My name is Rita Sikes, and I spent a number of years teaching in public schools. During that time, I had several students who entered the juvenile justice system. Some of these students returned to school to complete their education, whereas others continued to struggle and ended up back in a youth or adult correctional facility.
Recently, I decided I was ready for a career change and felt drawn to working with these students. You see, it’s important to me to help young people get their lives back on track. By teaching in a juvenile correctional facility, I believed I could help them get the education they needed to be successful. So last year I took a job teaching in the Maple Hill Juvenile Corrections Facility.
Even before my very first day at the facility, I knew that security measures and behavior management would be issues to contend with. I anticipated that many of my students could be behind their grade-level peers academically.
As it turns out, though, I had a lot more to learn.
For one, my students’ achievement gaps were much greater than I was prepared for. This is in part because so many of them have disabilities, including behavioral or mental health issues.
And then there are other challenges: lack of school records or significant delays in receiving them. This shortage of information makes it difficult to plan effective instruction. Adding to my difficulty is the fact that students are only in my class for a relatively short period of time. Most youth leave this facility within six months. Further, instruction is frequently interrupted due to changes in the daily schedule.
Despite all this, I am more determined than ever to do a better job with my students, especially now that I know that so many of them have disabilities. What I don’t know is how or where I should start.
Here’s your Challenge.
How is teaching in a juvenile corrections setting different than teaching in a public school?
How do teachers address the behavior issues of youth in these settings?
How do teachers meet the academic needs of youth in juvenile corrections settings?
Note: Rita Sikes and others portrayed in this module’s Challenge and throughout the Perspectives & Resources pages are fictional characters used for illustrative and instructional purposes only. No resemblance to specific individuals is intended.