Tuesday, February 1, 2011

For the Good Times

For all the tragedy and complaints I might have about the ways in which the continuation high school isn't meeting the needs of my students, it does do a lot of good.  At least for troubled kids, it's certainly much better in many ways then mainstreamed classrooms. Many drop-out, and many do little work, and most are mainly interested only in sex, drugs and violence. But they're out of the teacher's hair, and with the individualized attention we can meet more of their needs. It isn't perfect. And some days they seem to do no work at all. But for many of them they are simply in a safe environment in which they can let their guard down.

I had an interesting talk with the counselor yesterday about meeting the emotional portion of their needs, which for at least 50% of the students is the main barrier to academics. They've tried providing one-on-one counseling sessions, but the population has trouble making appointments. Then the bigger problem is being able to build rapport. Many students are so emotionally closed off that it takes weeks or even months to get comfortable with any adult.

I'm reminded of this story in the NY Times, in which a psychiatrist argues that one of the most crucial aspects of any kind of therapy is simple human connection - something that surely won't happen in a class of 40 kids. Then again there was the study which seemed to find that the real therapeutic effects of placebos were in the doctor's relationship with the patient - that they were being paid attention to, as patients who were informed of the placebos did as well as those who were blinded!

Anyway - a bit tangential. But goes to the concept of making meaningful interventions in students lives, meeting not just their "academic" needs but looking at their whole story. There are a lot of cumulative effects of poverty that wear a kid down over the years - whether it's the wrong crowd, stress at home, drugs, violence, etc. By high school many have simply reached the breaking point. And I honestly don't blame them for wanting to punch someone in the face.

Tidbit from the trenches: yesterday I was talking with a group of young mothers/mothers-to-be who I'm trying to design a sort of parenting elective for. One of them is rolling her eyes as she describes a girlfriend of hers who has 3 kids by 3 different guys, while her boyfriend has 4 kids by 3 different girls.

I turn to one girl - heavy eyeliner, sort of chola-style - who has previously discussed her deeply dysfunctional relationship with her boyfriend ("I hate him but he says he'll hurt himself if I leave"). I ask her, "You don't have a baby do you?" She shakes her head non-nonchalantly and replies, "Nah, but we're trying."

"What?!!", I reply, shocked. "Is this the same boyfriend you're always talking about hating?"

"Yeah," she says, "I know we're prolly gonna break up... but this way I have something to remember the good times by, you know?"

No comments:

Post a Comment