What's it like to teach in an inner-city, high-needs school?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by otterpop, Dec 17, 2013.

  1. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    Does anyone here have experience (or know someone who has) with teaching in an inner-city, high-needs school? Was your experience good, or bad?

    It's a desire of mine to teach in one of these schools, but I have heard horror stories, as well as stories that say the difficulties are worth the impact you can have as a teacher.

    Here's one that details the difficulties a first-year teacher had in DC: http://www.city-journal.org/html/13_1_how_i_joined.html

    I'm also a big fan of the book Educating Esme, which talks about a first year teacher's experience in an inner city school.

    Earlier this year, I applied for a bunch of jobs in New Orleans. It didn't end up working out because of certification issues, but many of the principals that I talked to had an attitude that was like, "if you really want this job, you can have it, but I don't know why you would want it."

    So... what do you think? Would it be worth trying out? I'll be a newly certified elementary teacher next year. I have taught and worked in schools in a number of other capacities, so I don't consider myself a complete newbie. I know this is obviously a very personal question, since everyone's experience is different, but I'm curious to see what others think.
     
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  3. physteach

    physteach Companion

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    I student taught in Harlem, as well as working as a tutor for the rest of the year. I loved the kids, but it was rarely actual teaching. Difficulty with administration, constant state testing that the kids had no context for, filling in "gaps" in school supplies, etc. It was incredibly difficult. If I had stayed in the city, I might have stayed on, but I would have been so concerned that I wasn't good enough for them.
     
  4. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    It's very challenging. If your heart is in it, though, and if you're patient and skilled enough to deal with the many and varied behavior problems you will encounter, and if you're prepared to completely change everything you believe about what students "should" know and "should" be able to do, it can be very rewarding.
     
  5. Reality Check

    Reality Check Habitué

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    "What's it like to teach in an inner-city, high-needs school?"

    Brutal.

    "It's a desire of mine to teach in one of these schools,..."

    Are you a practicing Flagellant? :lol:
     
  6. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Why is that funny? Some people like a challenge, or for other reasons want to work with challenging kids. I left sunny San Diego to work at a school that has all the kids that other schools don't want. I haven't regretted it.
     
  7. Ms.SLS

    Ms.SLS Cohort

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    In my experience, the kids were great. My coworkers were either extremely bitter/jaded or great. The administration/district politics were not great.

    High needs/urban schools are usually low performing on standardized tests. In my situation, that meant an extremely militaristic admin who fired or transferred anyone who showed signs of dissent. I've heard of other situations with extremely supportive admin, but most cases, admin is either burnt out/close to retirement or running a tight dictatorship.

    The kids... you will be cursed at, sometimes threatened, sometimes be treated as confidant and mentor, sometimes all from the same kid on the same day. Those kids have a LOT going on in their lives that takes precedent over school work. You have to have a thick skin, show the kids love and respect, but also have supreme classroom management skills. You have to be "on" 24/7 because Johnny might say the wrong thing to Suzie and she might jump over a desk and try to stab him with a pencil out of nowhere (happened to me my first year). It's exhausting and very rewarding. I'm currently at a complete opposite, middle class suburban school. It's much, much easier but it's also less exciting :D
     
  8. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    Yeah. Pretty much. Some people can thrive in this type of environment and come to enjoy it. Some people cannot and it may even force them out of teaching all together. It really depends.

    While I would not recommend it, I would say that if you can get in an inner-city school with a great Admin, then that can make all the difference. If you are working under people who have the proper procedures in place to deal with difficult behavior challenges, it makes a huge difference in overall climate and moral. If not - and you are left to deal with all of the behavior issues and disrespect on your own - it can be a true, living nightmare.

    In my state, my inner-city district pays much more than all of the surrounding suburban districts which still pay pretty well given average teacher salaries. That would be a positive.
     
  9. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    A student teaching placement and six months of subbing in a rough inner city district taught me one big lesson... I have absolutely no business whatsoever teaching in an inner city.

    I've done my best to keep that lesson in mind both times I went job hunting.
     
  10. creativemonster

    creativemonster Comrade

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    I love it and hate it and often at the same time. All those hollywood teacher movies have a scene where they play music during a montage of the kids turning around and becoming college ready or whatever the focus of that particular teacher movie. yeah, in real life we don't get the movie montage so my A plus best students are NOT usually college prepared and might struggle with HUGE issues for the rest of their lives. This is heart breaking. Some of my best drop out of their education due to family issues or other life issues - some of them are dealing with complications I might never have to deal with and they are sixteen. BUT - I fell into it and I stay and it's really all I know. I honestly don't know if I'd be ok with students with different needs (suburban or otherwise different kids) I do know that ALL kids deserve teachers who can teach them. If you are drawn to one type of school, go for it. If you discover it isn't for you - THAT"S ok too.

    Can you either volunteer or student teach in a school you might be interested in - this way you could get a sense of it.
     
  11. Preschool0929

    Preschool0929 Cohort

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    I teach preschool in a high needs elementary school. It's definitely challenging, but some of that comes from the fact that we are 98% Hispanic and most teachers speak English only. The lack of Spanish resources and not enough ESL services to go around is hard. Being in a high needs school, our kids don't get the support they need at home, so I constantly feel this pressure to work even harder while we are at school to make sure they get what they need. Our school as a whole has a lot of behavior problems and its difficult to even get parents to come to school to talk about it. Most of our students move to new apartments every few months or are homeless, and have a hard time focusing and sometimes even just staying awake. I would recommend like other posters have said to volunteer or try to work in a high needs/inner city school to help you decide.
     
  12. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    It's tough and you will be totally exhausted every single day. You may not reach every child. But when you do reach one, it's amazing.
     
  13. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

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    The hardest thing for me is that the opportunities are absolutely unequal from the second you come in the door. I can teach my @$$ off and the kids will never make the gains they would in the suburbs. They are often behind in some combination of cultural capital, family support, physical supplies, building resources, class size, rigorous academic expectations, general health and wellness...you name it.

    And I teach Special Ed, so it's even worse. I see so many missed opportunities for early intervention that nobody insisted upon for my kids. Oh, you were supposed to go to a special preschool program? Nobody made you go? FANTASTIC!

    It is...draining. I'm not quitting, but I'm not cheering as much as I have been in past years. Combined with the political climate, I am tired.
     
  14. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    Wow, thanks for all of the replies!

    This is the draw for me. I have worked mainly in rural, low-income schools and was more specifically wondering how much of a difference there is between the two. I have worked with the "worst of the worst" high school students, who had been expelled from multiple schools, and found it to be a place where I could actually make a difference in their lives, although the process of getting them there was exhausting. They were mostly good kids in messed up homes doing the best they could. Most of the issues they were dealing with, though, were extreme poverty and drug use, and not gang violence like more urban areas face.

    I suppose sometime I should try a suburban, higher income school just for the experience, but I have a feeling I would be bored after a while. Maybe that's entirely wrong though.
     
  15. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    If you don't mind me asking, what grade level were you teaching? In your experience, was there violence like that with the younger grades too?
     
  16. teacherguy111

    teacherguy111 Cohort

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    I teach in the columbus area, but it is a 'magnet' school. So we have a huge mix of students, some that came to our school because of accelerated learning and some that came to our school because they weren't doing well at their other school.
     
  17. Ms. I

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    Although I'm not a classroom teacher (but an SLP who pulls kids out individually), I can see the difficulty the teachers at my school have. I'm not in the inner city, but the school might as well be. It's an alternative high school where all the kids have been kicked out of their previous schools, mostly been arrested, etc.

    Thank God they're kind of OK w/ me because I work w/ them 1-on-1. But in the classroom w/ others, they don't want to listen & do their work. They'll cuss the teachers out in a minute, call the teachers names, are vile & crass, etc.
     
  18. Ms.SLS

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    I teach high school. My husband currently works at an elementary school with a similar population (although less "extreme") and he rarely has any cases of violence, most of which are from ED/SPED kids who fly off the handle, not your average kid striking out at another kid.
     
  19. Emily Bronte

    Emily Bronte Groupie

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    :thumb: Yes, this! Whole heartedly. Building strong relationships is also key, but one needs to have the above first.
     
  20. Milsey

    Milsey Habitué

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    I worked in a really bad school one year. You have to be really nasty; otherwise, they will get the upper hand and destroy your classes. Be prepared to scream at them at the top of your lungs. I can't count the number of times I had to call security and have someone escorted out. If they act like animals, put them in a pen (main office) I say.
     
  21. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    :rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl:


    Thanks for the laugh. I needed it to survive present wrapping. This is about the WORST advice humanly possible.
     
  22. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    :lol::lol::lol:

    IA because in some schools, the inmates are running the asylum.
     
  23. live

    live Companion

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    It actually could have been something I loved if the administration was strong, or even supportive in the least bit. The kids truly were not the worst of it. There were challenges, of course; many kids would fight the very structure that they deeply wanted and needed and didn't get at home. Some of my students were in survival mode even at school. In a single day, I'd hear how loved and how hated I was, sometimes from the same kid. When they were successful, whether they did well on a test or simply didn't try to fight someone that day, it felt like there was progress. Those days made it worth it. The admin was just too much for me to want to stay.

    I moved to a new school after one year inner city. Currently, I'm at a school that has students who come from various backgrounds, which can make it a challenge. But because the administration is excellent, I can really work with the kids in my own way. The pressure from their end is minimal, so I can focus on the kids. I love it, and feel like I have the best of all worlds.

    You just need to find the right fit for you. With that said, admin makes an incredible difference.
     
  24. kpa1b2

    kpa1b2 Aficionado

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    I worked at a charter school in the city and I've also worked at charter schools just outside of the city, but their students have come from the city. In my current school the city border is across the street.

    IMHO, it depends on the culture of the school. I had one principal, who I loved, but the kids were out of control, especially at the high school. Constant fights. It was very exhausting, but I loved it. You had to be on your A game every day. Not feeling well? The kids took advantage of it. I only taught K & 3rd.

    My current school is heaven compared to the last school. I think we just expelled a child, if he wasn't expelled he was strongly encouraged to not return after his suspension. He's an 8th grader. We will see if his younger siblings, a 4th & 5th grader return after break.

    You need a lot of patience, a good, strong, supportive admin. and a strong relationship with parents, students, and colleagues. School culture is so important.
     
  25. Mrs.Giggles

    Mrs.Giggles Companion

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    I'm currently a first year teacher teaching in an urban, low-income, high-needs school. Is it challenging? Absolutely. Is it rewarding? Absolutely.

    In regards to your question, I can tell you this much. I teach second grade and there have been six physical fights that have involved my students. I have had to break up four of those fights. This is quite normal for the whole school. The first time I broke up a fight, I was very emotional afterwards. I have now just grown used to it which is actually quite sad.

    Prior to teaching, I worked as support staff in a school with an average family income of $90,000, so coming to my current school was a culture shock for me. Like others have said, you have to be on your A game at all times and BE FLEXIBLE. You must be a quick thinker as you never know what may happen next.

    Keep in mind that many (not all) of these students have some very stressful situations going on at home. Many times they don't know how to deal with this and this carries over into the classroom.

    At my school parent involvement is very low. However, please don't ever judge your parents as we don't know what they're going through. I have quite a few sweet parents, but they just can't be as involved as they would like as some of them have to work multiple jobs just to pay for a roof over their head.

    As others have said, you must have a thick skin. Honestly, I had to grow a thick skin. If you look back at past posts, you will see that I truly struggled those first few weeks. Again I believe that it had to do with the culture shock. The best thing that you have going for you is that you have the desire to work in a high-needs school. That desire is what is getting me through even though I feel like pulling my hair out on most days.
     
  26. SouthernBuckeye

    SouthernBuckeye Companion

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    I left my job at an inner city school this year. It was too much pressure, admins were incompetent, and I consider myself strong at classroom management but I couldn't get a grip on these kids because admin didn't suspend kids that should have been. I also found it extremely difficult to make common core standards relevant to my population.

    Not for me. Now I'm changing careers because in general, I'm not pleased with the direction education is going in this country.
     

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