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In my years of working with underprepared, or at-risk type
of students, instructors can be contributors to a student's
withdrawal....we can't always be responsible for what turns
them off, but we should be sensitive to the fact that some
things we do will have a negative effect.

Some of our students are on such wobbly ground emotionally
about their fit in the university environment, the cultural
differences they are encountering, the racism, and the huge
family and emotional problems they may be facing on the
homefront, that it takes just that one straw to break them.


I remember one such student of mine that has made me work to
set the tone with my own staff ever since.  THis student was
really tentative about whether or not he was going to make
it in school.  He was very bright, but had lots of other
problems and self-esteem issues stacked against him.  I
finally talked him into going up to the computer lab (which
he was very intimidated by) about three weeks late in the
semester.  The lab coordinator, who had a reputation for
being a "tough love" kind of person, sarcastically chided
him when he came in for not doing so sooner.  That was the
last that any of us saw of him.

Now, I'm not saying we could have saved him if she had been
nicer, but I am saying that we all need to think about the
negative things we put in front of students without meaning
to.  Friendliness and a supportive may buy us enough time to
start to reverse the damage these students bring with them
initially and give them the boost they need to persevere.