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Re: Inner city school problems


From: Bill Sechler (BillSe_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Thu Oct 26 2000 - 07:29:29 PDT

Some students behavior cannot be changed because of their own personal problems. You are not personally responsible to make the big difference in their lives, however you may affect changes in some and hopefully you will but do not care more than the students do about their own education because only you suffer, not the unfeeling student. Assign as engaging projects as possible to make the students want to keep their studio privileges, if students break, steal or lose school property make their parents responsible by documenting the violations in referrals and get administrative back-up. You could require the student to bring some of their own supplies and or restrict their room/assignments privileges. Be firm and use swift fair judgments while keeping anger in check, I know that's easier said than done. Establish clear simple rules and consequencesthat the administrator will support you on. Keep a good humor, and concentrate on the students that show respect, improvement and interest. Good luck.

>>> 10/25 10:34 PM >>>
This is the first time I have written to the list and hope to fins some answers to a perplexing problem. I have been teaching art for a while - part time in an after school program and full time for a Catholic boys school and yet I have never encountered this situation. Part of my after school situation was in one of the inner city neighborhoods and again I have never encountered this. What can be done about the distruction of art room furniture, building and materials?! This school is a magnet fine arts school, from pre-k to eighth grade. Only the middle school until recently, when strings were added, was magnet fine arts. Some kids are bussed in and supposedly want to be there. Others are not bussed and do not want to be there. The counselors put anyone in the classes whether they have experience or not. They have put as many as 35 + in my classes and I do not have supplies or places for them to sit. I have one advanced class and some of those students do not belong in there either. It is smaller (20) which helps and our magnet coordinator is trying to help but it will not make much difference if there is no respect for quality from most of the administrators. Supposedly there is a teacher shortage and the students must be placed somewhere sooooo it is in the magnet fine arts wing. I have as many as seven, plus learning disabled students in one class. Mostly they are reading disabled, but some of them have severe mental problems. It can be quite catholic at times. Today was one of those days. Sometimes the security folks come when called and sometimes they do not. One of the "bac" students was released from this category just today and I was not told. He had an aid until two weeks ago when she was put in another part of the school. This student began on the same tangent that he has been on while in BAC which is complete lack of respect for teachers. He thinks they are all against him and that his behavior is the result of teacher's actions. My class was compromised by this child's behavior. He stirs up everyone. Another student comes to my door and jump kicks the door. He was recently kicked out of another school for behavior problems. He has alcoholic parents and I think he halucinates, anyway he taks incessantly during instruction and class time. Ninety minutes is a long time to put up with trying to calm him enough so that I can teach.

We have block scheduling and so on alternating days we have no planning periods at all. On the days that we do, then we have almost too much time and can not leave campus to take care of purchases or whatever. We are somewhat at the beck and call of the administrators for conferences, etc. The time would be better spent if divided between the two days. Actually writing about this program makes it sound really bad. It has its moments, but the sad thing is that there are parents who want their kids to be in the school and send them there with high expectations. It is these children who lose out. They have to put up with the students who are seriously in need of individual psychological help. I try to focus on the good students, but it is difficult to do this with people "acting out" like a psycho ward. I have come to the conclusion that mainstreaming is only useful for a very few and in a carefully monitored situation. An art class where responsible behavior is necessary is not the place for these children. It only stirs up whatever insecurities they have. I can not work one on one with them and they cause severe disruption. They won't even work with the G/T kids.

One of the major problems is the lack of respect for materials and the non caring attitude of some of the most callused students. This attitude is beginning to rub off on me. I have a child who is fifteen and so is close to my student's ages, but this has not even been a good source of information. I have tried to think of all sorts of ways to resolve the materials problem and everything tried so far has not worked. There were not many supplies left from last year and the art teacher who served before me told me she used what had been ordered previously. There was not much left and I have permission to order supplies, but I am hesitant to bring in new stuff to be torn up and stolen. I think I know who the culprits, but I am not sure. I thought of limiting the new supplies only to the one magnet class, but there are one or two folks in there as well. I have labeled stuff, used the collateral system and several other things such as signing out, etc.., but to no avail, things are disappearing. I have even taken to locking my office door behind me when I go across the room... which is huge. I do have some students who produce wonderful art work and do care... they are like gold. Unfortunately, they are the ones who do listen and respond when notes are sent for supplies... the rest do not even bother. This art class has had three teachers last year, with one teacher returning to the elementary level this year. They had one teacher go nuts in the classroom the year before, but he was under another principal. The students take great pride in thinking they can run off teachers who do not let them do just as they please. The current principal has been there only six months and the magnet coordinator is brand new, like me. Actually he is the most effective of the two. He wants to raise the level of expectation for the fine arts academy. There is the possibility that the school will be torn down if the TAAS scores and performance record do not go up. When I was hired the principal told me that the students I would have would be magnet and that they wanted to be there. She told me that she felt safe there. She did not tell me about the numbers in my classroom and the great number of mainstreamed students. She actually had a group of counselors come in from another school to schedule students. This was a huge mistake because they did not know the kids. I am supposed to have two classes of magnet students besides the one 8th grade level. I have only one magnet class and all the rest are "general." Some folks do not speak English and have to have translation which creates much talking... plus they think it is okay to talk all the time. Even after they have been told not to talk. I do try to play classical music for back ground calmness, but sometimes this gets foiled as well. Any suggestions would be quite helpful. I am in a district class room management group, but some of this information is not applicablefor my situation. As a first year teacher (MEd. in curriculum and instruction) in HISD, (Houston) with experience, I do not get a paid mentor. I found one of the fine arts teachers who will act as my buddy, but is doing this out of friendship. Perhaps I was quite mistaken thinking that since the Central district wants to show case fine arts during the current school year, that it would make a difference. I am not sure at this moment and if my contributions will even make a dent. Anyway, I do need feed back soon, please.