Thursday, October 11, 2012

A different Setting, A different challenge - Teaching in a Youth Facility

So, I have kind of mentioned that I teach at a youth facility, but I thought I would "blog" more about my unique setting as many people find it interesting.
First off, I work in a secure facility (yes, it is a jail for young offenders) with some stuff male students, who themselves have gone through a lot, mentally and physically. The majority of the students who come in here are 18 years old and have one or two credits, so they are apprehensive about learning to begin with and don't want to put themselves in any situation that will make them look dumb.  Usually all of them have IEP's and the majority of the students read and write at very low levels.
Now the most difficult part is that in one classroom I can have a max of 8 students, but within that classroom each student could be working on  a different grade and level. So I have to design interesting and engaging lessons, that students can follow independently. The students can not access the internet and we can only use certain manipulatives due to safety reasons. Each one of these students are very needy so I basically have to work one on one with each student, so I try my best to rotate around the room, spending time with each student equally. Even though I only have 8 students, it is exhausting.
I have only taught these guys Science and PE, but I think the biggest challenge with teaching these guys is determining what is the most important and applicable topics they should learn. Especially since the majority of them only stay with me for a couple of weeks, sometimes months and maybe years. Some of the topics I find useless for these guys, but we are technically supposed to follow the Ontario Curriculum. So this is where I use my "professional judgement" and determine what will benefit these guys the most and help them be more successful out in the "real world." The term "professional  judgement" has come up a lot here over the last couple of years and as teachers we are always debating what that means.  I do think that sometimes as teachers we should stray a bit from the curriculum especially if that is the best way to meet the needs of your students.


  1. Sounds like a very exciting path. Good work Kara. I'm sure it's got some major challenges, but I assume there are some rewards that come with it as well. Thanks for the info.

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  3. Wow! What an understanding job! I can totally picture how it would be exhausting. Even though I don't know, I admire you.

  4. I would love to see what a typical day looks like for you. My biggest question is: are your students even motivated to learn?

  5. Wow!! I have had a very similar classroom to you! I taught in a young offenders closed custody facility with a similar classroom design. I only had max 6 students but they would be working on different subjects like Math, English, Learning Strategies and Geography all at the same time, all at different levels.
    It is difficult because of the differentiation. Everyone is doing different work and working independently. That is difficult and no Internet?!?
    That sounds like a difficult situation for having to motivate your students.
    Motivation was a factor for me too, especially if they were only with me for a few weeks, it was like they didn't even care to try to work. Sometimes they would do things just to get kicked out of the classroom.
    I think sometimes you have to use your professional judgement, you can link things to the curriculum, sometimes it is a stretch but you can make it work. I also believe that you have to keep your students engaged or you will lose them. If that is what you needed to do in order for some learning to take place then you made the right call.