Teaching in "tough" schools

Discussion in 'General Education' started by ACardAttack, Jun 4, 2010.

  1. ACardAttack

    ACardAttack Companion

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    Jun 4, 2010

    Okay,
    It may end up that I get hired at a school that has a bad reputation, and is perceived as tough. I've not really been in a school like this. I have done a couple lessons in a school with a bad reputation and it was a lot better than I thought. I enjoyed working with the students, but the classroom structure had been set up. Next year where ever I will be hired I will be a first year teacher. Where ever I land I know I'll be excited and expecting my students to learn because deep down they are all good kids. Also I think a lot of times something's reputation is worse than the reality.

    But what are some tips from teachers who have taught in tough schools? I'm gonna give it my all no matter where I teach, but am sure I will have a little self doubt. I feel I manage a class well, but I didnt set up that class, it was what I adapted from my cooperating teachers. I plan to talk to a lot of the teachers at what ever school I am hired at, but I will take all the advice I can get.

    Thanks
     
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  3. Sshintaku

    Sshintaku Comrade

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    Jun 4, 2010

    At least at my school, the reputation is way worse than the actual school, but it is still bad. It's tough to teach kids who have way bigger things going on in their lives than school. You have to take their home lives into consideration a lot more - if their dad just got thrown in jail for gang violence, yea, the kid is going to be out of it for awhile. They probably don't have access to a computer at home. They might be consistently tardy in the morning because they have to take care of younger siblings before school.

    Another thing I've seen, mostly from subs coming into this environment, is that they expect kids to behave "well," even though they haven't been taught how to do that. They don't have these behaviors modeled at home. They DO try to talk in the classroom the way they talk outside (foul foul foul.) Over time, you can help them learn to censor, but it's still a challenge for them.

    It takes a lot of patience, because, on top of teaching them all the academics, you have to teach them A TON of life skills too. In my experience, many of the kids will be way below grade level as well, so you may spend a lot of time playing catch up.

    A really interesting book on this type of thing is A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne.
     
  4. ACardAttack

    ACardAttack Companion

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    Jun 4, 2010

    I'll have to check that book out, thanks
     
  5. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Respect...it all comes down to respect. On the first day of school, I told my classes that I only had one rule, and that was everybody must treat everybody and everything with respect. Then we discussed what that meant. They found out real fast that even the slightest amount of disrepsect to each other, me or things would be dealt with instantly. While I never yelled at them (which would be counter productive), I also stopped everything to deal with rule breaking. That first week or two, I didn't get much actual teaching done, but I more than made up for it later, when my disipline problems, even in the heart of one of the worst areas of a large city, were almost completely non-existent.

    On the flip side, I also showed them, through my actions, what respect means. I treated them the way they should treat others. When they screwed up, I told them they were "better than that". I cheered their successes, no matter how small, and was open to unconventional ways of getting assignments done (in situations like when one of my students had to go home, watch his siblings, including feeding them, cleaning up and getting them to bed, and also get them up the next morning to get them dressed, fed and off to school...mom was working three jobs). They knew that I would listen and we would come up with a way of meeting their responsibilies, and I think that made them try harder.

    I think though, the most important part is consistency. Don't let anything slide...ever.
     
  6. Allysundrop

    Allysundrop Rookie

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    Jun 4, 2010

    I just finished my first year teaching at a very tough school (today was my last day!). I agree with what everyone has said so far, and I will add in that I would not have made it this year if I didn't have a support group at school. I was fortunate (at least in some ways) to be in a situation where the majority of teachers were new. We all stuck together: laughed and cried together. I also had an amazing experienced teacher acting as my unofficial mentor.

    As far as the students go...yes, it is more challenging to work in a tough school, but it is also more rewarding. Once the kids trusted me and we figured each other out, they "had my back." Yes, they still acted up and cussed and went nuts sometimes, but they still came to my class and they didn't give up. Of course, on that note, you also have to remember you can't win them all. You can't save everyone, but even if you help a few, you've made a difference.
     
  7. jwteacher

    jwteacher Cohort

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    Something else to add too. Do not take anything the kids do or say personally. Like others have said, some of these kids simply need to be taught what is right and that is why you are there. It's not something that can be changed overnight or even in a single school year, but you can make a difference.
     
  8. MsMar

    MsMar Fanatic

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    I'm in what's not quite a "rough" school, but right in the brink of it. I'll definitely second what was said about keeping the home life in mind. This year I had four students who were either pregnant or already have a child at home. I cut them some slack with giving more time for assignments if they have been absent. I still expect them to do the work, I'm just a bit more lenient with due dates as needed.

    Many parents will be wonderfully supportive, just as many you'll never be able to talk to due to disconnected phone numbers. Some of the families move a lot, change jobs a lot and change cell numbers a lot so sometimes try as you might to make a parent contact you just can't succeed. Also sometimes it's a guardian and not a parent and the guardian may change a few times during the school year.

    The thing that will make the biggest difference weather you have a good year or a bad year is how supportive your administration is. Mine is amazing. If I write a referral the students will get a detention, ISS or suspension depending on the infraction. They know there are consequences for their behavior and for many this greatly reduces the inappropriate instances. I know people who work in schools where admin lets lots of stuff slide and it really stinks for them, their students get away with a ton of stuff because the admin doesn't want too many suspensions.

    Finally, as someone else said, the perceptions is often not as bad as the reality. Like I said, mine is kind of on the brink of being a "tough" school, but ask anyone who doesn't work there and they'd probably assume it is a "tough" school.
     
  9. EMonkey

    EMonkey Connoisseur

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    Be very consistent with consequences and expectations. I also found if you were consistent out of the classroom with all students that also was very important. Being respectful to the children and not taking things personally is very important. Be very firm and fair with the kids. Do not argue with the children. If you threaten to do something follow through with it even if it was something now you think about it was not the best idea on your part.
     
  10. Jem

    Jem Aficionado

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    Def. check out the admin support. That can make or break your situation.

    And I don't think working with difficult kids is 'more' rewarding. I think kids are kids are kids. I wish you the best of luck-keep us posted!
     
  11. Jem

    Jem Aficionado

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    Def. check out the admin support. That can make or break your situation.

    I don't think working with difficult kids is 'more' rewarding. I think kids are kids are kids. The assistant principal at the inner-city school I worked at would always say that. I thought it was really odd. I enjoy hugs from my current 'stable home' students just as much as I did the inner-city kids, my teaching is given the same energy and self-imposed high expectations, I put as much time and thought into everything now as I did then, etc. I don't feel any less rewarded simply because I'm not struggling as much with parent communication, lack of administration support or rough attitudes (which are NOT limited to schools with 'bad reputations'). Anyhow, it's different in a lot of ways, but I don't think it's better or makes you feel more worthy as a teacher, which I found was the attitude among some of my colleagues.

    I wish you the best of luck-keep us posted!
     
  12. schoolteacher

    schoolteacher Habitué

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    I can understand where your colleagues are coming from. I find it more rewarding because in many cases, the teacher may be the most important positive influence in a child's life. Children from stable homes already have those positive influences in place, and having a caring teacher is not as crucial for them.

    For the student whose home life may be unstable and even harmful to them, a teacher can make a world of difference. You may be the only adult in that child's life who says a positive word to him/her, who models caring and kindness, who has enough resource to reach out to the child and provide support.

    The structure you provide in school may be exactly what the child needs and craves, but is unable to get at home. The child from a stable home does not have this struggle.
     
  13. Bumble

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    Working at a "tough" school can be very rewarding. We've been experiencing WW3 in our hallways, but WE are still learning. It is all about how you control your classroom. I will not tolerate any fighting or disrespect. My students learned this from day 1.

    From my experience with urban children, you must tell them how it is. Meaning, they must be aware of what the future will be like if they cannot read. 1/3 of my students are advanced and the rest are proficient. I rarely raise my voice. Kids are kids. All kids want to learn.

    You WILL experience both supportive and unsupportive administrators. My advice is to speak up ALL the time. Every time you speak to an administrator about any issue, document it! I've seen wonderful schools in rough areas. Successful schools have great admins, teachers, and staff! Good luck!
     
  14. webmistress

    webmistress Devotee

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    As Jem said, check out the administration. That can make or break you. A bad admin can almost destroy you (well that can happen anywhere)

    But if you are in a chaotic and corrupt school that lives up to its reputation X 1000, with no admin support and no staff support, the war will be against you no matter how good, strong, smart, or dedicated you are.
     
  15. Reality Check

    Reality Check Habitué

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    My entire career has been spent in tough schools. My advice is just do the best you can with what you have - forget the movie-land portrayals of Jaime Escalante, "Dangerous Minds," or the warm fuzzies of "Mr. Holland's Opus." It's NOT like that.

    At the high school level, they've had at least 9 years prior to arrival in your class of becoming the way they are.

    In the other posts I've read, they are correct about the social BS taking precedent over academics and the administration being a huge factor. Contrary to other posts, I would say it's NOT rewarding. It's a job. That's about it.
     
  16. Bumble

    Bumble Groupie

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    Reality Check, at least at the high school level the kids who don't want to be there dropped out. Elementary kids have to be in our classrooms. You have to admit that there are some positives to our job.
     
  17. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

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    Don't give up on them!
     
  18. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Virtuoso

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    I'll second the Ruby Payne recommendation. That can really be eye-opening for people who are unfamiliar with the mind-set that goes along with working with "at-risk" students.

    I work with students in a rural high-poverty school. It's certainly different from an urban setting, but there are still lots of similarities, too.
     
  19. fuzed_fizzion

    fuzed_fizzion Comrade

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    I've only taught in "tough" middle schools, so I can't say that it is more rewarding than teaching in other schools. I find it very rewarding. Some tips I would give:

    plan time at the beginning of the year to teach your expectations and procedures. You will get more accomplished during the year if you put in the front time now.

    think through each lesson. Ask yourself "Do students have these skills yet?" If you don't know, ask around. For example, students are expected to take notes on how to do a math problem. If they don't know how to use their notes to work problems on their own, then the notes are pointless and you get frustrated because they depend on you to help them figure the problem out.

    Be firm, fair, and consistent. Fair doesn't mean the same for everyone, fair means what is best for the student.

    I also think Ruby Payne's book is a good one as well as Lost in School by Dr. Ross Greene. He views students behavioral issues as a lack of skills rather than willful disobedience and has a method to help students develop these skills for a classroom teacher.
     
  20. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    I absolutely LOVED Lost in School! I completely forgot about it!
     
  21. looneyteachr

    looneyteachr Companion

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    Jun 8, 2010

    i taught at a school with a "bad rep" for 23 years - it was never as bad as the public perceived it to be

    suggestions:

    overplan for each lesson
    structure every class period
    set up routines for ur kids
    be fair but consistent
    realize you don't have to be their friend to gain their respect
    make what they're learning relevant to their lives!

    send me a message if you need more specific ideas for at-risk kids!
     

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