Teaching in Juvenile Detention Facility

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by IdahoSpEdTeach, Jul 22, 2014.

  1. IdahoSpEdTeach

    IdahoSpEdTeach Rookie

    Jul 21, 2014
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    Jul 22, 2014

    Hi folks,

    I teach in a small town in Idaho and have recently been relocated/moved to a juvenile detention facility. The school I had been teaching at for the prior 9 years split and there wasn't a big enough case load (I'm Special Education) to support two of us resource room teachers. So, I got moved. :(

    Here's the deal: I'm moving from 3rd/4th resource room to secondary level (9th-12th) grade ELA in a juvenile detention facility which contracts with our school district for educational services.

    I am a mom to 6 kids (ages 13-26), so in theory I understand older kids. However, my 22 years of teaching experience has been in elementary schools. I recently (2011) got my Master's degree in special ed, so my certification is K-12 now.

    My students are going to be all different levels. It's credit remediation mostly since most kids are significantly behind their same grade peers. I'm going to be teaching English/Language Arts in three blocks per day. The kids work through packets, I'm told. They do reading, assignments and tests independently. I can get into my classroom next week sometime, and when I job shadowed for 1/2 a day it looked like a pretty chaotic environment.

    Does anyone have experience in the juvenile detention arena? :help: I don't even know if I'm going to have instructional time, or if I'm going to just oversee individual packet work. I do know that there is a guard in the room with me. I don't have to deal with violent behavior. It's a live-in facility.

    Any ideas, web sites, direction would be appreciated.
  3. vateacher300

    vateacher300 Rookie

    Jan 27, 2014
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    Jul 22, 2014

    I don't personally have experience, but one of my classmates took a teaching position in a detention center and this is what I have gathered from him. Be prepared for vastly different class sizes from day to day. You may only have a student for a day or you could have a student for months or longer. On a similar note, you could have five students one day and depending on what happens, 10 the next. Lots of flexibility necessary.

    His students are all in different grades and schools so it's more about working one-on-one with the students and keeping them on track with what they were doing in their classes before ending up in the detention center.

    As for discipline, he hasn't had many issues (having the security guard helps). I think once these students hit rock bottom and end up in a juvenile detention center, it's a pretty sobering moment for them. Just being a positive adult role model for these students will go a long way!
  4. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

    Feb 4, 2010
    Likes Received:

    Jul 22, 2014

    I had worked in detention centers, long term, not quite like some of the halls, and subbed for a couple of weeks at the actual halls.

    All I can say is: be prepared for anything. Detention centers can greatly vary.
    1. the kids are not always so well behaved, just because there is a guard. You have rival gang members in the same classrooms, and they feel obligated to jump someone as soon as you look away, to keep up their honor.
    2. Some of the kids, who have just been booked and are waiting for their sentencing are going through a rough time. They don't know if they'll get 30 days or 12 months, they're angry, depressed, and don't care. A lot of them are also coming off of drugs and sobering up and that can produce very illogical and unpredictable behaviors.
    3. You might have officers in your classroom, they might be watching from outside (hopefully they're watching), they might not be around all the time.
    4. You have to know how to handle these kids, motivate them and get them to do what you want them to. They can tell if you don't respect them or you don't care about them.
    5. please, please be ready for crazy sneaky things they will pull: they will steal things to tag with (markers, pens), to just steal them and know they got away with it, and just for fun to make you look like you don't know what you're doing. They might revolt if they have a problem, such as playing the passive/aggressive silent game, etc.
    6. Be ready for fights. It will happen, and it will be fast, when you least expect it.
    7. don't take anything personal. They will make it personal, but to them it's just a game. They got nothing but time, so they're bored.
    8. They're very good at manipulation and mind games. Very very good.
    9. Be ready for the officers treating you like you don't know what you're doing.
    10. Please don't let these kids do packets. That's an injustice. Just because they've made bad choices and are locked up, it doesn't mean they're not smart. Try to teach them as if you were at a regular school. Most of the kids will be lower level readers, you can't give a 5th grade level reader a packet. Teach them. Pick out the higher level kids and give THEM independent work. You must differentiate to the max. These kids have a very interesting way of looking at life, they have some tragic stories, and their very strong opinions, so ask them. Have them write about it. They love to know that someone actually wants to hear what they have to say. That's how you'll reach them.
    11. the more you learn about gang mentality, gang-slang and their own little code words, the better equipped you will be to deal with them.

    That's all I can think of for now, but feel free to ask away.

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