03/18/2011 02:33 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Students Sound Off: High Schooler Marie Preston Says Schools Need To Focus On The Individual

"Students Sound Off," is an ongoing student blogger contest aimed at providing students a loud and clear voice in the education debate presented by HuffPost Education and Get Schooled. As the sixth post in the series, high schooler Marie Preston answers the question:

If you were given the chance, how would you help kids at your school graduate?

If you look around the education system, it is easy to observe that our kids are struggling. Our school system's children come from all over, facing different adversities, living in different environments, and learning in different ways. Is it really a surprise that the dropout rate is as high as it currently is? Students are not happy. They are not learning, not thriving, and not being driven enough to fully desire a graduation of their own.

Alright, so we are then faced with the issue of a wide range of schools all over the country with the same question on their minds, "how can we help these students graduate?" Take a look at our schools. Diversity is everywhere. A strict "operation: graduate" plan would not cut it.

No, we need something more individual. A way to answer how a student needs to learn to benefit them most. I am not talking about a standardized test to get a blanket response of what the student body needs. What about all the holes in the blanket? All the exceptions to the majority? This idea of individuality itself opens up a whole flood of problems though: "how can we become aware of what our students really need?"

The solution is really simple. We learn. Take the time to understand our students, analyze what they need, and help them grow because of it. Build a relationship. I had a teacher this year who on the first day gave a packet out to the class asking silly questions such as our favorite color and TV show. Then, as the packet went on, the questions became a little tougher, such as "how do you learn best?" This teacher took the time to figure who these students were. If I had the opportunity, I would implement a similar "get-to-know your students program." Something with a catchier name, of course, but the same idea. We need to ask questions and become fully aware of our surroundings; after all, that is how the human race thrives best.

Most students do not feel as if their personal prerogative matters in the classroom. Part of this self-questioning attitude is around because during the most important years of school all kids live through the "teenage years," but this is all the more reason to show these students they are being heard. Once these teenagers are recognized, they will grow to respect the teachers who care enough about them to listen. The movie Freedom Writers is based on a real life teacher who invested herself into the lives of her students. It all started with a little respect, a little care, and those students came out on top. "To get respect, you have to give it."

This goal of graduation is a stepping stone process for both teacher and student. The teacher's path looks a little like this: teach, listen, repeat until success, motivate, congratulate. The student's path? Learn, ask, learn, respect, appreciate, be motivated, study, learn, graduate. William Allin once said, "Education is not the answer to the question. Education is the means to the answer to all questions."

Are you a high school student who wants to sound off to the HuffPost community and win a chance to blog with a celebrity, politician or activist? Find out how on our contest page or read other essays by high school students.

This contest is brought to you by Waiting For "Superman".