How To Work Within Your Own Personal Limitations....
As some of you may know I am a youth worker and career counsellor.
This year at work I am case managing clients and my new colleague (a qualified high school teacher and former corporate trainer) is running an alternative education program for kids who have disengaged from school, education, life, working with them on career plans and goals.
We are at loggerheads. Some of these kids have seriously low literacy and numeracy and learning difficulties and developmental delays. That said, some of them are engaging in the program, but have big, big dreams.
My colleague believes that we should do what the kids are aiming for because that is believing in them and their dreams - for instance, we have a kid with a reading age of about 7 who doesn't know his 2 times tables who wants to get into nutrition at university (which requires an entrance rank in the top 2% of the population) in 18 months time. My feeling is that we should help them in baby steps, ie work on literacy, try some community college courses, etc, etc, etc - so that they can "feel" their way and achieve small goals - not have them step in to their big goal straight away (however passionate they are) and risk a big fall.
She thinks I'm being negative, I think I'm being realistic - a little harder than her, but more realistic.
What do you guys think?
You'd be surprised...I was a youth worker with kids living in inner-city poverty in 1999-2000, and am in contact with a lot of "my" kids today, years later, the majority are now in their twenties, and it's pretty crazy to see what some of them have achieved that I'm sure back in the day, many people thought wasn't possible. Not all...but the ones who were motivated and managed to find some kind of support, even if family wasn't there for them.
I do agree with you, though, that you need to work on long-term goals with manageable steps, other wise you set up kids who really are trying with feelings of failure and being overwhelmed right off the bat. I now work with students with severe developmental disabilities and neurological disorders, and baby steps are the things you use to build. People can do amazing things...but when there are major obstacles that need to be worked with, pushing too much, too quickly, can derail progress. Any trained educator (and, hell, every thinking person) should know this. You have to start by mastering prerequisite skills, and treating those triumphs as the accomplishments that they are, before you can progress any further. You can't set kids up to fail by saying, "Go!!! Achieve your dreams!!!" and not helping them by supporting their building the skills to do so. It's like throwing somebody into a pool with their hands tied behind their backs, their feet bound, and saying, "I know you have the drive to swim/float, so just do it!!! I believe in you!!! You'll figure it out!!!" Terrible plan.
I'm guessing that if your coworker had a background in earlier education than high school, or if she'd done significant work with at-risk, developmentally disabled, behaviorally disordered, etc., she'd already know that. And if that IS her background, and this is still her approach, I can't imagine she was/is very good at her job.
"Even when I've f*&%ed up, I've spun it into a learning experience that's brought me to bigger and better things."
Oh, I know....I know where some of my previous kids are, and it's awesome what some have achieved too. I don't doubt anyone's ability to strive and achieve. My own brother is autistic and wasn't expected to read, much less finish school. He now has a university degree.
She is a trained educator (specifically a chemistry teacher), she has never worked in a school environment, except for during practicuums in her degree, and has worked in corporate training instead.
She's quite new and seems quite smart, but I am really worried about this approach. My discussion with her:
Her: "X wants to go and do psychology at university"
Me: "That's great." (X only finished 9th grade in a super regional area school of about 50 kids and lived in the Outback, and hasn't been at school or pretty much done anything for five years). "Oh! There is a free two month, government funded mental health certificate at XYZ community college. That would be a great start, and would help with his (adult) college application for 2012."
Her: "No. He wants to study at a (four year) university so he will sit the 12th grade equivalency test for entrance" (he needs a score in about the top 20 percent of twelfth grade, too)
Am I crazy? To me - he's not working at the moment, there's a free, related course ten miles away that will help his college application and ease back in to study??? What does he have to lose? And what are the chances a kid who's completed ninth grade only at a school with almost no resources is going to have the competencies to get a high grade in a twelfth grade equivalencies test?
Sorry. Frustrated I guess. I like her, but I feel really worried my kids are going to be set up to fail if she goes on this path. I guess I need to have a talk to her about my concerns.
Last edited by callyna81; 03-03-2011 at 10:26 AM.