SAFER SCHOOLS NEWS-VOL. 10
Volume 10 – Page 2
LEARN about – Developing an effective Alternative Learning Environment .
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|But what makes them really unique is the staff’s approach directed toward the kids rather than the curriculum or the behavior in the “regular” school. We have all heard the old saying, “Expect the best and that is what you will get.” The staff at Elm Street have brought this expression from cliché to reality. They offer these kids experiences that are often reserved for the higher achievers. Guess what? These at risk adolescents respond by achieving more. It would be nice to summarize that all we need to do is offer exciting field trips and wait for the transformation. But there is more to it than that. Ms. Haley, Counselor, took us on a tour and introduced us to the kids and the staff. After many years working with the at risk population in alternative learning environments and the juvenile justice system, we knew what to expect. But something was wrong here. No one was sleeping in class, there was no talking out, no angry words being exchanged. The students addressed each other as well as the staff with respect. One class had been left alone with an aid for brief time, yet the students did not rise up and take over the situation. At first we were tempted to credit the BASICS approach as the difference. But experience has taught us to look deeper. People change people, not methods.A staff Social Worker, explained the level of involvement that she has with the parents of these students. “It does us nor the student any good to effect a behavior change if the family remains in need of outside help. There is a reason the child was acting out and if we do nothing to change that circumstance, then there is no need in trying to change his or her behavior.” It was easy to see that her level of commitment was above the norm. She had parents coming to the Center and she was going into their homes. As we continued meeting staff, the answer to the uniqueness of this program became apparent. The teachers, displayed this level of commitment and involvement in the lives of their kids. They referred to the students as their own. They took great pride in being a Center teacher and changing lives. These were highly qualified, experienced teachers who could have asked for any position they wanted in the school district. They wanted to be here! As much as, or more than, the curriculum, this attitude, desire and expectation touched the lives of these young men and women, causing them to want to succeed. The staff at Elm Street Center have become extended or surrogate family and have imparted a sense of belonging to “their kids”. Toes tapping; fingers snapping. One by one boys and girls got up to take part in the dance instruction. Only a few “wall flowers” held back and they watched intensely. Other classes came in. Every one was happy. Teachers shared personal stories of learning to dance and failing along the way. They all laughed. The entire dance episode lasted a mere 20 minutes, then they all went back to their books. But the smiles lasted much longer.Hats off to the Staff and kids of the Elm Street Center.
Written By: Frank G. Green Director Keys To Safer Schools