More Alternative School Stuff

Discussion in 'Secondary Education Archives' started by Caveman, Apr 18, 2005.

  1. Caveman

    Caveman Rookie

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    Apr 18, 2005

    OK as you all probably know, I'm retiring from the Air Force to pursue a teaching degree. Alternative certifcation will be required as my degree is a BS in Liberal Studies (looks alot like a dual major English and Sociology on paper). In my quest for a job I seem to be mobbed by charter schools/dropout prevention programs. I sent a resume' to a school in New Port Richey on Friday and I talked to the principal today and he said he would probably do a phone interview in a week or two and decide from there. I won't be physically in Florida until the first week of June. I'm real tickled at the response but kinda suspicious at the same time. Have any of you guys ever phone interviewed for a teaching gig? Can anyone give me some caveats about why this might seem so easy or why he might be in such a hurry to hire me? I mean, I'm a great guy, an exemplary citizen and academic performer (not to mention stunningly handsome and horribly modest :D)but this type of school's eagerness to hire me has me rather perplexed. Are they looking for hired military muscle? A bat man? If so, can do easy but my mom always told me that if it seems too good to be true it probably is.
    While I certainly don't mind teaching these kinds of students because more than most they really need to see the light and see it quick, I'm wondering why they are so anxious to hire me. The "regular" schools in the area have not really come out with their vacancies for next year yet and before I really say yes to teaching "At Risk" kids I think I'd really rather see if I can get a job teaching an honors English class instead. If I do end up teaching at risk kids, does anyone know if Level 3 body armor is tax deductible :D
     
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  3. Fawn Lori

    Fawn Lori Rookie

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    Apr 18, 2005

    Are you kidding? A male teacher in an alternative school program??? With a military background to boot??? You are the golden goose, man! I teach in a juvenile correctional facility and seriously, men are desperately needed and rare to see!

    I would want to tour the school first, ask about what behavioral program they have in place, what training you will receive, how behavioral incidents in the classroom are dealt with, and what involvement is to be expected from the families. I would also ask about what ability you will have to use classroom incentives and to set up your own program and also what materials are there.
     
  4. Caveman

    Caveman Rookie

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    Apr 18, 2005

    Thanks Fawn, I've been called a lot of things but few were more flattering than the Golden Goose! I suppose that given your current job posting you are my Golden Goose for intel...uh...I mean information.

    How long have you worked in this place?

    I've heard that contrary to what one might believe, incarcerated students are more attentive than in some other settings, has this been your experience?

    Do you get the impression that you successfully reach these kids or is it just a warehousing effort?

    The schools that are pimping (courting?) me are not Juevenile Justice facilities but various alternative schools for kids who for whatever reasons, discipline, drugs, run ins with the law, etc. have not made it in more conventional settings. Will this be similar to your situation or do you teach kids that are straight up in jail?

    Any scary or physical encounters with students or are they fairly contained?
     
  5. Fawn Lori

    Fawn Lori Rookie

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    Apr 19, 2005

    "Intel"

    I've worked here for 7 years and in our line of work, that's considered a veteran. Many do not last three years, but if you make it three, you're usually in for the long haul.

    As for student attention, a lot of it has to do with the behavioral program in place at the school or facility and your classroom management skills. Rule 1, you are not there to be their friend (mentor, yes, friend, no). Rule 2, you are not there to order them around and expect compliance that way, either. They will gladly tell you where to stick it! If you can find that middle ground, then you will not have a problem with attention. I find that middle ground to be quite simply respect. Treat your students with respect, set clear boundaries, and don't be wishy-washy. In fact, I tell new teachers quite honestly that you have to come in like a b**** at first and after the boundaries are established slowly lighten things up. If you come in "nice", you'll never have their respect and once you lose control, it's almost impossible to regain it.

    Oh, the day that I am warehousing students had better be the day I stop teaching!!! Seriously, I KNOW I am reaching students. I see the academic gains they make every single day. I would love to say it is solely because of the excellent teaching staff we have, but I know that a lot has to do with the structured environment and lack of influence of drugs, gangs, and troubled families while they are with us, too. It is for this reason alone that there is a lot of recidivism. They leave us and go right back into the environment they came from.

    My kids ARE your kids. I get them after they have had a fight in your setting or failed one urine test too many or have been arrested one too many times and the decision is made that they need a more secure setting. Our "SJO's" (Serious Juvenile Offenders) are more rare than ever as many of them are now going into the adult system because the adult system picks them up at 14-16 yrs now. They call us a "training school", but we are the only secure setting for juveniles in Connecticut. I guess you could say it's jail but the emphasis is on a therapeutic millieu.

    I pride myself that in 7 years, there has yet to be a physical encounter in my room. I have been trained to do full take down restraints, but the closest I came was to step between two students when one was cornered in a bad way and it looked like he was about to be beat down real bad. I stepped between, facing the aggressor, and talked him down and placed my arm on his forarm and walked him out of the classroom.

    Fights in the school are rare, but between the behavioral program in place (being military, you might know of GGI- now more commonly known as Positive Peer Culture). I also do two other things that prevent a lot. I'm teaching computer ed right now so I have revised my incentive program to fit that. If the kids are working appropriately and once they are working (I'm not doing lecture or guided practice or teaching a new skill), they may listen to a cd while they work. I buy the filtered versions of the music they like. They may only get 5 minutes to do so in a period, but it's 5 minutes they really enjoy and don't want to give up. If they aren't on task, they don't get a cd. If they had to take a time out or were removed the day before, they are ineligible for incentive the next day.

    When I was in a classroom, they earned points that got converted into a "store" value. I would buy small items such as hand cream, lip balm, and small snacks that the kids could buy (yes, out of my pocket, but when you consider the payback is a manageable classroom and a learning environment, it's worth it and I just kept receipts for my taxes). It would work out that they had enough to cash in if they earned all their points once a week (Friday afternoons) and I made sure there were some items they wanted that would "cost" enough for them to save points for one, two, or more weeks.

    The other thing I do (and I think I'm pretty good at) is use my intuitions. If a student seems to be having a hard time and the body language if not outright verbalizations tell me that the student needs to go, I send him on a time out BEFORE things escalate. My number one job is to protect my kids and I take that role very seriously. I also take the time to process behaviors with my students afterwards and let them know that while I might be disappointed in what happened, I'm glad they got themselves back "in check" and are able to come back to class.

    I hope this has helped and if you have more questions, ASK AWAY! Too few people understand what it is we do in this type of learning environment.
     
  6. Caveman

    Caveman Rookie

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    Apr 19, 2005

    Just seems like it would be a really tough environment to teach in. A few doubts I have about it myself:
    I don't need a bunch of money, I don't need to be in the Who's Who of Teachers in America but I need to know that I'm making a difference. It seems like with these kind of kids your clear victories would be few and far between and that part of it worries me from a morale standpoint. Seems like it would be kind of discouraging to see the same kids keep coming back. Every once in a while it would be nice to absolutely know that I won one you know what I mean?
    Have you always taught there or have you taught in regular schools too?
    I'm a little concerned about my first year of teaching. The kids would seem to be the variable. Regardless of where I teach, it almost seems like the reaction I get from them will make me or break me and it's kinda unsettling to not be in control of something that big. Am I crazy or is that normal? They can't work me to death although I'm sure that just like my first year in the Air Force they will try. I'm willing to bust my butt, or anything else it takes to make it as a teacher. But I gotta every once in a while have my victories too.
     
  7. chava_1908

    chava_1908 Rookie

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    Jul 24, 2005

    Hi everybody!
    I could possibly be working in an alternative school from this year until I get certified. Could anybody give me some sure shot classroom management options designed specially for alternative schools? Thanks and email me at --------
    Note: Email address removed by Upsadaisy. Instead, use the Private Message feature available in the members' list.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 24, 2005
  8. Fawn Lori

    Fawn Lori Rookie

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    Jul 25, 2005

    As for making a difference... you do! You do in this setting very often. Yes, our kids end up in more trouble usually, but there are success stories and what's more is that their successes are the things every other teacher takes for granted.

    I just got an e-mail at work Friday from one of our transition team members to let me know she spoke with a student of mine that left in April. He has finished his GED training and is sitting for the test in October and has already begun to pursue certification in computer programming and web site design and development. He attributed this directly to the influence I had on him. Needless to say, I am still grinning!

    We've had some go to college and many go into the military and Job Corps. I see many of my former students in the community, holding jobs, and trying to maintain.

    Because these are more rare, they stand out and you really appreciate these successes so much more. It's sort of like seeing things through the eyes of a child... then again, it's exactly like seeing things through the eyes of a child!

    Oh- I did work in a public school for a year prior to this position and I will never willingly go back. You don't have HALF the support in a public school setting that you do in an alternative setting. In the public school you are always the teacher that teaches "those kids" and no one tries to understand or cares what you do as long as "those kids" don't bother the rest of the school. Even the administrators don't want to know you or what you do.
     
  9. Fawn Lori

    Fawn Lori Rookie

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    Jul 25, 2005

    First and foremost, you need to know about the behavior management system in place at your school and then you have to tailor your system to fit in with it. Other than that, please read my post above for some ideas and I will post more after work today.
     
  10. TwinsStSt

    TwinsStSt Rookie

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    Jul 29, 2005

    Alternative Ed

    I was so excited to see a post about alternative ed - I currently am teaching at a private alternative ed school in Pennsylvania - looking for websites, ideas - we have about 25 students 7th - 12 grade - mostly male. Very limited supplies - we only have 2 teachers - I teach math and science - most are in different books - last year I taught a small group pre-algebra and life science - everyone else worked independently. I also have to do a group with them each day - activities range from phys ed to art activities to discussions (any topic is suitable). Does anyone have any ideas, suggestions, websites?
    I will continue to look at this forum - I want to reach the sky with the students - they have little life experiences except on the street - they think living in Penna is a "hick" place.
    I need ideas - one thing they loved last year was to color - they never did this as a child.
    Any suggestions where I can get short stories, novels for them - we have very limited resources.

    A little about me - I taught 1st grade in a public school for 5 years - I taught in a correctional facility for 3 years - and I have been a substitute for 10 years - finally decided to get a full time job last year - since my kids are in high school - I'd love to hear from others.
     
  11. Fawn Lori

    Fawn Lori Rookie

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    Jul 29, 2005

    How cool to meet other people doing what so few do...

    Few supplies? LOL! I should tell you about my first day at Long Lane! I walk into my future classroom (first few days are observing and training) to see an ancient "blackboard" which was painted over with black paint (and not blackboard paint) chipped and all. No chalk, no eraser, a broken "rolling" chair and not even a dictionary in the room that I was supposed to teach language arts in! If it weren't for the internet, L'rd knows how I would get through it.

    As for the coloring... I spent $10 for one of those big coloring posters and set that up on a table in my room with markers. That became my time out table and I rarely sent kids out on time outs.

    I'll post later with some ideas for books and other materials because I have company right now.

    Nice to "meet" you!
     
  12. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Jul 29, 2005

    Welcome to AtoZ! What reading level(s) do your students have? Do they have specific learning disabilities?
     
  13. TwinsStSt

    TwinsStSt Rookie

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    Jul 30, 2005

    Last year we didn't have anyone with disabilities according to the home school districts - that respect we were very lucky all of them were capable if they tried. The lowest level was probably 5th grade. Thanks, Pam
     
  14. Fawn Lori

    Fawn Lori Rookie

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    Jul 30, 2005

    The most important thing to do with classroom management is to set the tone. You need to make clear boundaries because these kids don't understand "grey". It's black or it's white (so to speak). You then have to enforce the consequences you set up consistently. Don't make any exceptions to the rule for a long time because they need to know those boundaries.

    Beyond that, it doesn't matter if you use points, checks, stickers, or other token economy systems but do something that they can "earn" and make school have some sort of value besides a grade. I don't know of any alternative setting that doesn't have some sort of token economy and the kids really do buy into them.

    Beyond that, again, I went through a lot in my earlier post and if you have any more specific questions... ask away :)
     
  15. Fawn Lori

    Fawn Lori Rookie

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    Jul 30, 2005

    Have you been to the www.enc.org Website? They have a ton of lesson plans and if you look through, a lot of them have materials as well. As for books, I found "Buck a Book" or "Dollar Book" stores (there are several similar type book stores) all have teacher discounts and I was able to buy books there for my class and not break the bank. You have to spend a lot of time looking through, finding something, and hoping there's enough of copies or that you can copy stuff, but it's very much worth it. As for specific lesson plan sites, let me see if I can find my old favorites folder and I'll post some links later.
     
  16. Miss V

    Miss V Rookie

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    Aug 26, 2005

    Hello there!

    I just finished my first year of teaching last year and it was at an alternative school outside of a city that is no stranger to gang violence, drug problems, and chaos. I felt the same way Caveman did in the beginning. I wondered why no 'real school' wanted me. I soon found out I was there for a reason. I ended up loving it because I really made a huge difference. I am 5'2 and am not that much older than many of my students so it was challenging but it also worked in my favor. Although I had to jump in couple riots we had throughout the year, I made some great relationships with my kids. Although it was very difficult at times, (we had some crazy problems with how administration ran the school, as well as some very unstable students) I still found so much satisfaction with how much I made a difference in these kids' lives. In my opinion, it is easy to teach the upper level kids that have minimal behavior problems. Even though it takes more work and isn't always easy, it is very gratifying to do such an important job.
     
  17. Caveman

    Caveman Rookie

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    Sep 2, 2005

    Have secured a job at an alternative school and so far so good. It definitely isn't your magnet school, lets read Shakespearean Sonnets, Old Man and the Sea, and get ready for a life as a rich yuppy. Some days it feels like one step forward and two steps back but good days are great days and every day I seem to imerge with at least one small victory. I've figured out it's a game of inches rather like being a lawyer. If you can get inside their heads and make them doubt the choices they've made for just a few seconds today, maybe tomorrow it will be a few minutes, maybe by spring break they will take a week to think about the choices they've made. Even though school just started I see some of my students beginning this process already. I'm realistic enough to know that no, I probably will not definitively save all of them outright but if I can just save a couple this year that's a couple more that will realize their true potential and not live the kind of life they are blindly choosing right now. Of the unsaved, maybe some just will not be saved and will only realize the opportunities they had when it is too late; in others, I would hope that if nothing else I planted the seed and it will just take them a little longer to come around and committ to turning themselves around. Some people tell me they can distinguish among the groups but it's been my experience that the kid that tells you to go screw yourself today may walk into your class tomorrow and share with you a beautifully written poem that he/she wrote last night (that's awesome happened to me the other day). Conversely you can have a kid that seems to be doing great that all the sudden just self destructs (that hurts) but the point being made is that you just never know, they can turn around on a dime so I teach them all as if I can save them today. Anyway it makes it a challenge and who wants to live in a static predictable world anyway. Let's have fun out there! Thug teachers of the world UNITE! :D
     
  18. TwinsStSt

    TwinsStSt Rookie

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    Sep 2, 2005

    Wayto go - Thug teachers unite! We had 4 days of school this week we're short 1 teacher, 1 aide, the dean needs to fill in and no secreatary (which serves as another body when needed.). We've had an extremely successful week - 18 students - several are repeats from last year some even 2 years. We went over our norms and rules day aftew day - explained procedures, etc, day after day. The repeaters tried to buck the system - we are much more consistent this year - the first time someone cursed me out I was pleased how I handled it - was immediately dropped to a negative rating - lost privlelges , etc. He aplologized, said we were much tougher, but we felt as though he was sincere and we can see effort on his part. The time spent this week on our procedures, etc was definitely worthwhile - we're looking forwarding to next week.
     
  19. chava_1908

    chava_1908 Rookie

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    Sep 3, 2005

    Happy New Year alternative school employees of the world!
    I just want to say isn't it fun to be united with other thug teachers...
    EVERYWHERE!!!! :cool:
     

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