Teaching in a Low-Income School

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Ms.Holyoke, Dec 3, 2017.

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  1. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Comrade

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    Does anyone have experiences teaching in a low-income school? I have a scholarship that requires that I student teach in a low-income school and teach in a low-income school for two years. I would ideally like to work in a low-income school long term. I really love my students, but I'm starting to gain a better picture of the challenges (and I haven't even taken over yet!) It shocks me how low some of our students are and I feel like we are covering curriculum from a grade level below us, which I feel isn't fair to our students (but what else can we do...). I'm also frustrated by the lack of resources teachers/especially students have and the lack of admin support for discipline issues. I also know some of my students have difficult home lives which is hard on an emotional level. I'm not sure what my question is, but I would like to hear any advice or other experiences teaching in a high needs school.
     
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  3. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    My whole career. The kids aren't the problem (well, most of them.) The problem is the adults who have given them a pass their whole lives. They get to me in 7th grade reading at literally a 1st grade reading level in some cases. Our schoolwide average reading level is 4th grade. 4th grade.

    Kids are incredibly resilient. They have home lives I could never imagine but they truck right along when we push them and give them the right supports. When we say things like "their community isn't ready for this" then we doom them to continued failure.
     
  4. AmyMyNamey

    AmyMyNamey Comrade

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    My own state of Indiana has a similar program with which to lure young people into teaching. For a $7,500 yearly scholarship, students must agree to teach for five years in the state. After destroying every labor right enjoyed by teachers in 2011, Indiana is now experiencing a massive shortage of kids willing to working long hours, without support, in some of the worst conditions imaginable, with few benefits and a paycheck just over what is minimum wage in some states.

    My advice for young people is always to avoid teaching. You'll get yourself in debt for a "career" you may only be able to tolerate for a year or two—as our legislators intended.

    If you are obligated or committed, my advice would be to study as much as you can about abnormal psychology, criminal psychology, poverty, and deescalation of crisis situations. As you will learn, our nation is rapidly transitioning to a new slave economy, with the wealthy elite dependent upon low-wage labor kept at a safe distance by way of economic segregation. As a teacher, you will be exposed to the dehumanizing effects of poverty, and you will be handicapped by an underfunded, uncaring, self-serving bureaucracy that perpetuates social ills more than it addresses them.

    Most teacher programs avoid these issues so as not to frighten away prospective students and lose tuition.

    Beyond this, you should look into self-enriching, self-betterment activities that will help you and only you survive in an emotionally and physically hostile environment. Were you to focus all your time and energy on these students, despite the many insurmountable obstacles in your path, you would likely lose not only the vision that brought you to this point, but much of your own sense of identity and self-worth, as well.
     
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  5. CherryOak

    CherryOak Companion

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    I haven't worked in one K12, but I attended a grade school with high poverty stats. I often remind myself that poverty is the students' current environment - not their identity. They need leaders to consider the environment's inherent challenges but still set high expectations of them as individuals. Easier said than done, but still....
     
  6. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Devotee

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    I taught in low income schools for 15 years and loved it. You will be the most important person in many students' lives, and witness amazing growth.

    Regardless of the successes you achieve with your students, outsiders will call your school "failing" due to the low test scores. So decide ahead of time that you'll not depend on these ignorant people for your job satisfaction. I found my joy in the development of my teaching skills and the impact I had on my students.

    You should realize that you'll need to search for personal and professional affirmation by watching your students' progress and patting your own self on the back when you see their growth. Parents tend to be unengaged in their children's education and will not send apples or nice notes.

    You'll get gut punches when you witness the home trauma that interferes with your students' progress.

    I got out of the low income school when I won some state and national teaching honors. A high-income school near my home recruited me - allowing me to ride my bike to work. When the principal at my new school gathered the staff to tout their startlingly high test scores, she said it was all due to the wonderful teachers. You'll hear poppycock like this, but directed against the noble, highly skilled teachers in the low income schools. I still feel guilty that I'm not back in my low income schools.

    Go for it. It will change your life.
     
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  7. vickilyn

    vickilyn Virtuoso

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    If you don't already have Teacher of Students with Disabilities certification, I would highly recommend starting to take those classes in grad school as soon as you graduate. Unlike undergrad, classes are evening, to accommodate working teachers, and during the summer. What you will need the courses for is to help you identify, support, and create/modify the curriculum and how it is taught to be effective for students who are falling behind. Not all students from impoverished homes will be working at low levels, but enough will be that knowing what it means to implement modifications and accommodations will certainly be a huge plus. Each state has their own route to TOSD certification, but if you are going to spend two years in this environment, earning the cert does two things. !. It makes you a better teacher. 2. It qualifies you for more jobs, and the credits earned in grad school move you up the pay scale.

    Yes, I work with these students, but I get them in as high school students with behavior issues.
     
  8. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    I've only taught in low SES schools. One thing to keep in mind is that not all "low income" schools are the same. IMO, there is a difference between a "low income" and "inner city" school. My student teaching was in a title 1 school, but it was in a more rural area and the school just met the 50% cut off (of students receiving free and reduced lunch) in order to be considered a title 1 school. That school was far "easier" than any of the schools I've worked in as a full time teacher, which have all been closer to 80-100% free and reduced lunch.

    My first two years, I worked in a mountain resort area in a school that was 90% free lunch and 90% EL. Our kids had a lot of academic challenges, but severe behavior issues were almost non-existent because parents really held their kids to high expectations and supported the teachers and school. In addition, the other 10% of our population was extraordinarily wealthy people (it should have been 50/50 based on the neighborhood, but most fled to charter schools), so we had a really active PTO and always got donations, nice staff appreciation events/gifts, and things of that sort. Besides that, many schools within the same district were wealthy schools, so my school got tons of extra resources from the district (namely, a ton of intervention teachers). Obviously, that doesn't work out when the entire district is low SES.

    Six years ago, I moved to a large city and have only worked in areas where the entire district was low SES. The issues are different (worse) here. For example, we deal with gang issues, which were non-existent in either of the two settings I'd been in previously. Most of our students have one or more parents in jail. Many students are being bounced around to different caregivers, or are homeless. Students not having basics like food or clothing is a huge issue. Our population is very transient, so it's not uncommon for kids to come to our school for a few weeks/months, go somewhere else for a few weeks/months, and then come back to us. Discipline issues are becoming more and more severe as students are exposed to more and more trauma. We get a greater number of kids each year who are screaming and throwing fits all day, tearing up their classrooms, being violent against themselves and others all day, etc. The school simply does not have the resources to deal with the significant mental health issues that kids are bringing in.

    Of course, it can be incredibly rewarding. Aside from the students with severe behavior issues, we also do have many students who love to be at school because it's the only safe place they have. I'm not sure how much this "lazy/bad teacher" thing I read about on here is really a problem anyway, but I can say for certain it's not been a problem in any of the schools I've worked in. Teachers simply do not sign up to work at a school like mine and deal with the issues we have if their plan is to sit back and collect a pay check.

    On the other hand, with the obsession with data and test scores, it makes it that much more difficult to work in a school like mine. You're compared to wealthy schools that have none of the same issues, and the prevailing thought among the general public (and sadly, sometimes other teachers) is that the reason test scores are lower in inner city schools is because of "bad teachers." Many areas are also going to policies like having test scores or student data be tied to teacher evaluations, or even to your ability to keep your teaching license.

    Last time I was job searching, I was offered a position in a wealthy school that had something like 95% of their students passing state tests. My mom said, "You'd be bored." ;) I ended up taking the position in my current school instead largely because I prefer to live in this city (the wealthy school was in a different part of the state). I do sometimes wonder what it would have been like though!
     
  9. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Comrade

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    I have thought about getting a special ed. certification, but I am worried about the positions it will put me in. My mentor teacher is dual certified, and she is serving as the general and special educator in the classroom instead of having a co-teacher. I really do not want to be put in this situation, but I would consider getting my ELL certification over the summer. And to add on, I'm not a huge fan of teaching special ed. because of the paperwork anyways...
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2017
  10. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Comrade

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    Thank you for all the info, waterfall. I will definitely look at different schools in the area. I'm at a low income school now but I wouldn't consider it an inner city school. I actually really enjoy a lot of aspects about the school and the district pays teachers very very well. But I'm frustrated that my students have some uncertified teachers, no textbooks, and lots of other issues. I really love my students and I don't think that I would be happy in a wealthier school.

    I am also worried about testing because I will be teaching a tested subject (math). So I am hoping that my scores won't be tied to my evaluation in my state because I don't think we have that yet.
     
  11. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Comrade

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    Why are uncertified teachers in the classroom? Was there no one qualified to take the job?
     
  12. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Phenom

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    I have taught my entire 25 year career in a high-poverty school district.

    It can be a challenge to work with students who struggle with basic needs. They may come to school tired and hungry. They may move often or live with relatives. They may come from families where education is not a high priority. They may not know how to overcome these obstacles. Sometimes they don't even know they have obstacles. It is their normal.

    On the other side, they are every bit as capable as anyone else when they have the right opportunities. In fact, they can be more appreciative of opportunities given them than students who do not have financial struggles.

    High-poverty schools aren't for everybody, though. We have had teachers who didn't last very long because they just weren't cut out for our area. (We are rural as well as high-poverty.) I grew up in this area, so it doesn't bother me to live in a small, rural place.

    Our test scores are tied to our evaluations. It's measured by performance level AND individual student growth. So, even if a student is not meeting proficiency, as long a they are making adequate progress each year, we are okay.
     
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  13. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Comrade

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    Nope. There was a certified teacher in the subject area but they let this teacher go and my mentor is teaching an extra subject not in her content area.She is certified in her content area.
     
  14. viola_x_wittrockiana

    viola_x_wittrockiana Companion

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    There's some good advice in this thread. My experience has been much like waterfall's current district. Kids were in and out, no stable housing, family incarcerated, raised by extended family, not enough of anything to go around. You have to recognize that some of these kids don't know that there is another way to live.

    Define your own success. No one else's definition is going to work for you. Don't let anyone tell you you're failing because your students don't meet their standards of success.

    Don't put too much focus on trying to "save" your students. You are not going to save every one of them, or probably even most of them, and that's okay. There will be kids you click with and kids you don't, just like there's adults you click with and don't. You can do a lot with a child who trusts you, but you can't force or wheedle for trust.

    Read up on trauma-informed education. I was very very glad to have been trained this way when I ended up with a bunch of traumatized kids. There are things you can do in "regular" schools that you can't do with traumatized populations. Also learn the signs of abuse. A friend from the same university was student-teaching across the hall from my co-op and I when she had a girl completely flip out after her co-op bumped into her leg walking down the aisle. That's a red flag for abuse.
     
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  15. AlwaysAttend

    AlwaysAttend Fanatic

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    I don’t offend easily, but this offends me greatly. Start with the idea that we are enslaving people. Next that we are forcing people into low wage jobs when the only solution to this problem I hear is raise the wage not the expectations. When you see the quality of employee performance currently collecting minimum wage, it doesn’t make me want to raise minimum wage, it makes me dream for the day they are replaced by robots. There are a ton of high paying jobs people aren’t being prepared for because we teach down to students. There are high performing schools in urban areas but in many cases, you would like them closed down.

    Im also offended you try to pursuade others not to follow their dreams.
     
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  16. vickilyn

    vickilyn Virtuoso

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    I didn't actually say you had to get the credential, but to take the coursework that would lead to that certificate. If you don't pursue it with the state, there will be no certificate granted. In NJ, there were 7 specific courses needed to acquire the TOSD certificate. That said, those 21 credits would move you up the pay scale. If I never submitted my final papers and payment to the state, I would simply have 21 grad credits and a lot of useful information.
     
  17. GTB4GT

    GTB4GT Cohort

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    I have. Then I moved to a different city and ended up teaching at a very affluent school. At the far end of the bell curve in both situations. Kids aren't much different either way...some will find a way to do the work. Others will lean on excuses. I thought it might be different, but it's not. The only difference I see is our upper tier kids at my new school get exposure to honors and AP classes that enable them to get into the tier 1 colleges. The upper tier kids at the lower economic school did not have that and thus are relegated to the state colleges and equivalent.
     
  18. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Aficionado

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    That's exactly what I say about my school: it's their safe place! They know we (teachers, support staff, & admin) are going to be there every day and they know they'll get fed twice (free breakfast and lunch).

    If y'all drove by the neighborhood, though, you'd probably be frightened! I've had to call the police on several occasions: neighbors fighting in broad daylight, gunshots, cars getting broken into, parents (who are under the influence) threatening to harm us, etc. Despite these things, we get up and do it all over again each day!
     
  19. Been There

    Been There Companion

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    I've been a principal, a special ed. teacher and classroom teacher in several low SES schools in both inner-city and rural settings. It's been my experience that these schools tend to be high-stress work places often with administrators who are expected to be very authoritarian and demanding. All the principals that I've worked for in these schools were condescending towards teachers and did nothing to ensure high staff morale. Their administrative incompetence and lack of true leadership skills and knowledge often contributed to teachers who cried behind closed doors or on their morning drive to work. Teachers in these schools must follow strict guidelines regarding approved methods and curriculum materials and tend to have little opportunity to be innovative or creative. There is often a high teacher turnover at low SES schools where the "best" teachers leave whenever they have the opportunity to do so. These schools tend not to be the most professionally stimulating places to work and are not ideal for teachers who expect to receive recognition or affirmation of their professional accomplishments. Chronically low-performing schools by definition tend to remain low-performing schools.

    Students at low SES schools often have one or more parents who have been incarcerated and often fail to teach their children basic foundation and social skills that will help ensure their academic success. Staying up late until midnight on school days (not studying, but watching TV or playing video games) is not uncommon for these students, so you can expect many of them to be tired at school. Personal hygiene is often an issue with many low SES students along with associated health problems which can negatively affect school attendance. Underdeveloped oral language skills (improper syntax and limited vocabulary) present academic challenges for many these students who are often functioning several years below grade level. Students' noticeably limited life experiences often present additional challenges in their being able to relate to and understand daily lessons. Students also tend to be highly transient as their families move from place to place in search of available government-subsidized housing.

    I once had the privilege of being the principal at a school at the high end of the spectrum (98th percentile) - I think you may actually enjoy working at a well-equipped school where students are generally polite, well-fed, well-dressed, articulate and comparatively well-off in almost every respect. These exceptional schools are often run more like a successful business where principals are expected to treat teachers as professional educators. In my case, I felt like I was working harder and longer than the teachers and was usually the last one to leave the school! If you were to teach at the elementary level, you would find parents to be heavily involved in numerous school activities and willing to help teachers whenever needed (including monetary support). Although some teachers may experience pressure from demanding parents, it's a fair trade-off considering there is usually a de-emphasis on testing and a greater focus on quality instruction. You could look forward to taking your students on highly educational field trips and participating in fun extracurricular programs that don't exist at most other schools. Teachers who are innovators can expect to receive support for their creative projects. I especially enjoyed talking to students about their vacations to Europe or their views on current events. If you're on top of your game as a classroom teacher, have an impeccable curriculum vitae and are not yet burned out, this might be an attractive goal for you after you fulfill your commitment at a low SES school.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2017
  20. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Aficionado

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    You come across as jaded and unhappy. Have you ever considered another career?
     
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  21. AmyMyNamey

    AmyMyNamey Comrade

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    You don't know me.

    My opinions may not resound with someone running a charter school. But they are my opinions, and I am as free to express them as those who swear up and down that teaching is the best career in the world.

    I am an amazing teacher. And I speak the truth about teaching, as far as Indiana is concerned. Count yourself blessed that you don't work here.
     
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