Teaching in a Low Income School

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by acehigh, Dec 16, 2014.

  1. acehigh

    acehigh Rookie

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    Dec 16, 2014

    I currently have a bachelor degree in a technical field and I am in the process of beginning my graduate program for secondary education in math. I'm extremely excited about this opportunity! But...I have one concern. There is a grant program allowing me to attend this program for free, plus stipend, in return for 3 years of service working in a low income public school. I have been warned that these schools are more like zoos than a learning environment and I want to face this as a challenge to hopefully reach out to my future students in a positive and encouraging manner.

    Do any of you have any experience in a low income school with students from difficult backgrounds? What effective teaching techniques did you use to reach them better? Any suggestions or advice for me?

    Thanks!
     
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  3. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Virtuoso

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    Dec 16, 2014

    I've worked my whole career in a low-income district. I started out at the high school, then moved to middle school. Not a zoo at all.
     
  4. miss-m

    miss-m Devotee

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    It really depends on the school -- the biggest thing I encountered with field experience in urban schools is that the kids often lack background knowledge and vocab that higher income kids might have, and they probably are responsible for themselves after school as their parents often work late or multiple jobs. Some low income schools might be more zoo-like than others, but it really depends on the atmosphere the staff has worked to create. If you are the teacher that cares and consistently is there for your students rather than just being "in charge" you could definitely be that positive and encouraging influence.

    I don't have any experience with secondary low-income schools, but I know that a lot of my kids last year were really just in need of someone who cares for them no matter what and is there consistently (which is what every kid needs, really). Respect your students as people, not as little machines to control (which I have seen, unfortunately -- teachers yell at kids but still expect respect and obedience), and then follow through with respect and what you say you'll do.
     
  5. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    Dec 16, 2014

    I've taught in three different schools in Baltimore City and each school has been a chaotic mess - a real zoo - but not ALL schools in my district are like this. IMO, it really is the luck of the draw especially for new teachers. Hopefully, your find yourself teaching in a well-run/managed/organized school where you can achieve your goal of reaching these kids.

    The K-5 and K-8 schools in my district tend to be better than our high schools in regards to having fewer behavior issues and having MUCH better academic performance/test scores. So, you might want to consider teaching at this level.

    Good luck!
     
  6. GTB4GT

    GTB4GT Cohort

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    One piece of advice...if you have a degree in a technical field one can reasonably assume that you are both intelligent, achievement oriented and self-motivated. Do not assume that everyone else is like you...or you will be in for a letdown. These people are dealing with a host of issues that most (certainly not all) of us are fortunate enough not to have dealt with when we were growing up.

    You can be almost certain (or at least based on my very limited experience in just one rural school) that there isn't going to be much attention or focus given to school after hours.Some work jobs...others leave the building uncertain where they will be sleeping or eating that night.

    If there is any positive, you will not be dealing with the dreaded "helicopter" parents that you read/hear about. My sister in law teaches math (like I do) in a very affluent suburb of a large metropolitan area. Her problems and mine are very, very, very different. On parent - teacher night, I consider myself fortunate if I get to meet 3 parents. When i do, they typically are the parents of few academically oriented students that I have (go figure, right?).

    If you did not grow up poor or have been exposed to disadvantaged people, be prepared to have some paradigms shifted. With that being said, I have always embraced challenges and I like doing what I do. But it's not for everybody to be sure.
     
  7. acehigh

    acehigh Rookie

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    This is actually very helpful. I was fortunate enough grow up in a fairly privileged environment. I didn't attend public school until I reached high school and I was shocked by the demeanor of a lot of my teachers, and I wasn't even in a low income district! Teachers were so negative towards the students and treated them like less than a person and it obviously affected not only their performance by their drive to reach more. I'm nervous about being in a low income environment because I know I cannot personally relate, but I really want to be the voice of encouragement and be a stable person in their lives that they can count on. I'm just not sure if I am just living a fantasy thinking that can actually happen or if it's plausible.
     
  8. GTB4GT

    GTB4GT Cohort

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    there is only one way to answer the question for yourself. go find out. You have a technical degree so there is nothing to lose. You will have a fall back position. I used to work in a technical field myself before deciding to retire from that. Teaching will look good on your resume if you decide it is not your cup of tea.

    My daughter in law taught for 2 years in a difficult environment and decided that she was not up to the task. Or was unwilling to do what was necessary to be up to the task. I can respect that. One has to be realistic about one's abilities and limitations.
     
  9. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Dec 16, 2014

    I might be repeating some things already said, but I didn't read through the other posts, sorry :(

    I work and love working at a low-income school. Our students face extreme poverty, almost all of them.
    This is what I've found in 3 years:

    Academics:
    - usually low ability / skill level so you must scaffold a lot. You must meet them at their level and build them up
    - background knowledge is often not there
    - some of these students get overwhelmed by complicated or large assignments so try chunking it for them. don't show all the steps to a problem at once, go step by step. If you're reading a novel, don't read 3 pages without stopping, stop frequently to summary, retell, clarify, check comprehension and engage them.
    -you can have (and should) have high expectations, but you must be patient. Don't set expectations too high, they'll shut down, but set it high enough that shows you believe in them.

    Behavior:
    - it can be bad
    - lots of disruptions, but you can curb that by setting expectations, enforcing rules and follow through
    - you must understand that a lot of them are dealing with major problems, not knowing where they will sleep, if they will get evicted, if their abusive father is getting out of jail tonight, etc. You must be patient, and understand that your assignments may not be important to them.
    - on the same token, provide structure, because they need that, in hard times more than ever
    - you might have to deal with absences, because they might have to work, they might have to stay home and babysit their siblings so their mother can go to work so they won't get evicted. In these cases don't lecture them about being tardy or absent, celebrate the fact that they're there and help them catch up.
    - you must have patience
    - you must find the fine line between patience and being understanding and giving second chances. I'm still looking for it on most days

    Parents
    - they often don't know how to be a parent and are looking for you to deal with the problems. There is a way to tell them how to give consequences at home.
    - some of them don't care, they think their little angel is your problem for 7 hours, but usually because they have to deal with bigger issues
    - most of them are appreciative and don't try to tell you how to do your job.
    - you probably won't have many parents complaining, unless you do very bad things.

    Rewards for you
    - it's extremely rewarding
    - you actually feel that you are making a difference, not every day, but overall.
    - you are working with kids a lot of teachers don't want to, and the kids know it.
     
  10. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    Dec 16, 2014

    I've only worked in low income schools. Some schools without strong leaders can be a bit wild. If there is strong leadership, then teachers can set expectations that allow you to teach.
     
  11. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Dec 16, 2014

    Even if you haven't had any experience with people who are economically challenged, it doesn't mean that you won't be able to relate or that it won't work. All you need is an open heart and the willingness to understand, tolerate and help.

    I never had any experiences like that, all my experiences were dealing with people from different background, non-native English speakers, and people of different cultures. That's what I love, and that's where my strength is.
    It still works for me, mostly because I care and because my P is awesome and I'm learning something new from her every day.
     
  12. ms.irene

    ms.irene Connoisseur

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    Dec 16, 2014

    Beautifully put! My first years of teaching were in a low-income, urban school, and last year I was teaching at a low-income rural school. The problems I witnessed were remarkably similar. Now I am in a suburban school with a wide variety of students from a mix of backgrounds, and it has made me appreciate how tough working in those two previous environments was. I still deal with many of the same issues, but to a far lesser degree and frequency. However, I don't regret those years for a moment -- I learned so much that has helped me become a stronger teacher for any students as well as a better and more aware person in general.
     
  13. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Dec 17, 2014

    My school is about 75% economically disadvantaged students. Wouldn't trade them for the world. You'll see what I mean if you decide to give this setting a try.
     
  14. nyteacher29

    nyteacher29 Comrade

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    Dec 17, 2014

    Structure , structure, structure. And everything else others have said. I've been in a low economic school my whole career of 4 years (lol) and iLOVE it. It challenges me and provides me with a different perspective every day
     
  15. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    There sure is a great deal of information in this thread - honest, professional, and heart-felt. Thank you all. Acehigh, be honest with yourself about what you are interested in, and find out anything you can about the administration at the school and how consistently they implement school rules. Follow-through by admin can make or break a school culture.
     
  16. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Yes, administration is a huge deal. At my school the principal is the best I can imagine, she follows through but our philosophy is redirection and second chances (unless it's be used up, or inappropriate) and she does this in a way that she's consistent and definitely has authority. She backs her staff up, which is huge. Doesn't micromanage, trusts us to be decent people and professionals with great work ethics and it works.

    At our sister school, the school population is actually better than ours (our kids have been expelled and on probation) that school is a charter school, with a lot of troubled kids, but not all. Yes, with their principal who was a teacher until last year the environment is not great. I've heard from several teachers that they hate it, there are no consequences, no follow through, not treating the teachers fairly, it's bad.
     

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