Any advice on teaching "at risk" high school students?

Question:My very first teaching position will be teaching World History and Civics & Economics in NC for "at risk" students in a new program targeted specifically for them. Although I could have had a position somewhere else with "normal" students, this program and school seemed like the best fit for me. I have two months get get ready, any advice for a first year teacher?

Don't lower your expectations of the kids simply because they're at risk. This is something that is done to them their whole lives, and it does them NO good. Keep your expectations high yet practical. You may need to limit the amount of homework you assign and spend some of the class helping students with independent work that you would normally assign for homework. Be supportive and open to their concerns. Your first year will undoubtedly be rough with this group of kids, but it will make you a much stronger teacher as a result. Best wishes!
dont be so judgemental of these kids, hopedully you will be a positive influence in motivating them to learn.
This is a good question, and I am proud of you. First, if possible or known, determin what factors make them "at risk" (income, parenting, locale, etc.) Then contour the class to include discussion on why things are like that, and what they can do to make it better, and what makes situations worse.
It also depends on your teaching philosophy, I am a Graded Absolutist and prefer to establish my cirriculum around what it true, then introduce conjecture and opinion, then ask for input and build on that.
If that doesn't seem to work, ask them what in the text book they are interested in, and build from that. Remeber, ALL kids want to be heard, even if they want to just jerk your chain or get attention, the best approach I've seen is feeding into that, and redirecting it, by having them explain themselves or others as well.
Civics and Econ, the VERY best way is to determine who is what in the class. The Leader, the Joker, the Brain, the Brawn, the Worker, the Verbose, the Mom, the Dad, the Dude, the Chick, the Outcast(s), the Incrowd, and the always hated Teachers Pet.
Have the kids establish their own "Council" by splitting the class in 3,4, or 5, my keeping at least 5 to 7 in a "Council." Have the following roles:
For 5: President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Procurer

For 7: add Counselor & Auditor

The President- Is responsible for direction and organization of Group Work, Homework, and Lesson fulfillment

The Vice- takes over when the other "Officers" are missing and reviews the Presidents "finalization of work" before it is turned in.

The Secretary- takes the notes and is the by the book person, they have the final say in wording and meaning before "work" is turned in.

The Treasurer- Keeps up the grades and collaborates with the Secretary in work, they also keep the grades of the other "Councils" to track progess and rank.

The Procurer- gets the assignments and homework and explains and distributes what is to be done.

The Auditor- Works with the Secretary and Treasurer to ensure the work is correct to standards (as opposed to meaning, which is the Secretary's Job)

The Counselor- He assists all positions in their duties as well, as acts as an "Ambassador" to other groups to get their info and reaction to class projects.

The titles will make them feel some worth and usually they'll step up because of the nature of competition. Make sure they understand their roles, and how they work together to get a job done. Make their inclass assignments a majority of their grade, and homework part of but not most of the "edge" they need for inclass assignments.
Elizabeth is completely correct. Keep your expectations high yet attainable. Kids will amaze you -- they tend to rise (or fall) to whatever we expect of them.

I've been teaching at-risk youth for almost 10 years. There is no better calling in the world. It takes extra time -- to prepare a lesson on multiple levels, to help individual students, to re-teach, to modify, to guide, to facilitate, TO TEACH. But it is SO rewarding!

I wish you the best of luck. The world needs good teachers, and these kids need great ones!
Great question.

I have guest taught in a very urban district for the past three years, and have talked to a lot of burned out teachers, many of whom are frustrated with their districts, and many of whom have seemingly "lost the zeal" that you will start with.
First, its captain of the obvious time: at some point in the year, maybe in the first week, a class will test your boundaries, they will try and see everything that they can get away with.
since its a civics class, establish some ground rules by voting democratic on class rules. go wi what the other teacher said by having "class roles", and make one of them the class "sherrif." Kids tend to be harsher on each other with the rules when its their rules, ie, they won't let each other get away with crap, whereas when the rules are all YOURS, they hate it, and fight against it.

And this will teach them a little about Civics, and also, open discussions about poverty, and their community, ect.

The last thing you wanna do with them is teach from a book, and tell them to be quiet all the time, use some of these ideas, and think a little outside the box.
Good luck
If you haven't read or seen "Freedom Writers", now would be a good time. At the end of the year if you keep just one student from failure and dropping out then it will have been worth your effort. Also read Ruby Paynes's work concerning poverty. Civic and Economics should offer content that easily connects to your students in giving them a choice about their future (choices maybe not set to your point of view,standards or goals, but applicable to their future). Don't label them with pre-set notions. This can be the opportunity (the fresh start) for both you and your students. Be honest and ask them to help you along the way if needed.

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