Teaching in "inner city" vs. "regular" schools

Discussion in 'General Education' started by frtrd, Nov 24, 2013.

  1. frtrd

    frtrd Rookie

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    I'm an aspiring high school teacher, and it's always been my dream to teach in a "high needs" school. In fact, that's why I chose to go into the profession -- for the social justice element.

    However, I've been thinking lately about where I want to live after I get my certification. I really like my foresty trees, so my top choices are Oregon, Idaho, Montana, or perhaps Seattle. However, my problem now is that none of these places have many low-income schools.

    Now I'm trying to decide whether to pursue my "social justice" dream and live in a place that I'm not as interested in (Chicago, for example), or live in my #1 place but (probably) not have the opportunity to teach in a low-income school.

    Do you guys feel like teaching in a Title I/low income school it is a categorically different experience? Do you feel like teachers thee are "helping" students significantly more than they would be if they were teaching in a regular school?
     
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  3. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Seattle surely has low-income, inner-city schools. You could even look into its suburbs and neighboring cities, particularly Tacoma.

    Teaching in an inner-city, low-income, Title I (or whatever other label you want to give it) school is definitely a different experience. I would recommend observing in a few of these sorts of classrooms before deciding to work in one. I would further recommend making sure to observe in classrooms with effective teachers AND in classrooms with less-than-effective teachers. Effective teachers in these schools make it look easy. The other teachers will show you exactly how much extra work you'll have to do in order to "break even" compared to your suburban colleagues.
     
  4. frtrd

    frtrd Rookie

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    Interesting. I'll definitely look into Seattle then.

    And you're right, perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself. I have volunteered in a Title I school, but haven't actually worked there. Who's to know whether it would be the right environment for me? (But ... I really think it would be, haha)
     
  5. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    In my experience, every school has needy kids...I work at a school with 27% free/reduced lunch. We used to be Title, but now we don't qualify. Every year, about 1/4 of my class consists of children who come from at-risk backgrounds.
     
  6. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    I teach in a low-income school. I have also taught in a suburban school. I can easily say that my suburban school was an easier teaching experience.

    I understand what you are saying about the social justice element of education. That is what attracted me to education in the first place.

    The first thing I would say is that you can't go in with the mentality that you are there to "save" the kids. The kids you teach have many skills of their own and are smart, and as educators, we must draw from that. As a teacher, I'm there to teach them as well as learn from my students. It's a two way street.

    In addition, you need to learn how to be culturally relevant, especially if you don't belong to the community. Learn about your students and their culture, their interests, etc. and depending on the subject you teach, try to bring that into the material. In my experience, the lessons need to be interesting and relevant, or my students won't apply themselves as much. I must find ways to make it relevant.
     
  7. frtrd

    frtrd Rookie

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    Thanks -- that's an accurate way to think about it. I shouldn't discount non Title I schools.
     
  8. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    Oregon has lots and lots of low income schools. Also, if you want to make a difference in a low income area, consider teaching in a rural Oregon district. Many times these schools are very low income and the kids have less access to services that other kids would have in larger cities. Urban schools in the Portland area are also often low income. Just do your research on different areas. Also, try this link for a list of low income schools: http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?id=3944
     
  9. frtrd

    frtrd Rookie

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    Yes, I DEFINITELY agree with you about not going in to "save" the kids. And you're absolutely 100% right about being culturally relevant. It's something I will definitely keep in mind.

    Do you mind my asking -- as someone who has taught in both a suburban and a low-income school, which one did you enjoy more? Did you find one more "rewarding" than the other? Was the low-income school experience difficult enough that you wouldn't recommend it for a long-term career?
     
  10. frtrd

    frtrd Rookie

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    Thanks for the heads up! I'm not much for really rural living, but I'll look into the small towns as well as in Portland. Do you have any idea what the teaching job market is like in Portland?
     
  11. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    Hmm...there are definitely ups and downs to both. I student taught in a low-income school and then got a job at a wealthy, suburban school. I quit that job because I wanted to go back to a low-income school as well as for family reasons.

    I personally find my current school more rewarding, but it's much more tiring. It takes me much longer to plan lessons because I need to do much more than I did at my old school. I do feel more connected to the school community. I enjoyed my old school, but I always felt like my kids would be fine without me either way. I hated how entitled some of the parents were.

    In my current school, classroom management is much harder. It's harder to teach because homework completion is a problem. This can make it tiring, and I would love it if I could do it for the rest of my life. But I'm not sure if I can. I'm going to take it year by year.
     
  12. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    In addition, I think it's very important not to go in with a deficit mentality. Instead of the achievement gap between white students and black/latino students. I like to talk about the opportunity gap, teacher efficacy gap, etc. It makes much more sense and makes you look at the big picture.
     
  13. frtrd

    frtrd Rookie

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    Yes, that's what I worry about. I went to a high school in a very well-off area, and I felt that myself (and my classmates) would have been fine without our teachers. Not that we didn't have wonderful teachers who challenged us and made us think ... but they didn't change the course of our lives, because we were on a pretty good course already.

    Thanks for your input ... I will do some more thinking ... and cross my fingers that I can find the right sort of school in the right sort of place :)
     
  14. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    ^
    I went to a similar type of school, and I feel the same way. I understand what you're saying and how you're feeling. :)
     
  15. frtrd

    frtrd Rookie

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    Aw. You sound like an awesome teacher by the way -- very perceptive. Thanks again for your help!!
     
  16. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Low income, Title 1 schools and at-risk youth are definitely much harder to teach, but are more rewarding as well. It is probably easier to get hired also.

    On the 'saving the kids' sentiment: agree, you don't want to go in with that idea because it's easy to be disappointed. The kids definitely appreciate you and everything you do for them, but many won't show it and you will not know it if you're looking for obvious signs. Except from some, or maybe years down the road when you run into them.

    Also check out alternative education. This will allow you to live pretty much anywhere you want. In every county, alternative ed. falls under the County Office of Education, they have court and community schools, camps and juvenile halls. The court / community schools (that's where I work) are similar to the inner city schools, except for the kids are more intense, have more behavior problems, but you have about 15 in a classroom only. So it balances out. There are also more resources and more patience, because everyone knows what you're dealing with.

    Depending on the size of the county population, you might have only a few of these schools, or you might have dozens of them. It's worth a try.
     
  17. frtrd

    frtrd Rookie

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    Interesting -- I'd definitely be interested in alternative education. However, do you need a special ed certificate? I'll only have a regular secondary certification (English and History).
     
  18. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    "Inner city" and "low income" are two different settings. I've always worked in low income schools, but worked in a true inner city school last year. I can't say that I entirely regret the experience because I met some very close friends, felt like I made a real difference, and learned a lot. The expression "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" was definitely true. However, I would never go back to an inner city school again. Student behavior was absolutely out of control. My former teammate who still works at the school literally just got put in the hospital because he was attacked by a 9 year old girl in his class and has some very serious injuries. Besides that, the pressure for students to succeed on state testing was unreal. I used to have almost nightly anxiety dreams about our state test...even once we took it, I would dream about getting the results back. My class ended up doing extremely well, but it honestly wasn't worth my health. I was offered a job in a very high income school this year and almost took it because it would be so nice to just know right off the bat that the kids were going to do just fine on the state test. I ended up going for somewhere a little in the middle instead- I'm now back in a "low income" but not "inner city" school. We are about 70% free and reduced lunch, but the entire atmosphere is SO different. I feel like this is a population that I can still make a difference with but not sacrifice everything for, if that makes sense.
     
  19. frtrd

    frtrd Rookie

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    Eek. Thanks for the input. I'm shocked that even 70% wouldn't be considered "inner city"!! Gosh.
     
  20. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    To me it's less about the percentage and more about the neighborhood. My first school was in the most dangerous area in the city. There were many rival gangs and a lot of violent crime. Our kids had to wear uniforms so that they wouldn't be mistaken for wearing a rival gang's color. In the year I was there, we had several lockdowns that lasted hours after the school day due to shootings in the vicinity of the school. Parents were not allowed in the school building for any reason because so many had criminal records. We had police protection during things like conferences where they had to be there. We had almost no parent support. Most of the adults in the community had not finished high school, and the dropout rate at our district high school was over 50%.

    My current school's neighborhood is a very established, working class community. People have lived there for generations and they're proud of their town. They actively support the schools and we have a lot of parent involvement. Because parents have high expectations at home, behavior issues are pretty minor. A lot of parents either don't speak English very well or don't have the knowledge themselves to help with homework, but they at least communicate with their kids that doing well in school is important, and that makes a huge difference. They voted for a mill levy and a bond issue for my district last year- the ONLY one in the state that passed. Most students are very motivated to finish high school. The drop out rate is low. Although people obviously don't have the biggest or most "fancy" houses, the neighborhood looks good because people take pride in making their homes/yards look nice. Crime is practically non-existent. We still have a long way to go with state test scores, but we're not in the "we're going to get taken over by the state who will fire everyone if we don't improve right this second" mode. Our kids are making growth each year. It's a whole different world from where I was last year.
     
  21. frtrd

    frtrd Rookie

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    I see. Yes, those are definitely two very, very different situations. If you don't mind me asking, what state/area was the first school (the inner city one) located? (Feel free not to answer though, I'm just curious!)
     
  22. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Denver. Overall, Denver is a pretty low-crime city, but I was in what is considered to be the worst area/school district. That scares me a little bit because there are so many cities that have areas much worse than anything in Denver. I can't imagine what the schools in those areas are like.
     
  23. frtrd

    frtrd Rookie

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    Oh my goodness, Denver?! I thought you were going to tell me Detroit, or Chicago! I am shocked!! :eek:
     
  24. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    They credential requirement is the same as in other schools, so you only need spec. ed. credential if you are a special ed teacher, etc. I teach English with an English credential.
    Sometimes teachers are in self contained classrooms with mixed grade level (like 9-12, etc), just 1 class the whole day. In that case you would teach all subject, but I have seen very job posts requiring multiple subject credentials. They usually require to be credentialed in one area, it's even better if more.
     
  25. frtrd

    frtrd Rookie

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    Gotcha. Thanks for the help, I'll look into alt ed :)
     
  26. yellowdaisies

    yellowdaisies Fanatic

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    I have only ever worked and taught in low income schools, but I do feel that it's a different experience. I understand what you mean by the social justice element. I also REALLY agree with waterfall. I couldn't see myself in a true "inner city" environment like she mentioned, but I am very comfortable teaching in a low income, working class type of area for all the reasons she mentioned.

    I'm sure there are areas of the PNW that have low income schools. What about northern California? Oregon? If you find an area that has a mix of both (low and high income), the likelihood is that the job openings will be in the low income schools rather than the high income ones, in my experience.
     
  27. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    I'm sorry if this has already been suggested (didn't read closely through the entire thread), but what about working on a Native American reservation?
     
  28. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    Teaching in the inner-city is very different, not for everyone and can REALLY kill your spirit quickly if you do not have a lot of resolve. Your expectations have to be realistic.

    Are you making more of a difference in the inner-city? I can't say because that's personal to each teacher.

    Before you teach in the inner-city, you should observe as many schools as possible. Some of these kids are NO JOKE.
     
  29. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I think you'll find low income schools in just about every part of the county. And those that don't have low income schools will most certainly have low income kids.

    I live in the suburbs of Long Island, and can name a handful of local districts that would most certainly fit the bill. I would imagine that every single city in this nation would also have its share. So, in your shoes, I would narrow down the geography first, and then look at the schools.

    You're thinking of a pretty wide net-- are you OK being that far from family?

    It's not the right enviorment for me. I know that, having student taught at a NYC public high school. Just do your homework ahead of time, and know what you're getting into.

    Best wishes!
     
  30. frtrd

    frtrd Rookie

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    Thanks for the suggestions -- I'll look into N. Cal, I hadn't considered that before. :)
     
  31. frtrd

    frtrd Rookie

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    I've considered it! Not long term however. I need to be in a town of at least 60,000 or else I go a little crazy, haha :)
     
  32. frtrd

    frtrd Rookie

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    Yep, that's definitely true ... I'm going to start school observations soon. I do think I agree with what others are saying -- true "inner city" might be too much of a challenge for me.

    Yeah, it's not ideal living far from family, but my family happens to live in a place that I have zero interest in living in haha.

    Thanks for your help! I will definitely be looking into low-income schools in the Seattle and Portland areas.
     
  33. SouthernBuckeye

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    This sounds like the school I am at now where I am about to leave (but I'm not in Denver!). There is unreal pressure here about the state tests and making growth. The teachers are amazing people but there are so many discipline problems. It's been really super draining, to the point that I am leaving teaching. Unfortunately, I just don't want to put the effort into getting hired in a wealthy suburban district where test scores aren't as huge of a worry and where discipline problems are way smaller.
     
  34. yellowdaisies

    yellowdaisies Fanatic

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    There aren't a lot of towns that big up in northern California, but Redding is big (if that's not too far inland). Eureka is coastal but much smaller. (I was just doing some googling; I don't have much knowledge of CA north of Sacramento.)
     
  35. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    This is why working with at-risk youth is so rewarding, challenging and interesting. Here are some student profiles. Which one of them can turn their life around?

    Boy A: has no interest in education. Neither do his parents. He is actually being schooled by gang members on the street, he considers that his education. He's respectful, quiet, but doesn't do any work, when he does, it's good work, but not enough. Absent a lot, because he doesn't want to get locked up, but rival gang members keep running their mouth at school, and he doesn't want to get into it with them. (prefer to take care of it on the streets). He has just been dropped due to lack of attendance. But I'm sure he'll be back.

    Boy B: very immature. Keeps running away from home. Had a really rough life. Not a gang member, but acts like one and talks like one, and my P says she's so devastated because she knows he'll be the next one to get shot, she can just feel it. Yet, there's nothing we can do. He comes to school every day, that's his safety zone: socializing, meals, teachers who care about him. Most kids don't actually like him, but they tolerate him and hang with him because he supplies them with weed. School grounds is his networking for his next meal after school, or the place he'll sleep at night. He used to be so much trouble (for me and for other teachers) but lately he's been great. Respectful, and not a problem. He is a smart guy, but right now he's mentality is so screwed up, that he would die to fit in, literally die on the streets (getting shot by rival gangs, even though he's not even in a gang)

    Boy C: he has been expelled because he assaulted a teacher, a security guard and the principal at his previous school. All males. He has a problem with males, especially them telling him what to do. He has problems in some of his classes, never with me. This is the only student who will bring a salad for lunch (and not junk food), buys pencils for other students if they don't have one and takes yoga. He has a job after school, but he also sells drugs because his family depends on him to pay rent and pay a large part of the bills. He stayed up all night last Thursday and baked pumpkin rolls. He's been promising me that he'd do that, and he brought a roll for all staff, and one of the 2 ladies in the office and one for me, each our own. It was absolutely delicious. He often acts like a big kid, pouts and act silly.His words: "this school is the only place where I can act like a kid, because as soon as I leave I have to take care of responsibilities." Every time he acts out, I know to be patient, because shortly after he confides in me and tell me the horrible things that just happened in his life. One time he said his brother was found that morning, overdosed on drugs. They thought he was dead, but he'll be ok. He was missing for 3 days by then. I was amazed that he came to school and held it together.

    These kids are so complex, and you can either try to understand them, earn their respect, show them compassion or win them over somehow and help them make better choices, or do nothing at all, and reinforce their view on life that no one cares.
    It's hard. If I can ever just help change 1 student's life I will feel very fortunate.
     
  36. 1cubsfan

    1cubsfan Companion

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    I don't feel like it's an all or nothing.

    The city that I live in is a Chicago suburb. The school district is very diverse. There are many schools and areas of my town that have a very "inner city" feel. It's probably not quite as tough as a city downtown Chicago, but we have our fair share of troubles. Gang violence, poverty, a teacher stabbing...

    Yet the neighborhood I live in is 15 minutes west of town and is very safe, everyone has at least an acre of land, lots of trees, has a rural feel, etc.

    I can give you more details if you PM me.
     
  37. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    I'm not saying it's all or nothing. My point actually is 'something or nothing'. Do something, anything, as long as you care and try, it matters. Or do nothing, but those teachers don't stay long anyways.
     
  38. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    I agree with this. My school is a low-income school in the city, but it doesn't really have all of the problems that an inner city school has. I don't think I would be capable of working in a true inner city school, especially at the high school level. My school has some of the characteristics of an inner city school, but violence isn't much of a problem. The main struggles are family involvement, behavior management, and the level of the students.

    In addition, I would be wary of using the word "regular" to describe suburban schools.
     

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