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How do you reach a student?

How do you reach a student who is only in your classroom because he has to be?

How do you reach a student who comes to school hungry?

How do you reach a student that was abused and now doesn’t trust adults?

How do you reach a student that has no self esteem and thinks he is too dumb to be in class?

How do you reach a student who goes home to an empty house each day?

How do you reach a student who is incarcerated since he was 17 and can only read at a 2nd grade level?

I am really interested to hear what my readers have to say. If you are a student please share your insight. If you work in the educational world or are a parent or just would like to add your thoughts, please do. We are a team in the educational world and the more we collaborate the better chance we have of reaching every student no matter the age or situation.

Each of these students was one of my students, and sometimes, they were one and the same person. During the three years I taught at a maximum security prison, I would face many struggling students, but it was my job, my purpose, to figure out how to reach each one.

I did that through persistence.

I did that by gaining their trust.

I did that because I cared enough to make a change.

And most importantly, I did that through education.

Sometimes, the men, the offenders, my students, came to me unable to read and write. Some were new to the prison and new to the school, and some had been there for a lifetime, but somehow, although they attended school most days, they could not pass a 1st or 2nd grade test.

These men had been given up on, time and time again. When I came to the prison, I came with the attitude that I was a teacher and these men were my students. As a teacher I would help them to reach their potential. To do this, the students would need to attend class every day and work hard. I didn’t care what brought the men here. What I cared about was how I was going to give them an education so that they could make something of themselves, whether or not they ever walked out of the walls. I needed them to be able to go back to their cells with their heads held high with pride, knowing that they accomplished something. And I told them that, exactly that!

But, as a teacher, how do you do that?

You listen and you engage - that equals trust.

You don’t feel sorry for them and you make them accountable - that equals persistence.

You meet with them in lockup and you make them keep reading even when they are in solitary confinement - that equals caring.

You teach and you give them an education - that equals the key to the future.

And education? Well, that equals reform. Isn’t that what we are all working towards, when we sentence someone to prison? Is it just punishment that we are after, or are we after reformation? Change cannot happen without a man or a woman having faith in themselves that they can change, and education gives them a way to finally believe in themselves.

We cannot change a man’s past, but we can change his future. We cannot change the path that she walked, but we can change the path that she takes in the future. Give them an education and you give them a chance to be a better person.

Be brave enough to make a change...


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