laughing)  M: crushed your world. C: Yeah, we s t a r t e d screaming at the dog cause he was h u r t i n g the people and k i l l i n g the homes and... M: So those are v e r y c